Culture matters — for all of us. The creative sector needs our help now.

Colorado logo Screen Shot 2020-05-08 at 12.59.37 PM

We know that our state and our cities are bleeding because of the pandemic that has swept around the world. We know that many workers are out of a job, and others are furloughed. These workers also exist in the creative sector. You know, artists, galleries, museums, theaters, writers, poets, musical groups of all types, and on and on — the things that make this state so attractive for those of us who love the arts. 

The Joint Budget Committee, or JBC, is among the most powerful entities in Colorado because it works to set a budget for the state. I do not envy them. Colorado Politics has been covering these JBC meetings, and apparently there are tears being shed. I get it: I remember in 2008, the country was facing financial peril. That happened here, and people lost their jobs (like me, in February 2009). It was like someone turned off the lights. And that’s where we are now. 

The JBC will be meeting again this coming Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. On Tuesday, revenue projections at this point of time are supposed to be announced. The issues of gaming and culture will be up soon, and tourism will be, too. To me, tourism and culture walk hand in hand, considering all the events throughout Colorado. 

As a bellwether, we already have seen a downturn in revenue in terms of the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District, which helps support organizations in seven counties in the Denver area. This morning the SCFD announced its new sales and use tax revenue in March 2020 (there is always a two-month lag time). As I expected, the money collected that month was down by 2.53% less than March 2019. This type of slide also happened in 2008 and 2009. During the past decade, the revenue had boomed just like Denver. But things are changing again. It will be interesting to see what April revenues will bring. Undoubtedly, it won’t be pretty.

Ordinarily I do not copy something into this blog, but a  letter from a long-time friend says it all. Sheila Sears worked for the Colorado Creative Industries, or CCI, for years, but retired a few months ago. She was a stalwart supporter of cultural activities, especially in the Creative Districts and in rural areas. Her letter is below.

Colorado Creative Industries has a small budget, but it also receives funds from the National Endowment for the Arts. Without a state budget, there will be no NEA funds for Colorado, and there will be no funds for the important COVID 19 recovery resources through the CARES Act. CCI is housed in the state’s Office of Economic Development (so is tourism and other cultural areas). 

Below this letter, there are charts that include information about how to contact the members of the Arts & Culture Caucus Members and the members of the JBC. Below that  are links to stories in The Colorado Sun and Colorado Politics and to organizations that are all about culture.  Sorry the charts look sort of wonky, but I cannot  fix them. 

Here’s the letter:

Dear Representative

I realize that the State’s budget is suffering a great impact with the COVID 19 crisis. There are no easy cuts, but please consider some of my thoughts below.

I retired as Deputy Director of Colorado Creative Industries (CCI), in the Office of Economic Development and International Trade, in December of 2019. I had worked with the agency for fourteen years, specializing in arts education, grant making and outreach to rural Colorado, or as I like to say, “Greater Colorado”.  During my time there and as a Governor-appointed Council Member prior, I served three Governors during my time at CCI and was privileged to travel to 62 of Colorado’s 64 counties, helping communities develop and celebrate the arts and cultural traditions of their regions.

I have seen the direct impact of the very, very modest State investment in our state arts agency firsthand. The arts strengthen our communities and inspire creativity. They contribute to the economy and jobs, bring creative experiences and learning to many otherwise without access, provide connection in stressful times and preserve and celebrate what is unique in our communities, especially in rural Colorado.

In addition to giving grants crucial especially to small arts organizations, CCI has supported projects such creative writing residencies at the Fort Lyon Supportive Residential Community in Las Animas, a statewide/national high school poetry competition, grants to schools across the state for arts education, arts programs serving the elderly, disabled and especially traditionally marginalized communities. CCI also supports 23 Creative Districts across the state, nearly half in rural Colorado.

But maybe most importantly right now, the arts and creative industries are a critical economic driver and will be necessary for Colorado’s financial recovery. Artists and nonprofit arts organizations, who benefit directly from CCI funding are workers and represent jobs and economic investment in their communities. Arts and cultural production account for $15.6 Billion and 4.5% of the Colorado economy, contributing 103,401 jobs, more than mining or transportation (2017).

Colorado’s very modest $2 million investment in CCI triggers nearly $800,000 annually in federal investment from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) This funding,100% of which goes to arts organizations in Colorado will not be released from the NEA without a required state match.

CCI has been critical in collaborating and leveraging relief funding for artists and cultural organizations in Colorado during the COVID-19 crisis. CCI’s investment in the Colorado Artist Relief fund attracted other funders to contribute and helped ensure money was distributed statewide. Without CCI, Colorado would lose its federal funding from the NEA, including critical COVID 19 recovery resources through the CARES Act.

Please consider using your leadership to support maintaining funding for Colorado Creative Industries.

With great appreciation,

Sheila Sears, Denver, CO

Arts & Culture Caucus Members
First Name Last Name Email Work Phone Committee Membership Party Affiliation District County
Leslie Herod 303-866-2959 Finance — Chair Democrat 8 Denver
Legal Services — Chair
Judiciary — Vice-Chair
Alex Valdez A. 303-866-2925 Capital Development Committee — Member Democrat 5 Denver
Energy & Environment — Member
Transportation & Local Government — Member
Daneya Esgar 303-866-2968 Appropriations — Chair Democrat 46 Pueblo
Joint Budget Committee — Chair
Appropriations — Vice-Chair
Appropriations — Vice-Chair
Kerry Tipper 303-866-2939 Health & Insurance — Member Democrat 28 Jefferson
Judiciary — Member
Adrienne Benavidez 303-866-2964 Finance — Member Democrat 32 Adams
Judiciary — Member
Susan Lontine 303-866-2966 Health & Insurance — Chair Democrat 1 Denver, Jefferson
State, Veterans, & Military Affairs — Member
Nancy Todd 303-866-3432 Education — Chair Democrat 28 Arapahoe
Joint Education — Chair
Finance — Member


Joint Budget Committee
First Name Last Name Email Work Phone Committee Membership Party Affiliation District County
Daneya Esgar 303-866-2968 Appropriations — Chair Democrat 46 Pueblo
Joint Budget Committee — Chair
Appropriations — Vice-Chair
Appropriations — Vice-Chair
Bob Rankin 303-866-5292 Appropriations — Member Republican 8 Garfield Grand Jackson Moffat Rio Blanco Routt Summit
Joint Budget Committee — Member
Dominick Moreno 303-866-4857 Appropriations — Vice-Chair Democrat 21 Adams
Joint Budget Committee — Vice-Chair
Statutory Revision Committee — Member
Kim Ransom 303-866-2933 Appropriations — Member Republican 44 Douglas
Joint Budget Committee — Member
Julie McCluskie 303-866-2952 Appropriations — Vice-Chair Democrat 61 Delta Gunnison Lake Pitkin Summit
Joint Budget Committee — Member
Joint Education — Member
Rachel Zenzinger 303-866-4840 Appropriations — Chair Democrat 19 Jefferson
Statutory Revision Committee — Vice-Chair
Joint Budget Committee — Member

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