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Colorado: 50th in the arts!

Let me put it euphemistically: Things aren't looking so great for the arts in Colorado right now.

Forget about the fact that Colorado ranks near the bottom of the list in state funding for education, and the fact that Colorado recently ranked 50th (as in the worst) in job loss over the past year. As you may have noted, severe budget shortfalls also recently incited the governor-most-frequently-mistaken-for-a-robot, Bill Owens, to line-item veto more than $700,000 dollars of funding for the Colorado Council on the Arts (CCA), dropping their annual funding from around $1.9 million to around $1.2 million, says Fran Holden, executive director of the CCA. And, she adds, the Colorado State budget for 2003 is still facing cuts.

All this could mean that Colorado will also rank 50th (yes, as in the worst) for state funding of the arts! Though the official ranking, determined by the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, will most likely not be released until November, Holden says it is looking like Colorado will come out on the bottom of the heap. If the budget stays as it is, says Jane Hansberry, a member of the newly formed Metro Arts Coalition, whose goal is to raise awareness and funding for the arts in Colorado, the state will be investing 26 cents per capita annually while the national average is $1.46!

Not only will Colorado Springs artists and arts organizations lose arts funding from the CCA, but our ever-conservative voters never voted in any kind of sales taxbased funding for local arts like Denver's Scientific & Cultural Facilities District, which only funds arts organizations that fall within the Denver metro area.

Bummer.

Too bad Colorado Springs isn't a gay or bohemian mecca. According to Richard Florida, professor of regional economic development at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, the cities with the strongest economies are cities with a large "creative class" -- a segment of the population composed mainly of gays and bohemian types. San Francisco, for example, has the largest creative class in the country according to Florida, author of the recently published The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It's Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life.

"Gays are the canaries of the creative economy. Where gays are will be a community -- a city or a region -- that has the underlying preconditions that attract the creative class of people," said Florida in an interview on Salon.com.

Oops! Too bad Colorado Springs became the mecca for religious organizations who had the anti-gay Amendment 2 on the top of their agendas when they decided to exploit our non-arts-funding tax base and drive up prices on the housing where bohemians might have lived in the early '90s, adding even more conservative voices to our huge, ever-transient military population. Golly gosh darnit!

Too bad for the jobless. Too bad for the kids. And too bad for the artists.

If the poor turn-out at the recent Pikes Peak Lavender Film Festival was any indication of our local gay index, then our creative and economic future ain't lookin' too fancy.

In more depressing news for the Colorado Springs arts, Scott Snyder -- one of the few truly innovative curators in the region -- has resigned from his position at the Fine Arts Center. Citing an offer he couldn't refuse from the Rockford Art Museum, his former employer, and the high cost of living in Colorado Springs (i.e. no bohemians), Snyder made the "agonizing" decision to return to his hometown of Rockford, Ill.

"It's a shame that a city of 500,000 doesn't fund the arts more," Snyder said of the place he called home for just over a year. "This can't just be a military town. Colorado Springs has much more going for it than Denver, but the artists need support."

If you're feeling any degree of Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, Muslim or atheist guilt and responsibility about this state of arts affairs, then consider channeling your checkbook into helping the Colorado Springs Conservatory raise the money to purchase the long-dormant Smokebrush building at 235 S. Nevada Ave. There's nothing worse than a stagnant arts space, and if the CSC doesn't raise the $800,000 by Oct 21, the deal falls through. Contact CSC Director Linda L. Weise at 577-4556 to make a donation.

And maybe we can all start washing that blues right out of our hair when 32 Bleu opens their doors on Sept. 27. Already in their promising lineup are Michael Franti and Spearhead, Jello Biafra (that old, smart dude from the Dead Kennedys), along with local favorites Boondoggle, The Mansfields, and Against Tomorrow's Sky. Be there and be queer!

--nblack@csindy.com

  • Colorado: 50th in the arts!

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