Leslie loves to lift up artists who aren’t associated with large, well-known organizations, and will continue to do so as Mayor. Several city agencies and its partners are responsible for marketing, branding and communicating projects and programs around the city. Leslie will ensure local artists–graphic designers, musicians, visual artists, etc.--are given opportunities for exposure through coordinated marketing and branding strategies implemented by city agencies.
Leslie knows that artists are struggling to work and live in Denver. She will utilize city-owned vacant space to expand housing and creative spaces for artists, and will create initiatives to subsidize housing for artists. By subsidizing housing for active artists, the city is addressing multiple issues—affordable housing above all, but also is recognizing the huge economic impact of the arts. By subsidizing housing, local artists will be able to focus on their work with less economic strain, and Denver will attract artists from around the country to the city. But housing is only part of the challenge, Denver is losing arts organizations and creative businesses–like many retail storefronts–to high rents and the lure of more affordable locations in Aurora or Lakewood. Under Leslie’s administration, we will explore property ownership, property tax rebates and other mechanisms to promote and preserve what is uniquely Denver.
The envy of much of the nation, the SCFD has helped stabilize, grow and expand a broad array of cultural offerings to Denver’s residents, including unprecedented access to SCFD Free Days at cultural organizations, educational programs for school-aged children and life-long learning opportunities for the young-at-heart. The SCFD funds nearly 300 organizations across our front-range urban corridor, distributing more than $60 million annually. These tax dollars provide critical operational support for small, medium, and large organizations. The SCFD is also a catalyst for bringing world-class exhibits and events to our metro region which would otherwise never be presented. It is critical to Denver’s cultural ecosystem, and our cultural workforce, that the SCFD passes when it’s up for reauthorization in 2030.
Boettcher Concert Hall, home to the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, is beyond its useful life as a venue. After years of study, it’s time to reinvest in this facility to ensure it can welcome patrons to downtown Denver for years to come. Other city-owned venues need investment too to ensure they are state-of-the art, competitive in the marketplace and safe. But it’s not enough to invest in brick-and-mortar infrastructure. Even with the bounty of the SCFD, funding for arts and culture in Denver is very limited. Leslie will ensure that investments made by Denver Arts & Venues and other city agencies remain robust and impactful.
Denver is the gateway to the Rocky Mountains and the Western US. One of our distinct regional advantages is our remarkably rich creative city with everything from world-class museums and music venues to distinctive creative neighborhoods like RiNo and Santa Fe Arts District to successful creative businesses like Meow Wolf. The Denver Performing Arts Complex, the 12-acre downtown campus home to Colorado Ballet, Opera Colorado, Denver Center for the Performing Arts and Colorado Symphony Orchestra, is second only to Lincoln Center in New York City! These assets, organizations and creative talent should be amplified as the crown jewel for the Queen City of the Plains through a campaign strategy that creates pride of place for its residents and shares with the world all that we have to offer.
Denver’s arts and culture ecosystem rivals that of other cities around the globe. We have much to be boastful about that is distinctly and uniquely Denver, including the Clyfford Still Museum, Red Rocks Amphitheatre and Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, Denver’s critically-acclaimed Black dance company. When DEN is pitching nonstop flights to Japan or Africa, arts and culture should be positioned at the forefront of an international exchange. Similarly, arts and culture should take centerstage when businesses are considering opening a Denver office or headquarters as an amenity that is attractive to workforce. Working with partners at DEN, DEDO and the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation, Leslie will ensure that arts, culture and creative businesses are featured as part of what makes Denver a global business attraction and a global city.
By utilizing tourism advertising to highlight local artists and events, the City can harness and direct the attention of the nearly 20 million people who visit Denver every year towards small galleries, lesser known dance companies, comedy, performing arts, poetry open mics, local author readings, etc. The City will drive potentially millions of dollars toward lesser-known local artists and support the local businesses where artists perform and surrounding communities.
Lastly, this positioning will include technology, lifestyle firms and other like minded entrepreneurial businesses to foster reciprocal creative partnerships that drive innovation, build a brand and generate economic opportunity.
Denver has incredible spaces that we can use to lift up local artists and host incredible events for the entire city, but we are notorious for building spaces for people to enjoy but with little resources to animate those spaces to attract people. Under Leslie’s administration, resources will be directed to RNOs, BIDs and other community organizations to program parks (like the Lid over I-70) to support community building and realizing the full potential of these assets.
The arts are more than a performance on a stage or a mural on a building. The arts have the ability to inspire, heal and transform communities. There is a reason that communities like Montbello, Morrison Road and Loretto Heights seek arts and culture in community development plans–because they understand that arts and culture are part of what make vibrant and resilient communities. Leslie will bring that philosophy to other placemaking (and placekeeping) opportunities in the city and also seek to integrate the arts and artists into today’s pressing issues like youth violence prevention and mental health programs.
Leslie will partner with local organizations working in arts education, such as Think360 Arts, to promote arts education in schools and give students opportunities to get involved in creative work.
She will also ensure that all artists and organizations across Denver are aware of and have access to the resources and initiatives available in the city, through coordinated outreach efforts and empowerment of local artists and organizations.