Using the arts for an economic jumpstart

The towns of Creede and Telluride both received the annual Governor’s Arts Award for enhancing their communities and economy through strategic use of the arts. Gov. Bill Ritter joined Creede Mayor Rex Shepperd and Telluride Mayor Stu Fraser last month in unveiling the awards at the Denver Art Museum — original artworks by artist Gayle Gerson of Grand Junction. 

“Not only are the arts a way to share our heritage and show us new ways of thinking and seeing, the arts are also a way to grow jobs and revitalize Colorado’s economy,” Ritter said. “It gives me great pleasure to honor these two communities.”

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The Colorado Council on the Arts, a division of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, annually convenes a panel to review the nominations. Although the Governor’s Award typically honors a single town or city, the review panel felt strongly that both communities show exemplary commitment to the arts as a way to enhance the cultural and economic vitality of their communities. The other nominated cities were Arvada, Broomfield, Fort Collins, Glenwood Springs, Golden, Lafayette, La Junta, Montrose, Nederland, Pueblo and Salida.

In selecting Creede, the review panel cited the town’s transformation from a dying mining town to a thriving tourism destination, with the arts as the catalyst. The panel was impressed with the vision of the town’s Junior Chamber of Commerce in 1966 to recruit a summer theatre as a strategy for economic stability. The Creede Repertory Theatre is now in its 44th year and attracts 20,000 theatre goers each summer. The panel noted that the town, the school system and the business district are active partners with the town’s arts groups.

The Town of Telluride, which won an honorable mention in 2008, impressed the panel with its high level of support for locally grown arts programs. Although Telluride is known for its international summer festivals, the panel noted a strong commitment to funding for local arts activities by the Town of Telluride, the Telluride Foundation, the Mountain Village Owners’ Association and San Miguel County. The panel also applauded Telluride’s commitment to youth arts, including their ongoing integration of the arts into the school curriculum. The panel was also impressed with Telluride’s Cultural Master Plan and Commission on Cultural Assistance.

The awards were two original mixed media collages by artist Gayle Gerson of Grand Junction, which will hang in public locations in the respective cities. In commissioning Gerson, the selection jury noted the spirit and energy in her work, her use of bright colors and the movement and depth that she created in her compositions. In 2007, the City of Grand Junction won the award, a large mono-print by Joellyn Duesberry. In 2008, the City of Loveland won, receiving a painting by Duke Beardsley.

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