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Can’t we all just get along?

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I admit I was a little intimidated by this month’s Science Cafe subject. There are a lot of big words in the synopsis and I had to take more than one breath just to say the title of Wednesday night’s program: Conservation Development Global Challenges Research Team. *whew*

Dr. Liba Pejchar

Fortunately, a conversation with Dr. Liba Pejchar, assistant professor at CSU, cleared the fog that threatened to ground all flights in and out of my right brain. I learned that the crux of her studies and teachings centers around conserving the environment, maintaining economical livelihood, and keeping all the neighbors happy.

Piece of cake, right?

If you have even a passing awareness of environmental news – nationally or globally – you’ll know this is a colossal challenge. One that Dr. Pejchar has been passionate about for the past five years. After receiving her PhD in environmental studies at the University of California Santa Cruz she completed a fellowship at Stanford University. She’s also participated in several field studies around the world, but it was in Hawaii where she began to work with ranchers as well as the native wildlife, seeking a win-win solution for all involved.

Biodiversity (one of those big words I tripped over) essentially refers to all life on earth: plants, animals, people. It can also concern a specific region, such as Northern Colorado. When there was an opening at CSU’s Department of Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Biology, it was a good fit for Pejchar’s research and she signed on two-and-a-half years ago.

The challenge of conservation development is to address the obvious environmental problems facing our region, while acknowledging the fiscal needs of private landowners.

It’s about “recognizing progress, while finding ways to harness it,” explained Dr. Pejchar. There’s also a social component. “Is this (development) good for creating communities and neighborhoods?”

In a perfect world, these seemingly opposing factors are equally respected and everyone is happy. It’s a challenge that transcends the politics of “green” — as in ecology and economy. Head on down to Avo’s this Wednesday at 5:30 where Dr. Pejchar will share her knowledge on this significant and timely topic, employing words of all sizes as well as photographs and maps.

What do you think – can we protect the planet and the pocketbook?

Written by Susan Richards

March 8th, 2011 at 2:47 am

Building the economy though the arts in Colorado

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It seems difficult sometimes to think of art as an industry. We go see plays or movies, and we recognize that artists often work together and use group collaboration to create. Their creation is of course a piece of art, but it is also a contribution to the economy. The arts industry is not an isolated group, but a space where jobs are created and revenues can affect everyone in a positive way.

I’m happy to say that here in Colorado, our leaders recognize the potential of the arts industry to build up the state’s economy – and with good reason. Colorado’s creative enterprises alone employed over 122,000 individuals in about 8,000 establishments. This accounts for 3.9% of the state’s estimated 3.2 million jobs, making it Colorado’s 5th largest employment sector, almost as large as biotechnology/biomedical and IT & telecommunications, and larger than defense & security and agribusiness, food processing & technology. Employee earnings in these jobs, including employee benefits, were about $5 billion. Another 64,000 individuals worked in creative occupations in non-creative enterprises.

When you support the arts, you aren’t just doing great things like bringing higher levels of access to youth, attracting visitors, and developing the creative identity of your community, you are also helping to build the economy.  Colorado is a magnet for creative talent, ranking 5th among all states for concentration of artists. Only New York, California, Massachusetts and Vermont have a higher concentration of creative talent. Colorado ranks 2nd in concentration of architects, 7th in concentration of writers, designers, entertainers and performers, and 8th in concentration of photographers.

When looking at the knowledge assets our state holds, it is impressive to see the work and creative energy we exude.  It builds our reputation as a state, which in turn helps to support other industries.  A flourishing community full of arts, culture, and an educated workforce is very attractive to businesses in all industries.  When looking to relocate not only do they look at many of the other business benefits to relocating to Colorado, but also at the quality of life and communities their workforce would have.

When you support the arts – whether it be by attending a local play, buying a ticket to see a local band perform, attending a gallery opening, or introducing legislation to support the arts at a greater level – strengthening this important aspect of the Colorado lifestyle will only further the success of our great state.

