7 Questions With...

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Q&A with Evan Weissman, Warm Cookies of the Revolution 
on Stompin Ground Games 

1. So tell us about Stompin Ground Games?

Evan: The Stompin' Ground Games are a year-long neighborhood Olympics where each month we're entertained by the finest artists and cultural groups in our community while also learning the history of the neighborhood, current issues affecting residents and ways to take action. 

2. What made you want to develop a program like this? What inspired you?

Evan: Last fall, I was sitting in a coffee shop in Park Hill and saw a poster print of Denver’s neighborhoods. It caught my eye as being well designed and creative with the neighborhoods written out like the map of Denver. However, I then noticed that there were quite a few neighborhoods missing – no Globeville, no Elryia- Swansea, no Montbello and no Chaffee Park. For the most part, the neighborhoods left off were generally comprised of low-income folks and people of color. The truth is that whomever designed the poster either made a decision to not include those neighborhoods, or just didn’t know they existed. An individual artist has license to make such decisions but I think it points to a larger civic issue we face right now; Denver is changing rapidly, so who will take part in shaping its future? What kind of city do we want and who has a say? If you don’t know that certain neighborhoods even exist, what’s going to happen when we have to deal with budget priorities in the city? 

3. Why is it important for Denver… now and for the future?

Evan: The first ever Colorado Civic Health Index was released last summer. It analyzed the civic health of Colorado residents and suggested areas of improvement. Chief among these areas in need of improvement are providing spaces for diverse communities to interact with each other in an effort to strengthen bonds. Development is flourishing in certain neighborhoods, while other neighborhoods are clamoring for funding, economic development, or in some cases, to be left alone. Change is inevitable, but the kind of change and who is involved in the decision- making process are fundamental questions that need to be addressed. Denver has a vibrant and diverse history of culture that should be celebrated! We are being presented with unique opportunities and challenges and in order to shape our shared future equitably, we have to know where we’ve been and we need the change to be as democratic as possible. But most importantly, it has to be fun!

4. What’s the most interesting detail or fact you’ve learned in planning your program?

Evan: People are generally proud of their neighborhoods! Even folks who want to see vast changes and have been the perpetual victims of injustice still seem to care about their neighborhoods and celebrate their culture. Additionally, many people who live further away from commercial centers are excited to have an event closer to where they live. We are most certainly NOT doing traditional community organizing; we are putting on events. So the challenges of not having established relationships and trust over time, are present for sure. That is to be expected. I'm actually surprised at how welcoming most folks have been, they get why we're doing this and want to jump right in. 

5. What can people do to get involved and support Stompin Ground Games?

Evan: #1 Come and participate at the monthly events, #2 Volunteer - help us plan events, spread the word and set things up/tear down on event day,  #3: Donate some cold hard cash - we are providing childcare, language interpretation, food, drinks, entertainment, activities and a smashing time! Most of that costs money and so throwing a couple bucks our way helps a lot.

6. This month we’re talking about Vision Element #3 “Accessibility: Achieving Access & Inclusivity to Arts, Culture & Creativity,” What does this mean to you and why is it significant to your efforts?

Evan: Accessibility is our mission. We want to engage folks that are normally not considered civic decision-makers. Though we often classify neighborhoods as economically rich or poor, we don't often think of the "spiritual" wealth or poverty. A lack of diversity, in all ways you can think of that term, contributes to the spiritual poverty of our community. If civic programs and arts and culture reflect only a small segment of our community, we are ultimately starving ourselves culturally. To figure out where we want to go, we need to know where we've been and we need to have as much participation as possible. This is why we have interpreters, childcare, accessible locations for disabled folks and why we hold our programs all around the city. It's crucial to what we do and why.

7. It’s the year 2020….what does arts and culture look like in Denver?

Evan: It no longer is its own category. Arts and culture are intrinsic to the decision-making bodies of the community. They are not post-it notes on city plans or contracts. Budgets are created with arts and cultural groups at the table. Artists are remunerated for their work. Our fascination with tech business start-ups and developers visions for the city have been replaced with civic innovators who prioritize the commons and use the arts and our diverse cultural traditions to make decisions for the future of the community...and the Simpsons is still on TV every week.

Visit warmcookiesoftherevolution.org to learn more.

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Q&A with Damon McLease, VSA Colorado/Access Gallery on The Art of Access

1. So tell us about The Art of Access program?

Damon: The Art of Access event was a one day symposium that took place on Monday, November 9 at History Colorado. It was designed to bring together arts and culture professionals to discuss issues of accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities. The intention was to create a place and time dedicated to sharing ideas and best practices in the field. 

2. What made you want to develop a program like this? What inspired you?

Damon: I spend a lot of time working with organizations in and around Denver and was seeing creative programming around the issues of accessibility and realized that often these projects and programs are operating in a vacuum. I wanted to get people in the same room to share and hopefully support each other in these efforts. 

