Beet Street Pulls The Plug On This Summer's Streetmosphere
A popular summertime tradition that puts performing artists on the downtown streets of Fort Collins will be quiet this season.
Arts supporter and organizer Beet Street has announced that after struggling with staffing and funding issues, it has canceled the 2015 Streetmosphere season. The program’s future was left up in the air.
“We were a day late and a dollar short,” Beet Street Board President Bruce Freestone said.
Since 2010, the eight-week summer program has showcased Northern Colorado musicians, jugglers, painters and actors busking on street corners throughout the city in an effort to drive people to discover Old Town Fort Collins, as well as local talent.
At its height, Streetmosphere brought almost 400 performances to 160,000 audience members. In 2014, amid a reorganization that saw Beet Street split from its popular Arts Incubator of the Rockies program and a battle with the city over rent, Streetmosphere was cut back to 165 performances.
Because of the organization’s restructuring, Beet Street’s staff of four board volunteers and an unpaid intern were overwhelmed by the amount of work involved in putting the program on, Freestone said. That lack of resources led to missed deadlines for key grants for larger organizations that have typically been Streetmosphere supporters, such as Fort Fund and the Bohemian Foundation.
The program already had committed to 47 area acts, but had only about one-sixth of the approximately $50,000 needed, Freestone said. Emails were sent out to the artists, releasing them from their commitment.
“It’s very disappointing; it’s one of those moments that you look forward to each year” Fort Collins musician Steve Jones said of the cancellation. This would have been his third year performing as Professor Fox’s One Man Band.
The program provides artists with a unique performance opportunity, as well as a chance to find new audiences, Jones said.
“Usually, I play breweries, wineries and concert venues, which is mostly adults 21 and over with much less interaction,” he said, adding that he often set up a bench during his Streetmosphere sets with small percussive instruments so audience members could join in and make music. “To be able to interact with kids and families was a pretty unique situation there.”
It also means the loss of up to $500. Jones said he was slated to perform between three and five Streetmosphere shows this season at a rate of $100 per show.
Paying artists, who are often approached to play for free, was a big part in the conception of Streetmosphere, Freestone said. It was also a big part of why the Beet Street board decided to shelve the program this season.
“We decided if we can’t pay these people, we’re not going to ask them to give their time,” Freestone said. “We’re not gonna do it. So we pulled the plug.”
The program isn’t DOA just yet. Beet Street will refocus its mission and shore up its board, Freestone said. As for the 2016 season?
“I really do hope it comes back,” he said.
Editor's Note: Full disclosure, KUNC has been a sponsor of Beet Street's Streetmosphere. Additionally, Beet Street has been an underwriter of KUNC programming.