On January 5 Governor Bill Ritter announced three bills that will create opportunities within the arts industry for more growth. These bills will be introduced in legislative sessions this year. To read more abou them, check out this week’s re:BEET.

To learn more about the state of Colorado’s creative economy, view the Colorado Council for the Arts’ Economic Study.

We can make it difficult for history to repeat itself.

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Fort Collins is one of many cities around the world where citizens and economic development initiatives such as Beet Street work to distinguish a city as an “intellectually vital community that fosters, celebrates, and inspires human creativity through diverse cultural experiences and programming.” These endeavors have wonderful implications for present and future citizens and economies where cultural events and programs provide opportunities for intellectual and business growth.  But growing a vital community requires continual mental work and the kind of creative thinking that asks us to stretch and reevaluate what we think we already know and understand about ourselves.  Diverse cultural experiences and programs ask participants to see things from new perspectives, because seeing things from new perspectives is fundamental to inspiring human creativity.  Multiple approaches to history, ideas and living together lead to multi-faceted, individualistic or even idiosyncratic points of view that complicate ideas about who we are and who is allowed to define the parts of our collective culture.  When opposing histories and experiences are routinely acknowledged and valued, it is more likely that people will become involved, more interested and more active in the cultural life of a city.  So what happens in a city where past economic and historical experiences create seemingly vast divides in how individual citizens create a sense of place?

Linz, Austria is an interesting example of a city where history could create seemingly irreconcilable differences.  Since 1985, one or two cities across Europe have been selected to represent Europe as “European Capital of Culture” for a year, with the list of future capitals until the year 2019 already named.  The aim of this program is to “showcase the richness, variety and similarities of European cultures and help European citizens to gain a better understanding of one another.”  This year, Linz is the European Capital of Culture and in its efforts to attract visitors and host diverse Europeans, the city has chosen to openly address the fact that it does not exist in a social, historical and political vacuum.  This means that although arts and cultural events are part of creating exciting and memorable celebrations, Linz is consciously addressing the fact that how it promotes itself as well as who is considered important in the city will have lasting effects.  That is, Linz is actively preparing for the future by coming to terms with its past rather than passively letting “history repeat itself.”  In the past, Linz existed as a “Führerstadt” or “Führer City,” encircled by the extermination camps of Mauthausen, Gusen, Ebensee and Hartheim.  Today, architectural evidence of the crimes of the past mingle with contemporary life in Linz and its vicinity.  For example, “Hitlerbauten,” the industrial facilities of the VOEST built on the foundations provided by the “Hermann Göring Werke,” and other seemingly uncontroversial public buildings, were constructed from materials like granite—materials that concentration camp prisoners paid for with their lives.

Historically, the concentration camp Mauthausen was the final destination for deportees from all over Europe and this year, the city of Linz would like more Europeans to visit the area.  They could have chosen to ignore the past and only focus on celebrating arts and culture in collective denial. Instead, they are attempting to find new ways of talking about the past that defy collective amnesia and are relevant to both the region and the rest of Europe.  Projects are making sure that people have accurate knowledge of the past but go further than allowing people to merely evade guilt.  Leaders in Linz have identified their task as that of encouraging discussion about the developments and social mechanisms that made it possible for historical events to occur in the first place.  They want participants to question the ideology underpinning the Nazi era, and make connections to how it continues to subtly affect and inform European societies to this day.

For example, the mission statement for Linz09 identifies that history will be dealt with by using different narrative styles, including “the polemical, factual, sober and provocative.”  Different projects throughout the year are intended to encourage diverse audiences to engage with the area from new perspectives. The idea is that cultural discourse can exist in multiple forms that include dissent or feeling uncomfortable.  One project supported by federal and national funding, “The Invisible Camp,” is designed to reactivate the hidden memory of parts of the region where citizens now live and relax.  Using an i-Pod, visitors walk through residential developments listening to a soundtrack of reminiscences from survivors and witnesses as to what happened there.  The voices include present day inhabitants, soldiers and even members of the SS who were responsible for sending people to concentration camps.  The stories bring to life what is normally left unsaid and visitors cannot ignore what they can no longer physically see. You can visit Linz, the city that Hitler wanted to make his cultural capital, to explore its museums, cyberart Ars Electronica center, street celebrations, cultural and religious sights and even tour the city from above on rooftop scaffolding.  You can also be asked or ask uncomfortable questions.