3. Why is it important for Denver… now and for the future?

Damon: Nearly 20% of the US population has a disability, yet we rarely see people with disabilities in our workplaces, our theaters, our museums, as performers or employees. I believe good access is good business. By designing our programs and our offerings to be accessible to as many people as possible we can open new markets, serve more people and I personally believe that as we see more and more people living to be older, we will see accessibility in a new light.  

4. What’s the most interesting detail or fact you’ve learned in planning your program?

Damon: Obviously the significance of the 25th anniversary of the ADA was an important factor in planning this event and we were thrilled to have the symposium held during Denver's Arts Week. Our main focus was to pull all of this collective brain power together - people from the Colorado Ballet, Clyfford Still Museum, Phamaly, Redline and of course the City of Denver's Imagine 2020 funding. As I mentioned I have worked with and seen all of these programs and many more beyond that, the goal was to get people who are doing great work in the same room to share and hopefully identify builds for the future.

5. What can people do to get involved the program and what you do?

Damon: If you weren’t able to attend the symposium on November 9, first I would say to visit accessgallery.org to learn more about our mission. There are many ways you can support us - volunteer for a program, attend a gallery event, or attend an event put on by one of our partners who are also focused on building a more accessible future for arts and culture.

6. This month we’re talking about Vision Element #3 “Accessibility: Achieving Access & Inclusivity to Arts, Culture & Creativity,” What does this mean to you and why is it significant to your efforts?

Damon: With nearly 20% of our population having a disability I think inclusion to arts and culture are vitally important. This population has more buying power than the teenage demographic in this country yet we rarely see people with disabilities working for arts organizations either as staff or as artists. I think creative programming and trying new things are so very important to this work, and Denver and our cultural institutions are doing important work. I hope this symposium inspired more sharing of ideas and established a network of likeminded organizations that can continue to build the future

7. It’s the year 2020….what does arts and culture look like in Denver?

Damon: I believe that Denver is one of the most unique cities in the country, no one else is looking at issues of cultural identity the way Denver has committed to doing with Imagine 2020.  I am proud to be part of it and think that by hosting this symposium and follow up activities we can include people with disabilities in the future fabric of our city.

Visit accessgallery.org to learn more.

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Q&A with Meredith Badler, CBCA on Colorado Attorneys for the Arts 

1. So tell us about CAFTA

Meredith: Colorado Attorneys for the Arts (CAFTA) is a legal referral service that connects limited-income artists and creative entities with pro bono legal help. It is a new program of the Colorado Business Committee for the Arts (CBCA). We work with all kinds of artists, including musicians, dancers, visual artists, filmmakers, designers, etc. To date, CAFTA has a 100% referral rate to get artists and organizations free legal support to advance their creative work. 

2. What made you want to develop a program like this? What inspired you?

Meredith: There are successful volunteer lawyers for the arts programs across the country – and there used to be one here in Colorado until a few years ago. Their disappearance left a real gap. The legal issues that artists face can be major hurdles. These issues are nuanced, complex, distinct and often costly to address. As the link between the arts and business communities, we felt that CBCA could step up and meet those needs. 

3. Why is it important for Denver… now and for the future?

Meredith: The creative industries are a vital business sector for Denver and statewide. CAFTA enables artists to focus on what they do best: make art! It also gives them the tools and support to professionalize and grow their work. A thriving creative sector in Denver results in cultural tourism, economic development, job creation, community revitalization and better quality of life for all. And the more this sector continues to grow, the more important it will be for artists to access this kind of legal support. 

4. What’s the most interesting detail or fact you’ve learned in planning your program? (feel free to share any strange or compelling things or any hurdles you have had)

Meredith: Three interesting things come to mind…first, is the variety of legal issues we’ve seen so far. Some matters are not surprising, like registering copyrights, drafting contracts or forming a 501c3 nonprofit. But we’ve also seen things like estate planning for artists! The second is how willing our volunteer attorneys are to help. Our database of volunteer attorneys continues to grow. We’ve had several instances where more than one attorney offers to help a particular client. It’s wonderful to see the attorneys value this program and find the pro bono work meaningful. Finally, it’s disconcerting to hear the myths and ambiguities out there pertaining to arts-related legal issues. As we’ve begun doing educational presentations, we’ve heard lots of misconceptions, questions and real-life horror stories about protecting your work and navigating a creative business.

5. What can people do to get involved and support CAFTA?

Meredith: If you’re an attorney, sign up to be part of CAFTA! Registering to be a CAFTA volunteer attorney is not a commitment to taken on any specific matter. Attorneys offer their assistance based on their expertise, availability and interests. Right now, we are actively spreading the word about CAFTA. Please let people know that this service is available. Legal help is the kind of thing you don’t need until you suddenly really need it! We are also making presentations to various associations and groups. Invite CAFTA to make a presentation on legal issues for the arts. Even a five minute spiel about CAFTA at a community meeting is appreciated. 

6. This month we’re talking about Vision Element #5 “Local talent: Building Careers & Businesses by Nurturing Local Talent," What does this mean to you and why is it significant to your efforts?

