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Evergreen seeking state designation as arts district

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By Deb Hurley Brobst

Evergreen has been given the go-ahead to apply to become part of a two-year program that will result in the designation of “creative district” by a state funding agency.

If Evergreen is accepted, a local committee with representatives from all areas of the arts will be given $5,000 in seed money by the state to market and advertise Evergreen for the next two years as a comprehensive arts area, according to Steve Sumner, executive director of Center for the Arts Evergreen.

For its part, in those two years, the Evergreen community must put in the equivalent of $10,000 in cash, in-kind donations and time toward promoting the arts.

“So people in the state will see the real value of the arts here,” Sumner said. “We’re a formidable part of the community when you put all of the arts together — fine arts, artisans, theater arts, music. We think people will rally around us. There will be a lot of people working on this.”

Creative districts are highlighted on the Colorado Creative Industries website as being great destinations for tourists to experience the arts.

The application is due in May, and Evergreen should have an answer in June.

CCI formerly was known as the Colorado Council on the Arts, a state agency responsible for promoting the arts, especially as they enhance a community’s economy. It designates and promotes creative districts such as the one on Santa Fe Drive near downtown Denver, and in Salida, Pueblo, Ridgway and Telluride.

There are seven creative districts in the state, with 12 more expected to be certified this year. This year, CCI is asking for 11 applications and will accept five into the program.

Organizations taking part in applying for the designation include the Evergreen Downtown Business Association, which has spearheaded the effort, the Center for the Arts Evergreen, Evergreen Players, Evergreen Artists Association, Evergreen Chorale and the Evergreen Jazz Festival, plus some individual artists.

“I’m glad EDBA is heading this up,” Sumner said. “It shows how important the arts are to downtown, how important the arts are to the overall economy of Evergreen.”

Ed Bischoff from Zuni Sign Co., who represents the EDBA on the application committee, added: “There’s so much going on in Evergreen when you think about activities at Center/Stage, the historical education at Hiwan Homestead, concerts and events at the Lake House, the jazz festival. So many things that happen in this town are tied to the arts. I think Evergreen already is an arts destination, but this (designation) would take it to another level.”

Collaboration is key

Applying for the designation has been six years in the making, starting when local arts organizations formed the Evergreen Arts and Cultural Alliance. The alliance created Arts Alive, a 10-day showcase of arts in July that begins with Evergreen Players performances and the Summerfest Arts Festival, has arts activities in the middle, and ends with the Evergreen Jazz Festival.

“At least our heads are in the right place in terms of a creative district,” Sumner said. “Arts Alive has been a very successful thing for us.”

A major point in the application will be that Evergreen is too small for the groups to compete against one another. Instead, they work together, and the CCI grant is based on the idea of community collaboration, Sumner said.

“Since we don’t have a city government, and there are so many nonprofits here, many things going on have developed over the years only because someone had a passion for it,” Bischoff said. “I think that’s pretty unusual in the state, and we hope that is something to our benefit. We present a unique opportunity.”

The other point in the application will be what a great lure Evergreen is for people wanting to make a day arts trip from Denver, the 285 Corridor, Clear Creek or Summit counties.

“They can have breakfast in their own house, enjoy the arts in Evergreen, stay for a play or a concert, and still be home by 10:30 at night,” Sumner said. “Some of the message we will be including in our grant is the fact that we can be a great asset to metro Denver because we are that close. It always stuns me when people (in Denver) think we’re four hours away.”

Contact Deb Hurley Brobst at deb@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1041. Check www.CanyonCourier.com for updates