Photo: City of Linz

Photo: City of Linz The new Ars Electronica Center exists to explore what human beings have always found most fascinating—themselves—a fascination that has also exerted a spellbinding attraction on art and science, two varieties of one and the same striving for truths about our world and ourselves.

Another project in Linz uses signs to make a point.  During 2009, the most important access routes leading into Linz will be relabelled. The new street names use languages that are “foreign” to many of the city’s citizens in order to bring attention to the present day ethnic complexity of Linz.  The proactive goal for the signs is to point out that the reality of living in Linz demands the “kind of democratic attitude that is so needed and so necessary in all areas of a life lived together rather than merely side by side.”  The project also works as a test case to determine how cosmopolitan the majority of Linzers really are as hosts to the rest of Europe.  It’s an exciting examination of cultural identity–real and perceived!  You can read more about Linz09 here.  If Linz can combine tourism and address conflict while celebrating contemporary life, do you think cities of all sizes and in other parts of the world can put their model to use?

Art and community make life!

 

Here’s the cover of the program for Linz09–love the fried eggs!

Thanks for the photos moe in berlinacediscovery and City of Linz

Deborah Lombard

Enterprising creativity

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Enterprise: from entreprendre to undertake, a project or undertaking that is especially difficult, complicated, or risky; readiness to engage in daring or difficult action; initiative; a unit of economic organization or activity; a systematic purposeful activity.

As we have discussed in previous posts about the creative economy and creative communities, at the center of these phenomena lie partnerships between enterprise and creativity, or at least creative and entrepreneurial agents. Such partnerships are also connections between the work we do and the people we are. Many entrepreneurs are highly creative people and many creatives people are also enterprising. That is, both groups take into their own hands (undertake) work they see in need of completion. These people see needs many of us do not; they are also compelled to jump into these voids, in a spirit of true creativity, in order to meet such needs. They spark conversations with their risk taking, and in doing so, open up new conversations about how we should think and be together. Some are driven by the imagination of individuals, others by familial bonds, but all by a deep passionate commitment to making a part of the world just a little more livable for all of us.

In these late modern times, we are so concerned with the economic dimensions of society that we see entrepreneurial activity in terms of start-up businesses and industrial clusters. Indeed, it does not take much to see all the entrepreneurial sprouts in green technology in Fort Collins. All of them innovative ideas driven by pressing social and economic needs, both here and abroad. These creative enterprises (yes, creative, because they are bringing to life new forms) are highly vulnerable and like most creative enterprises and entrepreneurs of old, dependent on benefactors and sponsors for their continuing production. To keep their creative and economic fires burning, they organize in clusters such as RMI2, Clean Tech, and Bio.

Artists also, no matter of what stripe, seek the same cluster of familiarity in order to support each other in their fragile early careers as we have discussed in terms of the diverse artist groups and collectives that exist in Northern Colorado.  For example, in a small arcade on Oak Street, near the Taj Mahal, a new gallery called Leap of Faith Fine Art Gallery features a diverse group of upcoming artists, offering them a chance to display their work for low fees. There is local photography by Mike Murphy, Paul Weber and James Leveillee; original paintings from David Fedeli, Dave Reiter, Don Brown, Bereniche Aguiar and Connie Uroze; as well as ceramic sculpture from Don Campbell, alabaster by Karin Troendle and hand crafted oil candles by Lady D. My son fell in love with a river scene coffee table by Robert Franklin while the work of Georgia Rowswell inspired me. Stop by and check out their work! Leap of Faith is currently running a ‘people’s choice’ contest with different works of art until the end of June. Each artist in the contest submits a piece for $5 and then the public votes on their choice. The winner is awarded the pot of submissions! These contests are held every 2 months, so if you would like to enter, contact the folks at Leap of Faith at 970.493.LEAP or leapoffaith@q.com.

