Selling Out With Ginger White

Photo courtesy of Ginger White

Photo courtesy of Ginger White

The city of Denver is making a commitment to the arts with its IMAGINE 2020 campaign, which aims to improve access to the arts for all its citizens over the next few years. When we learned about the program through an article in the Denver Post, we reached out to Ginger White, Deputy Director of Denver Arts & Venues and Imagine 2020 Project Manager.

One of the most surprising barriers for citizens when it came to the arts wasn’t lack of money or interest, but a lack of time. White explains how her team plans to tackle this barrier and bring art and culture into every citizen’s life on a regular basis.

Jessica Koslow: The last time Denver created a cultural plan was 1989. How did the idea for “Imagine 2020” come up now?

Ginger White: After two City and County of Denver departments merged to form Denver Arts & Venues, the city recognized an opportunity to renew its commitment to arts and culture and the role they play in the city’s economic development and quality of life of its residents. Mayor Michael Hancock commissioned Arts & Venues to develop the plan and provide a strategic vision for arts, culture and creativity in Denver.

JK: Could you talk about some of the key points of the plan — like noting cultural deserts and addressing barriers that limit participation, such as affordability and transportation?

GW: By mapping our cultural resources and noting areas of deficiency, we can focus our attention on city facilities and assets that can help bring arts programs and creative activities to neighborhood parks, rec centers, libraries and other gathering places. We will partner with organizations that offer arts and culture programming and incentivize them to take their activities directly to people and we will explore possibilities for discounted cultural passes for underserved schools and neighborhoods.

JK:  Your plan specifies an alliance of organizations committed to inclusiveness and engagement in arts and culture. Who’s part of this alliance and what are some of your collective goals?

GW: One of the goals of this seven-year plan is to increase access and engagement in the arts. For a city of Denver’s size, this goal is best achieved by organizations working together in a concerted effort to direct individual and collective resources. The Colorado Business Committee for the Arts’ biennial study does a great job of aggregating the impact that cultural organizations have in the community. The cultural plan contemplates making that impact better known across the community and expanding those efforts to target more underserved populations.

JK: Your public survey results reported that a majority of Hispanics and African-Americans were not participating as much as they would like in art opportunities — and the No. 1 barrier for people was lack of time. What are some of the strategies proposed to help get all people out more?

GW: One of the most useful aspects of the plan is the data we collected about how Denver residents engage with arts and culture. Denver residents participate — through activities that include everything from attending concerts to visiting museums to purchasing a piece of art — at much higher rates than the national average. But they also told us that they do not participate as much as they’d like. Interestingly, the No. 1 barrier to participation wasn’t affordability or transportation, but lack of time. To address this, one of the main goals of IMAGINE 2020 is to make art unavoidable — to help develop and promote more activities at the neighborhood level, so that people can experience art in their daily lives. We’ve already deployed a strategy that focuses on this area: the P.S. You Are Here program will fund creative projects that focus on placemaking activities in Denver’s neighborhoods.

JK: Your survey also concluded that public awareness of Denver’s numerous and diverse offerings was lacking. How do you plan to raise the public’s awareness?

GW: The first step of this is already underway with the redevelopment of Denver365.com. The new-and-improved online event calendar will be much more comprehensive and will be marketed as a resource for residents of the Denver area, whereas in the past it was mainly focused on visitors only. We will also continue to work to promote and expand media coverage of arts and culture. We’ve already seen an investment in this area by the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation that has funded greater reporting and news coverage of the arts by public radio and television outlets.

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