Meredith: CAFTA fits in with several of the IMAGINE 2020 vision elements. Clearly, we are working hard to advance Vision #5 by helping local talent to build their careers here in Denver. It is our goal that creative professionals and organizations are more self-sufficient, business savvy, legitimate and productive. CAFTA also fits with Vision #6 because the creative industries directly feed into our greater economy. And, we couldn’t achieve success with CAFTA without collective and collaborative leadership (Vision #7).

7. Its the year 2020….what does arts and culture look like in Denver?

Meredith: Arts, culture and the creative industries are treated and tracked like other business sectors (e.g., healthcare, aerospace, finance) in Denver. They are understood as essential elements of economic development and our city’s overall vitality. Arts, culture and creativity are valued and visible across the city, from public parks and school to offices buildings and government agencies. They are no longer a “nice to have,” but integrated seamlessly into our daily lives. 

Visit coloradoattorneysforthearts.org to learn more and like their Facebook page. 

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Q&A with Barb Moritzky, Denver Young Artists Orchestra on Music Unexpected

1. So tell us about Denver Young Artists Orchestra (DYAO)

Barb: The mission of the Denver Young Artists Orchestra is to provide the finest possible youth orchestra program, inspiring and educating young musicians through the performance of great works of music and offering valuable cultural opportunities to the community. For thirty-nine years, DYAO has nurtured the talents - nearly 250 students ages seven to twenty-three from more than eighty schools across the state - of the Rocky Mountain region's finest young musicians as an integral part of their musical education, helping them to achieve their dreams. DYAO continues to transform young musicians by giving them the inspiration, support, and skills to be tomorrow's great musicians.

2. What made you want to develop a program like Music Unexpected? What inspired you?

Barb: I was inspired to create Music Unexpected following the Imagine 2020 general meeting held three years ago when I heard statistics about the Denver Metro area and people were asked what their vision was for Denver in 2020. I wrote on my sticky note, "Young musicians playing on every corner in the Denver area."  From this moment, I envisioned many of the DYAO musicians playing in common and unusual areas. I was also inspired as I had been promoting my daughter, a DYAO Alum and harpist, for several years to play in the Lakewood area. I was amazed at the positive response she received from those listening as well as watching her musical talents increase from being an on stage, group orchestra performer, to a soloist in settings uncommon for musicians to play. It seemed like the best of both worlds!

3. Why is it important for Denver… now and for the future?

Barb: The goals of Music Unexpected are good for Denver given that performance halls have been struggling for a while now to fill their seats, resulting in fewer people hearing extraordinary musicians playing extraordinary music. By getting our musicians out into the city and surrounding areas, those who are not inclined to attend a concert would still be exposed to the young, talented DYAO musicians. From this exposure, the passerby could receive a ticket to attend a free concert in one of the halls in the Denver Metro Area. With so many people moving to Denver these past couple of years, it is a prime time to expose these newcomers to the enriching culture of Denver based on the amazing music of these musicians.

4. What’s the most interesting detail or fact you’ve learned in planning your program? (feel free to share any strange or compelling things or any hurdles you have had)

Barb: In my efforts to secure locations for musicians to play, I've generally had a very positive response - from the Botanic Gardens collaborative spot on the 16th Street Mall, the Fat Jack's sub shop in Five Points, or several Whole Foods Stores. It was delightful to receive such a positive response from so many receptive groups and individuals. In working with the student musicians, we would talk about how to project their sound, how to talk with passersby if questions were asked, how to set up in an unfamiliar setting, how to manage their music in the different setting, etc. 

5. What can people do to get involved and support DYAO?

Barb: The primary way to get involved with DYAO is to attend concerts throughout the season. We have 10 planned for this coming season. This is the best way to hear the collective orchestras and from all of the different age groups. We welcome anyone to our rehearsals on Monday and Tuesday nights and on Saturday mornings as well. 

6. This month we’re talking about Vision Element #5 “Local talent: Building Careers & Businesses by Nurturing Local Talent," What does this mean to you and why is it significant to your efforts?

Barb: All of the DYAO musicians are fantastic examples of local talent. I wanted to have these phenomenal musicians - no matter what age - playing as soloists, duets, quartets, etc. to let others become aware of their incredible music skills. I wanted the musicians to develop confidence and skills to play in a variety of settings, as most of them have only played in the orchestra settings.  Often, for the younger musicians who haven't played off of the orchestra stage, the first time can be very intimidating. It takes a bit of courage to present yourself in a confident manner, especially when you don't have the orchestra group around you for support. Vision #1, Integration, was of interest to me as it fits the aspect of bringing the musicians out of the concert halls and integrating them into the community around them.  

7. It’s the year 2020….what does arts and culture look like in Denver?

Barb: In the year 2020, I envision more collaborative efforts between all groups of the arts. I have been overseeing the DYAO Painted Violin Project for several years. It has been delightful to match the visual arts with the musical arts. I think the more we can see dancers, theatre, music, visual artists, etc. merging together, the more the general public will gain a better appreciation for the arts in general. Having the young musicians from DYAO as a part of this experience will be amazing!!

Visit dyao.org to learn more