If I had the InDesign program, I would have created a tear running down this colorful bear’s face.

That’s how unhappy the situation has become for the arts in our metro area, but our state also is in a bind when it comes to cultural pursuits.

Earlier this week, the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District released an impact survey dealing with COVID-19. The SCFD is made up of seven counties (including Denver) that have been funding all sorts of cultural groups. This taxing district began raising money in 1989, which has helped these counties bloom over and over again. This district has been voted approval several times, and since its beginning a bear has been the district’s representative. 

Now, the bear is battling the virus. But most of us are not running a theater, a symphony, a gallery, a museum, an opera, a ballet and more. It is not what we expected in 2020, but that’s where we are. 

Denver Arts & Venues is helping cultural groups while dealing with the problem that Denver’s money-making facilities are closed, including the DCPA, the Red Rocks Amphitheatre, and the McNichols Civic Center Building. The Colorado Business Committee for the Arts, which links businesses and the arts for support, now has a holiday campaign to shop for gifts.  And Colorado Creative Industries, which covers the state, also is involved, especially now when one of these recent bills will rely on this agency to allocate payments to cultural groups. These organizations are working hard to find ways to help artists, musicians, performers and more. 

As of yesterday, the Colorado General Assembly’s First Extraordinary Session voted on 10 bills that fund more than $340 million for various goals, from child care to housing relief. Those bills were hammered out, completing a whirlwind of three days to discuss. 

One bill – SB20B-001 – addresses the topic of the cultural sector “impacted by capacity restrictions imposed to address the COVID-19 pandemic”:

  1. $37 million for direct relief payments to small businesses located in a county that is subject to, and in compliance with, severe capacity restrictions pursuant to a public health order, with payments allocated to the counties for distribution to eligible small businesses, which businesses include restaurants, bars, movie theaters, and fitness and recreational sports centers;
  2. $7.5 million for direct relief payments to eligible arts, culture, and entertainment artists, crew members, and organizations, with payments allocated by the creative industries division in the Colorado office of economic development;
  3. $6,775,000  $6,780,000 to the department of public health and environment to enable the department to contract with county or district boards of health to provide state funding in lieu of those local government agencies charging annual licensing fees to certain retail food establishments;
  4. $1.8  million  $1,891,775 to the department of revenue to offset the department’s waiver of certain liquor license fees; and
  5. $4 million for use by the minority business office in the Colorado office of economic development to provide direct relief payments, grants and loans, and technical assistance and consulting support to minority-owned businesses.

In all, that bill includes $57 million.

Considering SCFD’s impact survey, the comments were taken from April 2020 to September 2020. In September, 244 organizations took the survey.  At the end of the survey, the questions included:

  1. For more than 80%, the financial impact has been moderately to extremely severe.
  2. For 60%, the earned revenue loss as been significant to near total.
  3. About 33% creative sector jobs have been lost to layoff, furlough or elimination.

Because Denver and Colorado are resilient – at least I think we are – it still will take time to claw back to where we were in 2019. Fingers crossed that all cultural entities can survive.

Links lead to stories in Colorado Public Radio, in Westword, a link to the SCFD impact survey, and in the Denver Business Journal




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