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If you're an artist in rural Colorado, the state legislature is cooking up a deal just for you.

House Bill 1223, moving easily through the statehouse, would create grants between $2,500 and $10,000 for rural artists starting this summer and continuing annually. Rural is round-about-defined as all those outside the seven metro Denver counties.

The measure passed the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee 5-0 Thursday, after passing out of the House on a 48-16 vote Monday.

Sen. Nancy Todd, a Democrat from Aurora who is one of the sponsors, said the grant program would help rural artists and their communities thrive.

“Culture and arts programs build strong, resilient and creative communities, and it’s great to be able to provide opportunities for the arts for all students in Colorado, regardless of region,” Todd said in a statement after the committee vote.

The bill also is sponsored by Sen. Dennis Hisey, a Republican from Fountain, and it was authored and introduced in the House by Rep. Daneya Esgar, a Democrat from Pueblo.

The bill gets its funding from $50,000 in the state operating budget. The program would reside in the Creative Industries Division of the Office of Economic Development and International Trade.

Artists, nonprofits or local governments could complete for projects outside of a scientific and cultural facilities district, based on:

  • Advancing the artistic and cultural goals of rural communities and their economies.
  • Enhancing the community's culture.
  • "Providing incentives for cross-community collaborations and have the potential to contribute to acceptance and consideration of differing perspectives," according to the bill.

Esgar first presented the bill to the House Rural Affairs and Agriculture Committee on Feb. 24.

"Art exists everywhere," she told the committee. "This bill is to support those artists who actually live and thrive in communities across Colorado and everywhere in between."

She said her home county, Pueblo, has seen the return on investing in art and artists, so they don't have to move to bigger cities with higher costs to be a success as an artist.

"We believe that art instigates and stimulates economic development in every part of our state," Esgar said. "This is motivated to keep artists where they live."

The Colorado Municipal League and the Colorado Competitive Council was among a varied coalition of supporters.

Morgan Cullen of the Municipal League said 85% of the organization's members could be defined as rural.

"This is going to be a key component to expand the economy, boost tourism and provide some additional economic diversity among those communities," he said.

Only Rep. Rod Pelton, a Republican from Cheyenne Wells, opposed the bill in committee that day. He said the bill needed tighter guardrails around what would qualify as rural.

"I think some parts of rural Colorado are going to get missed because of Pueblo, Fort Collins and places like that," he said.

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