street art mural East Colfax

Street art, often with messages of the racial justice, has blossomed on Denver's streets. This mural, by Colorado artists Detour303, Ally Grimm and Anna Charney, is at 1540 Florence St. and was painted for a street-art festival called Colfax Canvas in the Aurora Cultural Arts District.

A House panel on Wednesday voted on party lines to advance a $10 million state stimulus proposal to support artists, the film industry and cultural organizations.

House Bill 21-1285 from metro Denver Democratic Reps. Leslie Herod and Adrienne Benavidez would split that appropriation in half, with $5 million going to the state Office of Film, Television and Media for performance-based incentives and loan programs.

The remaining $5 million would go to the Colorado Creative Industries division within the state Office of Economic Development and International Trade, with $3.5 million dedicated toward the Arts Relief Program and the last $1.5 million allocated toward a grant program for cultural facilities serving “historically marginalized and under-resourced communities.”

Herod in her opening testimony to the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee touted the $13.7 billion in revenue the arts industry was responsible for creating pre-pandemic, a figure she pegged at 4.3% of the state’s GDP.

“The arts are not only a vital part of our economy, but they provide us invaluable entertainment, community and a window into deeper elements of life. It also brings people together,” Herod said.

She noted lawmakers passed a special session bill in the wake of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic last year supporting arts and cultural organizations, but OEDIT still estimated there were some $2.2 million in unmet needs after that first round of state support.

“The arts is such a component of all our lives even if we don't think about it, so this bill will go a long way to stimulate our economy,” Benavidez said.

The bill won the unanimous support of a slate of witnesses who provided testimony to the panel, including Khadija Haynes, the co-founder and managing director of Colorado Black Arts Movement and a CCI board member. Haynes in her testimony pegged the economic impact generated by the arts even higher than Herod had.

“There should never be a starving artist in the state of Colorado when our creative industries produce $31.6 billion into the Colorado economy,” she said. “There should be no starving artists when we produce almost 200,000 jobs in our industry.”

Jim Janicek, representing the film and television industry in Colorado, also touted the economic impact created by the incentives the bill would provide for the his industry.

“The track record shows that for every dollar the state puts into these incentives, the return is 29-to-1,” he said “I don't know about you, but as a businessman, why would I not take advantage of that?”

Still, the bill faced united opposition from the panel’s Republican members. Rep. Kevin Van Winkle, R-Highlands Ranch, expressed concern after opening testimony about limiting funds for cultural centers serving “historically marginalized and under-resourced communities.”

Rep. Mike Lynch, R-Wellington, ahead of voting against the bill said that while he liked elements of the legislation, he had “general issues with some of the wonkiness in this bill that I haven't gotten my head around yet.”

The bill cleared the panel on an 8-5 vote and heads to the House Appropriations Committee.

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