Local arts provide a path to a ‘shared experience’


Seemingly ever-increasing levels of political polarization – especially amid the issues of the coronavirus pandemic – may bear upon the Coloradans, but one place where all of this can dissipate is an artistic performance on stage.

That’s according to Marcus Turner, a staff member of the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities.

With “the arts, by their very nature – especially the performing arts, where you sit in a space and experience something, whether it is music or theater – you are living, at that time, an experience shared with the people around you, ”said Turner.

The arts can be a force in “bringing people together and connecting with people who may not think the same thing,” Turner added.

Local arts centers can be found in towns and cities across Metro Denver, from Evergreen to Aurora to Parker. These are places where crowds can see a play, attend a concert, or even, in some centers, hone their own artistic skills with a painting or dance class. But arts programs also play a deeper role in their communities.

“There is much more to this world than our politics, and often the way to reach people is through other means: through music, through art, through dance,” said Abraham Ramirez, president of Commerce City Cultural Conseil.

Dialogue and connection

For Ramirez, who was born and raised in Commerce City, changing demographics have been the motivation to serve in his local arts and culture organization.

Two of Commerce City’s major demographic groups were Japanese Americans and white residents after World War II until the mid-1960s, according to Ramirez.

Today, in what he calls “Core Commerce City,” roughly between 88th and 56th avenues, there is a significant Hispanic population.

“Whereas when I was growing up it wasn’t,” said Ramirez, 68. Looking at the changing demographics, he thought getting involved in the art scene would be a “great opportunity to show people all the different cultures that we have here,” said Ramirez.

Although the city’s Cultural Council – a non-profit organization – does not operate an arts center, it does strive to coordinate “culturally diverse events” such as the annual Music in the Park summer concert series and Commerce City Eats Week, a weeklong celebration of local cuisine. , according to the city’s website. The Cultural Council also administers public art in the city.

At one event, a “Latin band played ranchero music – an upbeat sound, a boom-boom-boom bass sound. I had a couple sitting there, they’re German, and they said, ‘We love this polka music that they’re playing,’ ”Ramirez said with a laugh. “For me, that’s what it is.”

Turner, director of communications and public services at the Arvada Center, said arts centers can provide opportunities for dialogue and connection.

The Arvada Center has taken steps to foster dialogue with the public through “talkbacks” with actors or through surveys. The interviews are akin to a question-and-answer session – after certain plays are performed, the actors are made available to the public, at least before the coronavirus pandemic, Turner said.

A driver in communities

Another reason arts programming is such a vital part of communities: The arts are an “economic engine” in metro Denver, which is driving governments and individuals to invest in the arts, Turner said.

Greater economic prosperity and a higher rate of economic development tend to mark regions and communities that have artistic presences, he added.

“The other softer and softer reason” that communities promote art is that “the arts are good for the soul,” Turner said with a laugh. He said the arts can “enrich a person’s life” in general.

“The truth is, the world would keep turning if the arts didn’t exist. (But) what kind of world would that be? Turner said. People are said to lack “beauty, hope, sorrow, joy and inspiration,” he added.

The range of emotional connections to the arts “creates a tapestry in a community and in the world, frankly, that would be missing if it were to go away but sometimes go unrecognized as being there,” Turner said.

A newcomer to the arts

Despite the long list of foundations and other arts-related entities in suburban Denver, Centennial also entered the arts field, announcing the formation of the Centennial Arts and Cultural Foundation.

It is a non-profit organization whose initial efforts are led by centennial mayor Stephanie Piko and city council members Tammy Maurer and Kathy Turley, according to an August press release.

Randy Pye, Centennial’s first mayor and city founder, has long believed Centennial should get more involved in the arts.

“We never approached the arts. We’ve left that to other cities, “Pye said in a 2019 interview.” If you’re a Centennial citizen, you don’t identify Centennial with any type of art. And it’s an important part of a city. I always thought we should have a foundation here on the arts.

Centennial’s new foundation says its mission is to “celebrate, inspire and connect art and culture at Centennial”.

“The CACF is actively engaged and exploring artistic internship opportunities at Centennial,” the press release reads. “This includes community events, working with our arts community and finding the best way to commemorate the rich history of our city and region. “

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