State Rep. Adrienne Benavidez, D-Adams County, speaks about arts relief funding as Rep. Brianna Titone, D-Arvada, and Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, listen during a news conference Oct. 7, 2021, at Wonderbound ballet company in Denver. (Faith Miller/Colorado Newsline)
Thanks to a state grant, contemporary ballet company Wonderbound will be able to refurbish its new location in Denver’s Park Hill neighborhood. Lawmakers hope more arts organizations and artists will follow its lead and apply for the funding that’s still available.
The warehouse space — previously the artist studio of Denver-based sculptor Ed Dwight — will include a 250-seat theater, two rehearsal studios, offices, a scene design shop and a costume shop, according to an online statement from Colorado Creative Industries.
Wonderbound’s $750,000 award from the Community Revitalization Grant Program will also allow it to provide programming for underserved youths and people experiencing homelessness, the statement said.
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Colorado state lawmakers, who made the funding available through legislation passed this year, held an event Thursday at the ballet company to announce the first four community revitalization grantees and encourage more groups to apply.
“The community revitalization grant program is meant to … invest funding into great organizations like Wonderbound that can provide support and provide arts and culture in communities, especially in underserved communities,” Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, a Boulder Democrat, said at the event. “The other projects are equally as exciting and very diverse.”
The three other initial Community Revitalization Grant recipients include:
• FreshLo Hub, a mixed-use project in Denver’s Montbello neighborhood that received a $5 million award and will feature affordable apartments, a grocery store and cultural center
• The St. Cloud Hotel in Cañon City, where a $3 million grant will pay for a restoration project that includes space for artists and musicians
• Space to Create, an affordable housing project and community space in Ridgway’s historic downtown, funded in part through a $2 million grant
This year, Senate Bill 21-252 — sponsored by Fenberg and Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert, R-Douglas County, along with Reps. Brianna Titone, D-Arvada, and Susan Lontine, D-Denver — included at least $41.6 million for community revitalization grants in the current fiscal year and $20.8 million next year. The bill, which Gov. Jared Polis signed into law June 16, was part of legislative leaders’ “Colorado Comeback” economic stimulus plan.
Under the bill, community revitalization grants go to help for-profit companies, nonprofits and local governments pay for building or redeveloping commercial centers. The funds are prioritized for projects that facilitate a creative mix of uses — such as live-work spaces for artists, performance spaces and community event venues. Colorado Creative Industries is still taking applications for the current funding period.
At Thursday’s event, Democratic lawmakers also highlighted another state stimulus law they passed in hopes of bringing relief to artists who were impacted by the pandemic. House Bill 21-1285 was sponsored by Reps. Adrienne Benavidez, D-Denver, and Leslie Herod, D-Denver, along with Sens. Sonya Jaquez Lewis, D-Boulder County, and Janet Buckner, D-Aurora, and signed into law June 14.
“Arts means so much to people, especially when they grow up in it, they’re exposed to it,” Benavidez said, after mentioning her daughters’ connection to dance. “It is something that sustains not only our lives, but our cultures.”
HB-1285 directed $15.5 million to the Arts Relief Program for the current fiscal year. Arts organizations such as independent music venues and community theaters as well as individual artists, dancers and musicians, are eligible to apply for grant funding. Individuals who apply for arts relief grants may be eligible for up to $4,000 if they have faced extreme financial strain due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizations can request up to $200,000.
Some past recipients of arts relief grants include the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, and Z2 Entertainment, which operates music venues in Boulder and Fort Collins.
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