Finally, there is perhaps a quintessential meeting of enterprising creativity at the French Nest Market, held in the Civic Center Park from 9am to 3 pm every second Saturday between July and October (July 11th, August 8th, September 12th, and October 10th). It’s the allure of Paris in the springtime transported to Northern Colorado, featuring an open-air vintage, antique, and artisan market. As Alissa Bush, co-owner puts it, “It’s a destination. A place where you can spend the entire morning; a little shopping, a little eating….” So, if you are interested in vintage, antique, new, unique, funky, homemade, handmade, or otherwise made goods and if you’re local, eco-friendly, and/or ultra-hip, the French Nest Open-Air Market may be just the place for you! The French Nest group of entrepreneurs will take care of the enterprise part so you can do the creative part and get your work known in Northern Colorado! For more information, email info@thefrenchnestmarket.com.

I hope to see you there!

With thanks to Bob.Fornal and tanakawho for their wonderful images :)

Here’s to enterprising creativity in everyday life!

Kirsten Broadfoot

Creating and Sustaining CoCOA: Mary Harnett

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On Monday morning, we had the very distinct pleasure of speaking with Mary Harnett, past Secretary and Director, now Education Coordinator for CoCOA, the Colorado Coalition of Artists. Mary herself is a fine artist, an oil painter of southwest landscapes here in Fort Collins, and has been with CoCOA from its beginnings as an artist cooperative in 2003.


As with many art groups, CoCOA is relatively unknown in our community, despite
considerable outreach efforts into our community. However, this week, they are holding their annual member’s exhibit with their first ever People’s Choice Awards, where visitors to the exhibition at the Poudre River Arts Center Main Gallery can vote on different pieces. If you have time this week, the exhibit runs Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10-5 each day and CoCOA members will be on hand to answer any questions about the art or artists that you may have. The winners will be announced June 16 at the general meeting.

CoCOA is a non profit, volunteer led and run organization, dedicated to supporting a community of artists in the area. CoCOA was originally a small group of artists who came together at one artist’s studio to do live drawing together. Through this experience, some of the artists, particularly Rachel Herrera, a well known artist in Fort Collins, started the organization and obtained a separate building on Mason Street. From there, CoCOA rented out studio spaces for artists and a space for artists to give workshops and classes as well as continue their core work in live and figure drawing.

CoCOA, as a cooperative of artists, is one tribe of our larger community of artists here in Fort Collins and Northern Colorado. Most artists, are individuals, creating individual pieces and yet, far from competing with each other, in order to survive, artists tend to gather together to support their work. Mary discusses many of these groups in the podcast moving across diverse forms of art – visual arts, music, crafts, theater, fly fishing etc. While it is not common for a diverse range of artists from these groups to perform together in an interdisciplinary fashion, they do tend to enter the community to share their works in similar spaces and events.

In this respect, community partners, especially businesses, are extremely important to such creative groups and communities. Donations, be they financial or products, are important, but CoCOA also uses creative techniques to encourage artists to continue their work. One program invites pledges from individuals for hours of artist time, while another, like the support of Everyday Joe’s, donates space and a portion of sales from a drink named after CoCOA back to the cooperative. Finally, CoCOA has a lecture series for the public featuring artists, psychologists and City representatives who will discuss their Art in Public Places Program.

In the future, CoCOA would like to hold a wildlife exhibit and partner with the Division of Wildlife to continue their community outreach. Volunteers have also gone to schools and the Drug Courts to teach art and these activities are projects CoCOA would like to continue. Perhaps most importantly, like most creative community organizations, CoCOA will need to become more formalized and supported operationally through grants so that they can manage themselves with paid positions as well as volunteers. This is a crucial transition point for such organizations, and as a result, for the sustainability of a creative community and economy.

