Meet Denver's cultural plan: Imagine 2020


The last time Denver laid out its ideas on improving city culture, Federico Peña was in office, and it led to its historic “One Percent for Art” program, that led to hundreds of public artworks, laid the groundwork for arts districts and forged a path for arts public policy.

That was in 1989. This week, the city unveiled its new cultural plan: Imagine: 2020, which outlines a set of seven goals with corresponding action steps to improve Denver’s art and culture scene.


A project team composed of folks from the Mayor’s OfficeDenver Arts & Venues, the Denver Commission on Cultural Affairs and the Denver-based cultural planning consultant Corona Insights gathered information and built the plan, which derived its information from studies, public input via surveys and feedback from players in the industry. What started in 2012 will begin implementation next month and extend through 2020.

Broken up into two phases for each of the seven “vision elements” are ideas and plans for 2014-2017 and then 2018-2020:

V1: Integration: Increasing art, culture and creativity in daily life
V2: Amplification: Amplifying arts, culture and creativity to residents and the world
V3: Accessibility: Achieving access and inclusivity to arts, culture and creativity
V4: Lifelong learning: Filling our lifetimes with learning
V5: Local talent: Building careers and businesses by nurturing local talent
V6: Economic vitality: Fueling our economic engine
V7: Collective leadership: Leading cultural development to 2020 and beyond

In the full 49-page plan, which you can read here, specific entities are named as possible leaders for certain initiatives. For V1-1, the very first step, Denver Arts & Venues and the Mayor and City Council are listed for leading the way toward maximizing the use of city-owned venues and entities (Civic Center Park, Red Rocks Amphitheatre) for more locally derived arts events.

Much of the plan also focuses on including more diverse audiences. Either by way of reaching out to “cultural deserts” in certain neighborhoods or offering more arts programming in schools, the plan is clearly hoping to engage communities that have so far felt excluded or simply unaware of the city’s cultural offerings.

That's continued in the Accessibility goal, with strategies to include addressing barriers that limit participation, like financial issues, transportation, childcare, language and location. It also hopes to establish more Arts Enterprise Zones and showcase local artists from “Denver’s diverse communities, including immigrants, refugees and people with disabilities.”

Imagine 2020 shares a lot with Colorado Springs’ own cultural plan, established by COPPeR in 2010 and set on a 10 year timeline. While the Springs plan puts more emphasis on supporting existing entities and the hope of building new venues, both plans wish to bring more art into the public school system and build access and engagement in the arts.

However, implementation is the next big step. In the Springs, COPPeR has long held that the plan here is a living, breathing document that belongs to the community — and that COPPeR wouldn’t be the driving force pushing through the recommended actions. Imagine 2020 is largely similar in effect, beyond naming organizations that can take up the reigns on certain projects. But leadership is key. Imagine 2020 lists one of its top priorities as launching a public-private partnership “with a focus on building the infrastructure necessary for 21st century cultural development and promotion.”

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