Performing arts convention challenges city to plan for future |

Performing arts convention challenges city to plan for future

Margaret Hair

Steamboat Springs Arts Council Executive Director Marion Kahn was one of four people from Steamboat Springs to attend the June 12 to 14 National Performing Arts Convention in Denver.

— On the final day of the National Performing Arts Convention in Denver, hundreds of arts delegates from across the country are having problems with technology.

Anxiously pointing small remote controls toward the front of a ballroom at the Denver Convention Center, the delegates are casting votes on priorities in the performing arts, debating how to most effectively address concerns such as: “Our communities do not sufficiently perceive the value, benefits and relevance of the arts, which makes advocacy and building public support for the arts a challenge at every level.”

The questions aren’t easy ones to answer, and not all of the tiny remotes work.

But the eagerness of this group – which includes four delegates from Steamboat Springs – is clear. As part of the pilot Collaborative Community Planning Process, Steamboat Springs Arts Council Executive Director Marion Kahn, Colorado Mountain College Alpine Campus Dean Kerry Hart, Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association Executive Vice President Sandy Evans Hall and local artist Susan de Wardt are at the convention to exchange ideas and start building for the future.

“I think it’s the same for everyone here,” de Wardt said of the challenges facing Collaborative Community’s eight Colorado cities and towns, as well as the challenges facing arts groups across the country. “They’re all looking at, how do we meet the needs of our community, how do we reach a wider audience, and how do we pay for it.”

If it works for Denver

A year from now, the goal of the National Performing Arts Convention is to have made a difference. The goal of the Collaborative Community project is to have made a plan.

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“I think what we’re looking at is a strategic plan that allows us to move forward over the next 10 years; that will really elevate us as a community for the arts,” Hall said. The idea is for arts administrators and advocates to work with local government to identify needs and figure out how to address them so, Hall said, “We’re not just developing our arts hodgepodge.”

For the next 12 months, Steamboat Springs will join Aurora, Colorado Springs, Cortez, Englewood, Glenwood Springs, Lakewood and Monte Vista to develop such a plan, with community meetings and focus groups as the beginning steps to something cohesive.

The program is modeled after Denver’s 2025 initiative, a 20-year program for developing and defining arts and culture as part of a community.

“We just concluded that if it works for Denver, it works for Steamboat Springs and cities all over,” said Jim Copenhaver, a coordinator for Collaborative Community and co-president of Arts for Colorado. He hopes the program will bring arts and culture representatives into planning discussions at their base level.

“I think just by getting everybody together around the table, you achieve that,” Copenhaver said. Once those discussions happen and thoughts start going on paper, the goal is to find out if the plan makes sense, then get more people engaged in it, he said.

“It isn’t a report, it’s a sense of community that we’d like to create,” Copenhaver said.

Looking ahead

Each city or town in the Collaborative Community project is at a different place in its arts development. Some have performing arts facilities and advocacy groups. Some, including Steamboat Springs with its Vision 2030 survey of community desires and values, already have done much of the assessment needed to set the stage for arts planning meetings and focus groups.

“I think the big thing, the reason that I was willing to take on a leadership role (as a facilitator at the convention), was I was willing to do the groundwork to make this happen so we could start the discussion on how we can enhance the arts in Steamboat, both for the arts themselves and as an economic driver,” Kahn said after the convention, held June 12 to 14.

Part of that discussion likely will include a study on the economic viability of local arts organizations and outlets.

“When you look at this from a business perspective, we’re just beginning to scratch the surface for what this can mean for our local economy,” Kahn said. With potential lost revenue from the potential loss of Triple Crown, looking at arts and culture as an economic boon could be part of money conversations in the near future, she said.

Steamboat’s delegates to the National Performing Arts Convention are asked to submit monthly reports to monitor progress in those talks, to make sure to set timelines for actions. The first step in that process, Kahn said, is making sure those talks happen.

“I don’t know that we’ve done a good job of assessing the community and saying, ‘What do you want to see?'” Kahn said. Education, organization and performance space likely are to come up as key issues, she said.

“A piece of that pie – it’s not the pie, but it’s a piece of the pie – is facilities,” she said. If a community performing arts center does come up, the question will be one of having enough support to build and maintain it, Kahn said. Through Collaborative Community, she hopes to get that kind of question into the public eye.

“We really have to hear what people’s wants and needs are. : They’ve gone through this process before, but (we need to) go through the process of what could be supported,” Kahn said.

– To reach Margaret Hair, call 871-4204

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