Denver arts community stirs $1.76 billion in economic activity in 2011


A visitor to the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver spends a Tuesday morning viewing the various works of art. (Kathryn Scott Osler, The Denver Post)

Denver arts community stirs $1.76 billion in economic activity in 2011

By Jason Blevins The Denver Post

Calling his city “the cultural capital of the West,” Denver Mayor Michael Hancock on Wednesday heralded the $1.76 billion in economic activity stirred by the metro area’s bustling arts community in 2011.

Citing Denver as a leader among U.S. cities climbing out of the recession, Hancock joined several hundred arts supporters early Wednesday in celebrating the financial contribution art and culture provide metro Denver’s economy.

“The arts are a huge component of Denver’s appeal. We all know a smart city needs a diverse economy in order to thrive and that includes a robust culture sector,” Hancock told the Colorado Business Committee for the Arts gathering at downtown’s Four Seasons hotel. “The arts and culture are playing a strong and significant role in our economy.”

Arts and culture indeed do more than entertain and educate metro Denver’s residents and visitors. The CBCA’s biennial economic impact report shows that the 310 organizations of the 23-year-old Scientific and Cultural Facilities District — which spans seven metro counties — delivered a direct economic impact of $527 million in 2011, a 36 percent increase over the 2009 impact.

With indirect spending and capital expenditures, total economic activity was $1.76 billion, up 18.4 percent from 2009.  “If any one of our businesses during this period of time had held steady, we are celebrating success. Thirty-six percent increase from 2009: It is the largest economic impact ever recorded in the history of the SCFD,” said Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce president Kelly Brough. “We have a phrase for that in the business community. When we hear numbers like that we say: ‘Shut the front door.’ ”

More than 2 million visitors from outside Colorado toured Denver’s cultural attractions, including the Clyfford Still Museum. (Kathryn Scott Osler, The Denver Post)


Denver’s transition from a gateway to mountain fun into a bona fide tourist destination has been fueled by the metro area’s “cultural renaissance,” said Visit Denver chief Richard Scharf.

More than 2 million visitors from outside of Colorado toured Denver’s cultural attractions in 2011, generating $378 million in spending. “I have to say they all pay taxes, too, that we don’t have to pay,” said Scharf, adding that all but two of the metro area’s top 10 attractions are SCFD-funded.

“We also believe that the brand of the city is built from the ground up,” Scharf said, noting that the sixth annual Denver Arts Week, which kicks off Friday with 250 discounted or free events by 170 metro arts organizations, is designed to help people in Denver understand the importance of the local arts community.

Since its inception in 1989, the taxpayer-supported SCFD has distributed more than $2 billion to metro arts organizations. Since 2001, the district has distributed $424 million to its 310 member groups, including $41.9 million in 2011. Arts, cultural and scientific groups employed 9,354 workers in 2011 — a 7 percent increase over 2009 — with a payroll of $145 million.

$1.76 BILLION: That’s the economic activity in the Denver area’s arts scene — and arts supporters gathered Wednesday to celebrate the financial contribution from art and culture. (Kathryn Scott Osler, The Denver Post)

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows arts, entertainment and recreation employment in Colorado — including jobs in cultural, sports, gaming and amusement venues — is up 2.9 percent this year over last year, or about 1,300 jobs. That compares with about 1.7 percent growth for the state overall.

Arts and cultural event attendance reached its second highest peak ever in 2011, with 14.6 million visits fueled by more than 400,000 visitors at the Denver Art Museum’s “King Tut” exhibit and more than 50,000 attending the Colorado Ballet’s “The Nutcracker.”

Nearly 9 million of those tickets were free or reduced, revealing the arts community’s dedication to “being available to everyone,” said Jack Finlaw, chief legal counsel for Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Jason Blevins: 303-954-1374, jblevins@denverpost.com or twitter.com/jasontblevins

Art by the numbers

$145 million: Total payroll for arts, cultural and scientific groups in metro Denver in 2011 , up from $131 million in 2009.

50,460: Volunteers who worked at arts and cultural institutions across metro Denver in 2011, up from 42,226 in 2009.

1,500: New arts and culture jobs added in metro Denver between 2001 and 2011, paying $66 million in salaries.

$203 million: Capital expenditures in arts from 2001 to 2011. Attendance during the decade was 142 million, corporate sponsorships were $102 million.

Source: 2011 Colorado Business Committee for the Arts economic study

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Nicolae Holley, 18, is the new writer-in-residence at The Art Junction. He’s moved here from Biloxi, in southern Mississippi. He first learned of the Art Junction through Rachel Casto, daughter of Kevin Casto, director of the Art Junction.

Nick was participating in the One Year Adventure novel program, which is where he met Rachel, and where he first began to seriously pursue writing. Though it had always been a hobby, he hadn’t considered it a career until high school, when praise from his teachers inspired him to try it out. Now, there’s nothing else he’d want to do.

Nick’s writings tend toward the more fantastical, often set in post-apocalyptic or science-fiction universes. When he’s not writing fiction, he’ll often write down his thoughts on politics or religion, sharing them on his blog: The Bookwyrm’s Den (bookwyrmnick.wordpress.com), where he also posts short stories or ideas for stories.

Nick plans to spend his time at the Art Junction broadening the spectrum of art that it offers. Writing is an art, just as much as painting or photography, and, to that end, Nick plans to start a group for aspiring writers to get encouragement, guidance, and feedback.

When he’s not writing, Nick enjoys reading and playing video games, or discussing his books with his friends. His current focus is on ‘NaNoWriMo’, National Novel Writing Month, a program sponsored by the non-profit Office of Letters and Light, which encourages young writers to write a 50,000 word novel in one month.