We hope you enjoy our conversation with Mary about the past, present and future of CoCOA, its partners and like minded artists groups, as well as the actions necessary for supporting a creative community. Please pay a visit to the exhibit at the Poudre River Arts Center to vote in the People’s Choice Awards if you have time this week and check out the beautiful work of our community. As we move through the rest of the year, keep an eye out for opportunities to explore, experience and contribute to our creative endeavors here in Fort Collins and Northern Colorado.

With thanks to Mary Harnett, Rachel Herrera, The Red Joke and David Reece for their wonderful talents!

Remember – Art is Us.

Kirsten Broadfoot

Key Concepts : Creative Industries

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Last week, I wrote about creative economy, and although there’s a lot more to say and think about, today, I’m wondering about the products that make up the creative economy.  The United Kingdom’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport defines creative industries as, “those activities which have their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent and which have a potential for wealth and job creation through the generation and exploitation of intellectual property.”  While a creative product may exist as a physical entity (think paper, film, computer disk…), its value is in its meaning and what it represents—its content.  The content/information of a creative product is boundless, but that content/information defines its value. Creativeclusters.org offers a good example, “Even with a designer T-shirt or a piece of [jewelry], it’s the style, the design that counts, not the cloth or the metal.”

This past weekend, on the Lower East side, New York, several artists and community organizations opened an exhibition, that puts this concept to the test.  HomeBase IV, is an exhibition in a vacant medical clinic.  This is not an exhibition of art created somewhere else and then transported into a pristine, neutral gallery for contemplation.  A lot of what you can see in HomeBase IV, was created from materials found in the existing space.  The creative product, the process, the content, and the experience of visiting the site give the project value.

“’When we arrived, it had nothing in it,’ said Leor Grady, the curatorial and programming director of the project.  ‘It smelled like a combination of mildew, chemicals, medical waste and sheet rock.’  Even after a cleaning, the worn peachy-beige walls, industrial carpeting and fluorescent lighting retain a sterility that serves as a palette for the sometimes unsettling works.”

A variety of artists collaborated to explore the notion of “home,” in this specific space (unused clinic) and to engage the residents of a changing neighborhood.  This means that the artists met together, talked, read, and interacted with the public to determine what would happen in the space, as well as worked to design what a visitor can see.  (See images) All at once, the meaning for the project/action is in the process and its space–the product becomes spatial, as it connects people, place, and time.  Gone is the presumption that art=object, or that art can only exist isolated from community in a building labeled as gallery or museum.  As reported in the New York Times, one of the artists, Paul Sepuya, a Brooklyn photographer of Ugandan descent eloquently describes his reality and makes his experience tangible.  “I thought it would be interesting to apply the idea of home as spatial,” he says. “When you’re not at home, it’s constructed by your family’s stories.”  His contribution to the exhibition includes portraits of friends and neighbors who like him, have some association with Uganda—a “home” that Sepuya has never visited!  Another artist, Dafna Shalom took photos of men in the neighborhood who reminded her of her father — a hand here, a hairstyle there.  Our realities are often constructed through small gestures that we don’t notice, but become intriguing when we stop and think.  If a smelly, unused, and dingy health clinic in New York, can be reinvented as a site for building community and thinking about the meaning of “home,” what are we overlooking?

Creative economy is driven by creative industry.  Products are reorganized from seeming non-existence, although the ideas and materials may already have been there.  Ideas are what transforms materials and what can transform people, neighborhoods, cities, and towns!  There are lots of creative spaces and events that promote thinking in and about Fort Collins.  This week we can think about caring for each other by simply eating out to help United Way of Larimer County.  Later in the week, think about places that used to be here but only exist as fading away signs painted on buildings in Old Town, or join others to think about an area of Fort Collins that will grow in the future.  You can contemplate exhibitions about Dreams, Floating Worlds, and art made by senior citizens.  Perhaps you’ll ride the trolley and think about public transport, or learn more about the public art that helps create a sense of place in our city.  All the details are at www.visitfortcollins.com!

The whole world is a museum without walls!

Thanks for the photographs No Trams To Lime Street, MacRonin47, and hoggardb.

Deborah Lombard

Tom Borrup talks about creative economy and rejuvenating communities!

