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Arts & Life

Finding Deficiencies, Denver’s Cultural Plan Proposes Solutions

Maura Walz
Standing beneath the big blue bear outside of the Colorado Convention Center in Denver. The work by artist Lawrence Argent is officially titled "I See What You Mean" and is among the many public art works in the city.

Denver’s first cultural plan in 25 years has found a gap between availability and access to the arts. With Imagine 2020 as a road map, a variety of stakeholders committed to the arts will work to change that.

When it comes to museum visits, 66 percent of Denver residents polled said they had visited in the past year; that’s more than three times higher than the national average of 21 percent.

A look at creative industries found Denver is home to more than double the 2.9 percent national average.

Yet, of the more than 5,000 people surveyed for Imagine 2020 less than 50 percent rated the amount of arts, culture and creativity in their neighborhood as “good” or “excellent.”

Imagine 2020 followed a year of research and public polling, the ideas were distilled into 50 page document with 50 goals and seven so-called “vision items.” Each has numerous implementation strategies for addressing the challenges.


For instance: expanded education efforts are geared toward cultivating life-long appreciation for the arts. Creative sector growth, under the plan, would mean more jobs in a sector that’s currently the fifth largest in the state.

Another example for increased access to arts is a grass-roots initiative called P.S. You Are Here. For it, neighborhoods will be able to apply for grants to create site-specific works of art.

“Successful execution of the broad plan will need to extend beyond Arts and Venues, and include nonprofits and for-profits both within and outside of the arts community,” said Kent Rice executive director of Denver Arts and Venues.

Imagine 2020 is done for Denver and the surrounding region,” said Rice. “The people who provided input for it are all people who are committed to Denver. ” said Rice. So, it’s for Denver, it’s done by Denver, it can only succeed with Denver. There will be some heavy lifting required by many people in this community to get the plan achieved.”

Rice said quarterly reports, and other benchmarks, will help Arts and Venues determine whether goals are being met. Public surveys several years from now will be used to gauge if today’s priorities jibe with the Denver of the future.

In the near term, Rice explained applications for P.S. You Are Here will be available in May and projects, once approved, completed within a year.

Arts District is a collaboration of KUNC, RMPBS, and KUVO.

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