Denver has a rich history of arts and culture dating back to our indigenous peoples and the first Spanish settlers in Colorado. Colorado's culturally rich roots are the foundation for our vibrant community of painters, sculptors, actors and musicians. Our city is home to the second largest performing arts complex in the world, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. The Denver Art Museum houses some of the world's most valuable collections. Our neighborhoods have easy access to these and other cultural treasures year round. Denver plays host to actors, artists, writers, performers and musicians who attract hundreds of thousands of visitors to our city each year.
Besides serving as the soul of the city, arts and culture have an impact on Denver's economic well-being. Even during 2009, the height of the most recent recession, arts and culture contributed over $1.4 billion to the Metro Area's economy.
My Commitment: Employ Local Artists
Denver's commitment to supporting the arts is in our law. City projects with a budget of $1 million or more must dedicate 1% of their budget to public art. As the Project Manager for the Denver Justice Center, the only aspect of the budget I did not direct was selection of public art. Unfortunately, not one local artist was chosen to create art for either the parking garage or courthouse. Contrast this with the Wellington E. Webb Municipal Building and the Denver International Airport where Colorado artists are featured alongside those who are internationally renowned. The new Four Seasons Hotel, although not a city project, features nearly 1,200 pieces of art with 90% of those works coming from Colorado artists. With Denver's large pool of talented artists, we must look to our own first when selecting art for city projects. As part of my Buy Denver Initiative, I will advocate for amending the 1% law to require that at least half of the art in public projects come from local artists.
Promoting Denver's Arts Community
Art is important to the people of Denver. As a community we invest millions of dollars each year in our cultural institutions through the Science and Cultural Facilities District tax (SCFD). We have built a world-renowned theater complex in the heart of our city, and we mandate art as part of our capital investment building projects.
Denver is home to over 300 arts and cultural organizations. As Denver's next mayor, I will provide leadership and commitment to work with these organizations in making Denver the arts and cultural center of the Rocky Mountain West.
The Denver Office of Cultural Affairs is already in existence and plays a significant role in the Denver arts community. As mayor I will expand DOCA's scope of work to include promotion of our entire arts community: from the galleries on Tennyson to those on Santa Fe, from local performers to writers, actors and musicians. Our work will celebrate art students at every level from the many art schools and teaching institutions in Denver and will include promotion for photographers as well as graphic designers. I propose DOCA partner with the Cherry Creek Business District, the Cherry Creek Mall and Fashion Denver to bring together a world class Fall Fashion Week in support of Denver's burgeoning fashion industry. Much like the Starz Film Festival, I propose Denver host a comedy festival. The festival can attract our growing cohort of local comedians and national talent.
In the Mejia Administration the Denver Office of Cultural Affairs will become the voice of our arts community to market our arts community not only throughout Denver but to the rest of the country. DOCA will take the lead in marketing our creative community to local residents not associated with the arts. DOCA will be supported with appropriate resources and staffed with individuals with the skill sets necessary to address this new direction.
DOCA will be integrally involved with Mayor's Office of Economic Development and will accompany all city delegations in search of economic development opportunities such as the International Council of Shopping Center Expo. This will market our unmatched arts and culture community as part of our total package to attract new business to our city.
The Arts in Schools
A well-rounded education must include learning about, appreciating and participating in the arts. When I am Mayor, I will work with Denver's schools to ensure our children are receiving instruction in art as part of their daily education. I will work to secure donations of art supplies and musical instruments to our schools. To fully appreciate all that arts and culture has to offer, children need to experience it. I will work to create a connection between schools and our arts and cultural institutions by facilitating greater access and educational opportunities for our students and teachers in our arts and cultural centers. To foster and encourage a student's interest in arts and culture, I will encourage greater opportunities and partnerships between Denver Public Schools and our arts and culture centers creating internships for students.
Integrating Arts and Culture into Economic Development: Denver's Next Frontier
My economic development plan for Denver provides the ideal opportunity to include the arts community. The cornerstone of my plan is the completion of development along the South Platte River. The South Platte is Denver's Next Frontier, providing a prime development opportunity, which will extend the success of Confluence Park in LoDo up to River North and South through Sun Valley to Overland. My plan includes the creation of parkland that will make the Platte the place to go in Denver. My vision is for the new parks to include permanent art installations. Performance pavilions will be included in our plans. Each segment of river development can have an element that celebrates Denver's rich community of artists. RiNo is already established as an art district in River North, setting an example for future art districts along the entire length of the River. When San Antonio reclaimed the San Antonio River as an amenity by developing the River Walk, they were able to add $50 million to their economy on an annual basis. Denver's Art Walk along the River can generate even more revenue.
As Mayor of Denver I will focus on the completion of Denver's infill projects: the Old Gates Rubber Factory, the abandoned CU Medical Center at 8th & Colorado Boulevard and the soon-to-be-vacated St. Anthony's Hospital site. Each of these locations presents an opportunity to include works from Denver artisans. With all future city projects, including these infill opportunities, I will aggressively advocate for the display of the rich talents of Denver's artists.
Leadership in Celebrating Denver's Arts Community
In November 2007 Denver voters approved the $550 million Better Denver Bond initiative of which $130 million is purposed for improvements in our arts and cultural facilities. One intended project is the renovation of Boettcher Concert Hall. The Better Denver Bond provides $60 million in funding to Boettcher when $30 million in matching funds are raised. Three years have passed and we have yet to meet our matching funds goal. When I am elected mayor I will lead the effort to complete this fundraising project and ensure the bond's funds are fully invested according to the original intent.
Denver's art communitymis rich and diverse. It is time to let the world know how much we as a city have to offer. As Mayor of Denver I will take the lead in telling our story to residents and visitors alike. Welcome to Denver, the New Cultural Center of the West.
To learn more about my campaign for Mayor of Denver, please visit www.MejiaForMayor.com where you can read about my plan for Moving Denver Forward through Economic Development , building Denver's Sustainable Future and my vision for Denver's Next Frontier. I always welcome your ideas -- please feel free to post comments here or use the Contact form on the campaign website where you can also sign-up to Get Involved and find out about Upcoming Events.
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