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Welcome to the first podcast for this blog, featuring Tom Borrup, a leader and innovator in non-profit community and cultural work for over twenty-five years. Tom’s work explores the intersections between

culture, community building, and economic development  and he consults with foundations, nonprofits and public agencies across the U.S. in strategic planning and program evaluation. He has been especially involved with projects nurturing artists and other cultural assets in diverse urban communities, and has served on multiple boards for arts funding and leadership development. Over the course of his career, Tom has consulted with the Rockefeller, Ford, Wallace, and Andy Warhol Foundations, as well as the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. He received his B.A. in Liberal Arts from Goddard College, and continued there to receive his M.A. in Communications and Public Policy. Tom currently teaches for the Graduate Program in Arts Administration at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, and for the Institute for Arts Management at the University of Massachusetts.

When we talked with Tom, we asked him about his views on creative economy and its influence in contemporary times. He shared with us the ways in which the forces of globalization have forced communities to focus on and encourage their multicultural nature as a source of creative efforts and perspectives as well as a continual source of inspiration and learning. Our increasing knowledge of the world around us is forcing us as individuals and communities to revisit the ways in which we function and to think creatively as we adapt new ideas and new cultures into our lives. For Tom, this perspectival shift is becoming central to community survival.

Creativity is about being inquisitive and being open to new ideas as well as new ways those ideas can be put together. Artists are central to the sustenance of creativity as this is part of their natural way of working and being as individuals. Thriving communities are open and welcoming to new ideas and new people. Cultural celebrations bring people together and are a baseline ingredient for encouraging a true sense of community. Tom shares with us several examples from his work over the years as well as how different arts organizations and community initiatives encourage creative communities to thrive. We hope you will learn as much as we did about participating in community based arts from Tom and look forward to seeing you all at our own Finding Home celebrations over the month of April!

With thanks to frenchista and pbo31 for the images!

Kirsten Broadfoot

Artists and Creative Production

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According to the United States Department of Labor, “Artists create art to communicate ideas, thoughts, or feelings. “They use a variety of methods—painting, sculpting, or illustration—and an assortment of materials, including oils, watercolors, acrylics, pastels, pencils, pen and ink, plaster, clay and computers.” That creates a lot of possibilities for defining artists AND creative production!

Every day, I rub elbows with people who consider themselves artists or artists in training. People with elbows often splattered with ink, paint, or dust! They usually consider themselves involved in creative production, and certainly view themselves as players in the developing creative economy. Lately, conversations inevitably lead to someone asking, “So, if creative people are necessary in this new economy, where are all the art jobs, and where are all the artists?” Some conversations are optimistic, others imagine stereotypical starving artists waiting to be discovered. All the discussions include some debate about, “what is art?” and “what is an artist?”

It’s pretty well established that old definitions of art have been demolished by multiple voices and experiences. What can be characterized as art, or more precisely old arguments about what is NOT art, have become moot points. The same can be said of the reality of working as an artist in a creative economy. Even though the word “artist,” can still conjure up specific images and ideas of what an artist’s work and workplace looks like, it’s time to free art and artists from the trappings of 19th Century studios with north light! Let’s do a little spring cleaning and throw out those static images of wooden easels, smocks and floppy berets! Get rid of ideas about artists only operating on the fringe! The Colorado Council on the Arts, reports that Colorado is home to the 5th largest group of people in the United States who call themselves artists—think about what that means. We’re in good company!

The US Department of Labor also predicts that employment of “artists and related workers,” is expected to grow in the next decade. At the same time, artists are considered important in fueling the creative economy. Tom Borrup, has taught, written, and consulted about community transformation through the arts. He believes the creative economy needs to ground itself in an active community of artists. How will artists find each other? Who gets to define community? How will we know a community of artists when we see one? Will we recognize each other? Will they be wearing berets? (Probably not, unless it’s REALLY cold!) Close your eyes—imagine the word “artist”—what do YOU see?

