The creative economy in bloom

Several months ago after I wrote my first article on Colorado’s creative economy I had the pleasure to meet Elaine Mariner, Executive Director of the Colorado Creative Industries. We discussed how Colorado’s creative sector is the fifth largest employment sector in the State and how we could use this sector to help grow our economy. With government budgets being cut it became apparent that both the creative community and business would have to take a lead role in promoting our creative resources.

I suggested that we explore the possibility that the South Metro Denver Chamber could play a part in promoting the creative economy. I set up a meeting with Elaine and Chamber CEO John Brackney and before the meeting was over I was responsible to heading up the yet to be formed South Metro Denver Chamber Creatives Group.

The first thing we did was to set up a Meetup group for chamber members using the Colorado Creative Industries definition of the creative economy as a guide. We invited chamber members in design, film & media, heritage (museums and botanic gardens), literary & publishing, performing arts, visual arts & crafts – and just for good measure we included culinary arts & craft brewing/wine making.

As the group was forming I decided to test the waters with the idea of promoting the creative sector in the South Metro Area. Over the next several weeks I met with a few local mayors, heads of arts organizations and businesses in the creative sector – to a person, they said that they would support a local effort to promote the creative sector and its economic benefits.

Along the way I have met some really interesting people in our creative sector. Recently I had the opportunity to sit at the same table with both John Madden of The Madden Companies and Brian Vogt, CEO of the Denver Botanic Gardens. Both have contributed to and benefited from our creative economy.

John Madden has a knack for building beautiful structures which combine design, art, sculpture, and landscape to create spaces that are appreciated by both the tenants and the community. His company has built close to 10 million square feet of premium space in the last 40 years.

In the Greenwood Village area a few of his signature buildings are Harlequin Plaza, Tuscany, Fiddlers Green Amphitheatre, Orchard Falls, Greenwood Athletic Club, Plaza Tower One, Carrara Place, Samson Park and his latest gem Palazzo Verdii designed by Denver’s Fentress Architects.

John is no stranger to the world of art, as a teen he worked in an art museum and is an avid collector and patron. He recently received an award for being the founding chair of the Colorado Business Committee for the Arts. John founded the museum of Outdoor Art in 1981 and in 2008 he opened the Madden Museum of Art which is housed in the Palazzo Verdii building.

I suspect that art has contributed to his success and that his success in business has contributed to some of our best art and cultural facilities.

Brian Vogt is the CEO of the Denver Botanic Gardens which includes the gardens at Chatfield. Prior to becoming CEO in 2007, he was Director of the Colorado Office of Economic Development under Gov. Bill Owens and prior to that he was the CEO of the South Metro Chamber of Commerce for 18 years.

Utilizing innovative financing and garnering public/private support, the Denver Botanic Gardens has been expanding at a time when most public facilities are faltering. The other day at the gardens I noticed something I hadn’t seen in a long time – construction workers!

The Denver Botanic Gardens has been growing with the addition of a new parking structure, the Mordecai Children’s Garden, new greenhouses and Moore in the Gardens – an unprecedented display of 20 works by world renowned sculpture Henry Moore.

With the combination of local creative talent, business stewardship and the arts, the Denver Botanic Gardens is a world class venue in the heritage sector of our creative economy. Visitors and members are at an all time high and this facility is contributing to our economic vitality and development.

By the time you read this article the South Metro Chamber Creatives group will have had its first planning and brainstorming meeting. I encourage you to start a similar group in your part of Colorado. I will keep you informed on our strategies and progress as we seek to build and promote our local creative sector. I would also like to hear how you are leveraging your creative sector to grow your local community.

In the meantime I urge you to check out the exhibit by world famous artist Thomas Hart Benton opening at The Madden Museum in early September and while you are at it check out The Museum of Outdoor Arts in Greenwood Plaza – all free!

And you definitely don’t want to miss the Henry Moore exhibit at the Denver Botanic Gardens! The exhibit will be on display through Jan 31, 2011. Visit soon while the beautiful flowers and gardens are still in full bloom – a must see!
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Neil McKenzie is a visiting Professor at the Center for Innovation (MSCD), where he has developed the course “Artrepreneurship” and writes the blog . He currently is a Centennial-based commercial photographer specializing in business and personal brand photography at Neil has more than 30 years of business planning, marketing and marketing research experience as an economist, management consultant and corporate executive. He was also a founding faculty member of the Regis University MBA program. He can be reached at 720-339-3160 or by email at .


Categories: Company Perspectives