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Peak Arts Prize 2.0 promises grants for local arts — and you get to decide where it goes 

click to enlarge Dallo Fall, photographed for Humanitou - ADAM WILLIAMS
  • Adam Williams
  • Dallo Fall, photographed for Humanitou
In 2018, the Pikes Peak Community Foundation (PPCF) and the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region (COPPeR) partnered on a unique new grant program — one that made our community’s limited funding for the arts more accessible. Drawing from money in PPCF’s Fund for the Arts, the organizations hosted the first Peak Arts Prize grant contest, doing away with traditional grant applications that sometimes put up walls to access for smaller or less-experienced organizations.

Instead, applicants were asked to submit a video explaining the project for which they would use the grant money, and the playing field included not just nonprofit arts organizations, but for-profits and individual artists as well.

“Last year was a strong first outing for the program,” says Angela Seals, deputy director of COPPeR. “It was the first year of Peak Arts Prize, and it was also the first year for a program like this for arts funding in this region.”

Thirty-four applicants, more than the PPCF’s Fund for the Arts has ever received, submitted videos in hopes of winning one of three prizes on offer: $7,500 for large arts organizations, $5,000 for small arts organizations and $2,500 for individual artists. Chamber Orchestra of the Springs, Colorado Street Art Company and artist Jasmine Dillavou received those awards, respectively.
Now, it’s time for a new generation of potential awardees to pitch their ideas to the community and hope the votes land in their favor. The Peak Arts Prize board has already chosen three finalists in each category, but the final winners will be decided by the public. In 2018, more than 1,000 people voted. “That public vote component kind of serves two functions,” Seals says. “One, we were wanting to raise the visibility of the arts. We talk about it a lot during Arts Month in October, and we wanted something that would really push the sector again, into the media in the spring. ... And then we wanted the community to have a say in where the funds went. We liked the transparency of that.”

This visibility meant a great deal to the smaller organizations that applied. According to Seals, organizations that fell under that $100,000-budget cap made up the majority of their applicants in 2018 — 18 out of 34 total. In 2019, individual artists applied in greater numbers than any other category, comprising 14 out of 33 total applications. “We got some really powerful thank-yous about what it meant to be seen by this program as valid and worthy of funding,” Seals says.

In its second year, Peak Arts Prize has made some technical adjustments regarding the length of the videos (now three minutes instead of five) and the length of the written application, but most important to artists: Some promotional incentives will now be offered to winners, so that when they are ready to present their gallery show, dance performance, or whatever their project happens to be, COPPeR will help draw attention to it.
2019 may be the final year for Peak Arts Prize, as PPCF officially funded the program for only two years. As of this writing the organizations do not know if it will continue. “I really did some deep evaluation with applicants,” Seals says, “and also people who didn’t apply and people who voted after last year, and then we made some adjustments in year two. Now we’re going to, you know, run it pretty similarly, and see how that goes. And then we’ll evaluate it and see if we keep doing it.”

For now, they simply hope public engagement will equal or exceed that of last year. Finalists’ videos have been posted on the Peak Arts Prize website since March 1, and public voting continues through March 15.

As last year, we at the Indy talked to the three finalists in the category of Individual Artists: Adam Williams, Kailani Dobson and Thom Phelps.

Adam Williams, a photographer and former journalist, hopes to secure funding for his project Humanitou 2.0, an extension of his creative and philosophical Q&As with artists and residents of Manitou Springs. Kailani Dobson, a returning finalist from last year, wants to create a community art piece, Atlas.Promisi, by collecting written promises from people in the community and pulling them all together into an art installation and dance performance. Thom Phelps wants to create conversation around climate change with a large sculpture and collaborative gallery show: A Farewell to Bees.

See the Indy’s conversations with these artists, and vote for your choice at peakartsprize.org.

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