Actively engaging artists in a creative economy demands effort, not only on the part of artists but also from the community at large. How we collectively think about the roles of artists is important to the mix. Artists cannot be imagined as commodities, or merely funky, hip inhabitants to live in renovated buildings. Creative individuals contribute daily to the life of our city on multiple levels. They eat, shop, raise families, make homes, participate in the upcoming Beet Street events, recycle, and often do it with a little extra flair—or maybe not!

Fortunately for Fort Collins, exciting creatives in Northern Colorado aren’t waiting to be invited to the party! They’re getting together to celebrate and support each other. This week local designers will gather with friends, clients and colleagues to showcase local artists. Every week, local artists put their work on display in the city’s galleries and coffee shops, while theatre companies, museums and centers for the performing artists support emerging local talent. As the weather gets warmer, take a fresh look at the art and artists at work in our community! If you need some inspiration, check out Re:beet eNews for the lowdown on what’s going on in town!

Thank you to the artists Brande Jackson and  alefbetac for the great photos.

Deborah Lombard

Raising a Creative Economy

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“the Creative Economy at its best, is about communities taking responsibility for their condition and creating meaningful work and a viable economy with the most powerful resources at their disposal. These include the distinct nature and culture of their place, and the creativity of the people — all the while welcoming and learning from those who pass through or who decide to stay” (Tom Borrup, 2009).

When we say someone or something is creative, what do we mean? Imaginative? Innovative? Inventive? Artistic? Fantastic?


Now imagine these adjectives combined with the word ‘economy’ (meaning management of the house)….imaginative economy, inventive economy, artistic economy, fantastic economy…. getting the idea?

The term and phenomenon of the “creative economy” describes industries that have their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent, and have a potential for wealth and job creation through the generation of ideas, products and/or services. These industries and activities are critical not only because of their contribution to the knowledge economy which is in the process of engulfing the globe, but also because of their capacity for urban and civic regeneration, the preservation of cultural heritage and cultural identity and the creation of places and communities as ‘destinations’. Tom Borrup consults, teaches, and writes about community transformation, cultural infrastructure, and the creative economy. He believes that the creative economy grounds itself in an active community of artists, an eternal and constant spring of respect for indigenous/multiple cultures, and finally and most importantly, cultural and economic equity.

In their recent report on the state of the arts in Colorado, the Colorado Council on the Arts issued some surprising statements on the nature of the creative economy in our communities. Indeed, it seems that Colorado is actually quite a creative state, ranking 5th nationally in terms of the concentration of artists overall; 2nd in concentration of architects, 7th in concentration of writers, designers, entertainers and performers, and 8th in concentration of photographers. Interestingly only New York, California, Massachusetts and Vermont rank higher. Here in the Northwest of Colorado, we grow arts and music festivals, visual artists hang down in the Southwest corner where the red rocks, white snow, and green pines blind us with their beauty and the literati hang in the center of the state, inspired by the clear air of the mountains and lakes.

These creative activities, industries, communities and populations are sustained through their emotional and aesthetic appeal to others as they engage in work which is inherently creative and artistic. Why is such work meaningful? Because long before we were literate, art and our artistic endeavors formed the base of a universal language and a dominant form of communicating place, identity, purpose and membership. Tom Borrup believes that creative economies and communities hold onto the distinctiveness of place, remain open to learning and reinvention and accept new ideas from unlikely places, forming common and strong bonds between those involved in local cultural practices and the economic livelihood of their communities. Drawing from the Houston based Project Row Houses, Borrup proposes that in creative communities and economies, art and creativity are woven into the very fabric of life through rituals, ceremony and other utilitarian activities; quality education and strong neighborhoods sustain social safety nets for the community and facilitate social responsibility; economic development is essential for all residents both present and future and architecture as a social practice, should make sense of and preserve a community’s character.

So, make 2009 your year to raise the arts and creative life of your community – check out our website to see and experience the extraordinary offerings here for you – see a show, hear a speaker, go to a festival, and bring your friends!

With thanks to Amanda Woodward and *Sally M* for their fantastic art!

Kirsten Broadfoot