Playbill On-Line reporter David Lefkowitz is spending the week of May 24-31 at the American Theatre Critics Association conference in Denver, from which he has been posting periodic dispatches. Here is the latest.
Nov. 8 will mark the 10th anniversary of an idea that continues to change, reshape and improve the artistic landscape of Denver, CO. Established Nov. 8, 1988, the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District was just a penny ante scheme -- literally.
Citizens of the metropolitan Denver area voted to set aside one cent for every $10 spent on purchases. The penny would then be donated to non-profit arts, science and cultural organizations. Pennies add up, of course, and in 10 years the SCFD has raised more than $136 million for museums, orchestras, heritage centers, parks departments and theatres.
Gully Stanford, associate vice president of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts put it plainly when he said, "We would not be here, or at least not in our current form, without the SCFD. Stanford spoke in a May 28 address to visiting reviewers from the American Theatre Critics Association, held at the Denver Natural History Museum -- another major recipient of the sales tax penny.
"I started at the Denver Center 18 years ago," said Stanford, "just at the point of a recession. There's the old joke: `What's the difference between Denver and yogurt? Yogurt has the active culture.' Then the SCFD came along and, for example, the Colorado Symphony was able to spring from the ashes of the Denver Symphony. And it's an interdisciplinary organization that helps all the arts. So now we've gone from a survival community to a stable one. We're able to concentrate on accessibility, diversity and excellence." Among the theatre organizations receiving funding from the SCFD are the Arvada Center, Boulder Rep, City Stage Ensemble, Industrial Arts Theatre, Younger Generation Players, Compass Theatre Company, Cherry Creek Community Theatre and El Centro Su Teatro.
Stanford also pointed out that the success of SCFD's initiatives are being studied closely by such other cities as Seattle, Cleveland, Philadelphia and Salt Lake City.
To celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District, an "open house" will be held Nov. 8, featuring such goodies as free admission to the Denver Zoo, a performance of a new adaptation of James Joyce's The Dead by Hunger Artists Theatre Ensemble, and participation by 150 other local arts organizations.
Further details on the anniversary, which kicks off two days early with a Nov. 6 "birthday party" on the 16th Street Mall, will be announced in July. For more information on SCFD, check out their website: http://www.artstozoo.org/scfd.
-- By David Lefkowitz