Friday, July 24, 2009

2009 State of the Arts

Today's Gazette features the annual special section on the State of the Arts in the Pikes Peak Region. It features interviews with Sam Gappmayer from the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Nathan Newbrough of the Colorado Springs Philharmonic, Drew Martorella from Theatreworks, Peggy Vicaro from Cottonwood Center for the Arts, Amber Cote from Futureself, Susan Edmondson from the Bee Vradenburg Foundation, and many others. I can't find the special section online just now, but I thought I'd share my full comments on this blog.

2009 in a nutshell: At the national level, lobbyists on Capitol Hill successfully argued that arts jobs are real jobs, and that the arts industry is a vital part of the economy. An additional $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts was included in the stimulus package as a result. That money helps arts organizations all over the nation.
On a state level, the Colorado Council on the Arts conducted a study showing that the creative industries are the fifth biggest sector of the state economy. However, CCA was forced to cut 25% of their budget, awarding $907,000 to individuals, organizations and government agencies in 33 counties across Colorado in 2009. $90,400 was awarded to arts organizations in El Paso and Teller counties, compared to $183,490 in 2008, which is obviously a significant decrease.

Drilling down to the local level, in 2009, American Style magazine named Colorado Springs among the top 25 arts destinations for midsize cities, which means we must be doing something right! Of course, the City of Colorado Springs budget crisis has taken its toll on our arts community--because of City budget cuts, the Pioneers Museum (an absolute gem in the heart of downtown) was forced to reduce hours and staff and the Parks department has been unable to water the parks, which has impacted concerts and festivals. The good news, however, is that our local arts community has not suffered as much as other places around the country, mostly due to the fact that our organizations and artists have been operating at the small but scrappy level for years. Very few local institutions had endowments to begin with, so they could not take a beating.

We did, of course, have our casualties--Springs Magazine and Bon Vivant shuttered their doors, some smaller galleries closed down. In 2010 and beyond, I am concerned about about the impact a prolonged recession will have on the ability for arts and cultural organizations to thrive, effectively market their services, and continue to build audiences. However, I believe that the creative momentum in our community has not slowed down; the cultural renaissance we have been experiencing for the past five years continues. There is an energy and buzz about the arts, and civic leaders from all over the region are truly starting to understand the value of arts and creativity.

From COPPeR's perspective, we feel our programs are reaching more people than ever--we were thrilled to celebrate PeakRadar's second birthday this summer with a fundraising campaign that exceeded its goal. (PeakRadar traffic is booming and we have information about hundreds of arts events at any given moment, as well as a robust artist profile directory with information on 150 local artists.) The local music scene is starting to emerge from its hidden treasure staus, thanks to the Showcase at Studio Bee series, KRCC Concerts, Stargazers Theater, the Black Sheep, the Rocket Room and Kinfolks.

We also lost some beloved artists this year. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of Gerry Riggs, Bob Pinney and Timber Kirwan.

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