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Gazette Premium Content Arts groups release city's first cultural plan

T.D. MOBLEY-MARTINEZ Updated: September 29, 2010 at 12:00 am

We dream big in Colorado Springs.

The latest case in point: The Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region’s upcoming release of a first cultural plan for the Pikes Peak region.

Generating nearly $100 million annually, the region’s more than 200 arts non-profits are already big business. The Springs, in fact, ranks in the top 15 percent of 276 metropolitan areas in number of arts businesses per capita.

But we can do better, said City Councilwoman and arts supporter Jan Martin.

“As the arts and cultural sector in the Pikes Peak region has expanded in the past two decades, the need for comprehensive strategy in the sector has become more and more important,” said Martin, who was one of the 10-member team that shaped the 10-year plan, which has been in the works since 2008. “With this plan, the arts can be strengthened and harnessed to continue to enhance the quality of life for all our citizens.”

The philosophy may sound familiar: In scores of small meetings, surveys and group brainstorming, the sprawling Dream City Vision 2020 aimed to plot a path to a Colorado Springs of our most ambitious conjuring.

“A lot of the things in the plan came out of Dream City,” said Bettina Swigger, COPPeR executive director. That includes fragments from the wish lists of the more than 3,000 people who participated in the city-wide project as well as information gleaned from the 2008 Arts Summit, an online survey and grass roots reporting. “We tried to fit those big dreams into more manageable tasks.”

Five goals emerged.

• Increase engagement, access and participation in the cultural life of the region.

• Integrate the arts into the social, economic and political fabric of the community.

• Strengthen and expand arts learning.

• Foster thriving arts organizations.

• Support creative individuals and advance arts leadership.

The list may read as pie-in-sky, Swigger said, “but we really, really focused on how the implementation plan would work. ... I don’t think we’ve ever had these kind of concrete plans.”

The Cultural Planning Team laid out 75 short-term, mid-term and long-term objectives. They run from the dry (compiling attendance, ticket sales, revenue and other nuts-and-bolts numbers) to the high-profile sexy (building 800-seat and 750 to 1,000-seat performing arts venues) to the tough to implement (write arts curriculum for K to 12 and distribute it to district schools).

“COPPeR can’t do it single-handed,” Swigger said. “It’s certainly not our purview, not our mission. But there are groups in town that might be able to take up that mission. The cultural plans says ‘Here are the needs. Here’s how you fit the work you’re doing into the bigger picture.’

The skeptical may notice that the plan also highlights related initiatives already in the works. For instance, the Pikes Peak Community Foundation and the Bee Vradenburg Foundation are actively working on establishing a United Arts Fund and the Fine Arts Center is looking for resources to develop a black box theater.

Volunteer task forces will begin to shepherd each goal by the end of November. Their efforts and observations about which steps need tinkering, opportunities to merge goals with community projects, and possible adjustment of deadline will surface in two annual reports.

“We’re not looking to import anything,” Swigger said. “What we’re looking to do is capitalize on the already vibrant arts scene that’s already happening here.”

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