Colorado Artists, as Assembly Line Workers, Part One

A couple of years ago, the following notice appeared in our Daily Post email, advertising an exciting chance for Colorado non-profits and governments to apply to Colorado Creative Industries for grants ranging from $4,000 to $10,000.  While $4,000 might be pocket change to some businesses and corporations, it’s a sizable amount for many non-profit organizations — particularly, perhaps, in small Colorado mountain towns.

Colorado Creative Industries’ largest grant program, Colorado Creates, announced this week that they are accepting applications. Nonprofit cultural organizations and communities interested in applying for grants can access guidelines and the application at the CCI website. The new funding period is October 1, 2013 to September 30, 2014, and applications are due at 4pm on Thursday, June 20, 2013.

… applicants must be Colorado 501c3 nonprofit organizations, departments of Colorado public colleges or universities, or government agencies. Applicants must have been providing public arts or cultural heritage programs in Colorado for at least three years by the application deadline. Individual artists or nonprofit organizations providing public arts or cultural heritage programming for less than three years may apply through an organizational fiscal agent.  Grant awards range from $4,000 to $10,000…

In fiscal year 2012-2013, 133 grants were awarded across the state totaling $1,048,500.

The email ended with this statement:

Colorado’s Creative Industries Division, Colorado’s state arts agency, is a division of the Office of Economic Development and International Trade. Established to capitalize on the immense potential for our creative sector to enhance economic growth in Colorado, the mission of Colorado Creative Industries is to promote, support and expand the creative industries to drive Colorado’s economy, grow jobs and enhance our quality of life.

To many of us, that might sound like a perfectly reasonable mission statement, given the ever-more-popular belief among Americans that The State should be a primary — perhaps even the primary — driver of local and national economies.  In using the term “The State,” I’m here referring to all our various government entities — federal, state, and local — as one big, slightly dysfunctional family.  Similar to the way Vladimir Lenin used the term, for example, in his classic work, The State and the Revolution.

The following story might be of particular interest to the residents of Salida, Colorado, in particular, because just about three years ago, Colorado Creative Industries (CCI) designated downtown Salida as an experimental economic unit — that is, as one of Colorado’s “Certified Creative Districts” — as part of a brand new state-sponsored economic development project.

Only two “Certified Creative Districts” were selected in the first year’s competition, although CCI also designated a dozen additional “Prospective” or “Emerging” Creative Districts.  Obviously, CCI intended to “certify” these additional districts at some point in the future, as they indeed demonstrated over the following years.

You can read more about the “Creative Districts” program on the CCI website.

If our readers will permit me to take a somewhat critical look at this relatively new state government effort, and to relate some interesting history regarding “creative industries,” I believe we might find out something about ourselves as citizens living under — not a “Capitalist Economy” — but rather a “State Economy.”

colorado creative industries artists as jobs

Some people may not have noticed what happened on May 18, 2010 when Colorado’s governor Bill Ritter signed SB10-158, creating the new “Creative Industries Division” within the Colorado Department of Economic Development.  That governmental action nominally combined the Colorado Office of Film, Television and Media with the Colorado Council on the Arts (CCA) and with CCA’s “Art in Public Places” program.  The new office was designated “Colorado Creative Industries,” or CCI.

That is to say, prior to May 18, 2010, the agency known as “Colorado Creative Industries” did not exist. After May 18,2010, the “Colorado Council for the Arts” no longer existed.

Governmental consolidations are pretty commonplace nowadays, as America struggles to find some kind of path back to the consistent economic growth we had witnessed during the two decades leading up to the 2008 financial meltdown (not counting the Dot-Com Bubble Meltdown from 1999-2001).  When budget cuts become necessary, as they have been here in Colorado, (thanks in part to our Constitutional requirement that our state government pass a ‘balanced budget’ each year despite falling revenues,) one obvious approach to cutting expenditures is to eliminate the duplication of services.

Another slightly related approach is to ask one person do the job formerly done by two people.  Having been a government employee at various times in my life, and having also been a business owner, I can easily confirm that it’s quite possible for one dedicated employee to perform the work of two, or maybe even three, typical government employees.  Which is not to say they will enjoy performing at such a stressful level — only that it’s possible to do so.

But consolidations aside, another important change happened when the Colorado Council for the Arts was absorbed by the new “Colorado Creative Industries” division.  And I think it’s a change worthy of serious discussion.

Unfortunately, I haven’t noticed any such discussion taking place.  So let’s start one.

First off, I want to note that I will be using two very similar acronyms.  “CCI” means “Colorado Creative Industries”.  “CCA” means “Colorado Council for the Arts.”  Similar acronyms with a joint history… but still, two distinct entities worthy of differentiation, as we might suspect if we look carefully at the official logos created for each.


Colorado Council on the Arts logo, circa 2009.

The “CCA” logo used three primary colors rendered in painterly “brushstrokes” to create a vibrant sky above a Colorado mountain range.

Colorado Creative Industries logo, circa 2012.

Colorado Creative Industries logo, circa 2012.

The “CCI” logo uses three similar colors to portray an industrial-looking mountain ridge… or… maybe it’s a series of identical, machine-folded products coming off a factory assembly line?

Read Part Two…

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