Thursday, September 30, 2010

Cultural Plan for the Pikes Peak Region is finally here!

I'm sitting in my office, finally sitting at my computer and reveling after having just formally announced the first-ever Cultural Plan for the Pikes Peak Region. It's been a whirlwind morning of press conferences and TV cameras. It's a big moment for our community.

Two years ago we embarked on a journey with Arts for Colorado. In 2008, before the National Performing Arts Convention was coming to Denver and bringing with it 8,000 arts professionals from across the nation, I spearheaded an application for Colorado Springs to participate in a statewide collaborative community planning process. We were selected as one of eight communities around the state, which also included Aurora, Cortez, Steamboat Springs, Monte Vista, Glenwood Springs, Lakewood and Glenwood Springs. We put together a team, which included Thomas Wilson, associate conductor of the CS Philharmonic, Jan Martin, Colorado Springs City Council, Deborah Thornton, Imagination Celebration, and Dave Talbot, an entrepreneur. We headed to Denver for NPAC that summer and began to explore the possibilities of launching a cultural planning process for Colorado Springs and our region. A previous effort at creating a Cultural Plan for the region had led in part to the very formation of COPPeR, and cultural planning is a primary activity of cultural offices around the country, we figured there was no time like the present.

Two years later, I'm delighted to say that we have a plan! Click here to download the plan that will help guide arts providers to better serve the community for years to come. The Pikes Peak region (El Paso and Teller counties) is home to more than 200 nonprofit arts organizations that produce an annual economic impact of nearly $100 million. Thousands of individual artists also call this region home. Colorado Springs ranks in the top 15 percent of 276 metropolitan areas nationwide in the number of arts businesses per capita, proving that creative industries are a major force in the economy.

It just makes sense -- a strong arts and cultural sector benefits everyone from visitors to residents, educators to businesspeople, schoolchildren and seniors alike.

The Cultural Plan is a strategic plan which aims to develop, enliven, enhance and promote arts and culture to strengthen our community. Our arts scene already is vibrant - and we simply want to see even more of a good thing. This 10-year plan has identified the necessary goals, strategies and recommended action steps for supporting the growth, diversity and sustainability of cultural activities in the Pikes Peak region. The plan identifies methods in which the arts can strengthen all sectors of the community, with the understanding that the arts are an intricate ecosystem composed of individual artists, nonprofit organizations, and creative industries like film, design and architecture. In order for our region to be hip, exciting and attractive we all need to be on the same page, with a similar vision for the future built on shared values.

Some major takeaways from the plan:

This plan identifies that one of the most critical issues holding back the artists and arts organizations from serving our community is the lack of a variety of affordable and accessible venues throughout the region. This plan calls for dedicated effort toward ensuring a variety of cultural spaces -- from an amphitheatre that takes advantage of our beautiful scenery and weather to more simple and small-scale spaces for performances and exhibit spaces -- spaces that are achievable in partnerships with developers, institutions, municipalities and others.

Numerous studies have shown that in order to compete in an increasingly fast-paced employment market, arts education is essential for building 21st-century thinkers. This plan looks at ways to capitalize on successes in innovative arts training and connect more students to arts learning opportunities both in and outside of the classroom. The plan also calls for more interactive, instructive arts programming to build creative individuals of all ages.

Philanthropic support will always play a part in the arts. This plan identifies new systems and structures for generating new, sector wide private support for the arts, in addition to ways the arts community can better demonstrate its impact and its high level of professional management standards to donors and partners.

Serving the community begins at the neighborhood level -- from block parties to coffeeshop poetry readings to concerts in neighborhood churches and YMCAs and community centers -- and especially integrating public art and murals throughout our two-county region. This plan calls for tools that will help artists and arts organizations work with our community at the neighborhood level to increase the quality of life for all of our residents -- in downtown Colorado Springs, in artistic hubs such as Manitou Springs and beyond to all of our neighborhoods.

Download the complete Cultural Plan for the Pikes Peak Region here.

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