TELLURIDE’S THRIVING SCENE DEFIES POPULATION LIMITATIONS
BY STEPHEN ELLIOTT
STAFF REPORTER, TELLURIDE DAILY PLANET
The National Endowment for the Arts released a study earlier this month that shows Colorado has the highest rate of all 50 states for attendance at plays, classical music performances and visual arts shows. Telluride’s art scene, fed by a high concentration of interested and passionate participants and consumers, dovetails with the statewide trend of an enthusiastic arts community.“People want to live in a community here that’s creative and fun and interested in telling stories and making magic,” Telluride Theatre Executive Director Colin Sullivan said. “The landscape we live in here reflects it. Nobody moves here to have an ordinary life.”
According to the NEA study, Colorado attendance ranks in the top five nationwide in all visual and performing arts categories, and number one in classical music, nonmusical plays, dance, outdoor performing arts festivals and visual arts festivals.
“I think we’re a really strong art community in general,” Young People’s Theater Director Jennifer Julia said. “There’s a lot of excitement and support for theater here, which is great.”
Sullivan said Telluride is likely unique statewide in its combination of a small population and large and diverse arts scene.
“Since the ‘70s and ‘80s Telluride has always been a place that’s been interested in supporting arts and culture,” he said. “History is a part of it. In small places like this, the culture is built off what it is people in this place want, why they move here, why they live here.”
But, Sullivan added, statewide government policies have contributed to the state’s status as a national arts leader, and Telluride’s ability to compete with larger cities as an arts hub. Sullivan referenced Colorado Creative Industries, a nonprofit arts granting organization under the auspices of the Colorado Department of Economic Development and International Trade, as a key factor in recent growth.
“You’ve got to give a lot of credit to the state and Colorado Creative Industries,” he said. “Almost nowhere else in the nation do you have granting organizations like this linked directly to the state government.”
“We’re really lucky because in Colorado the arts are part of the economy,” Sullivan added. “That has been made very clear by the folks in power at the state level.”
The Sheridan Arts Foundation is another local recipient of CCI grant funds. SAF PR and Marketing Director Kathrine Warren thinks Telluride’s arts scene is a response to the seasonal economy.
“The combination of being a ski resort town and trying to sustain the economy year-round leads to development of arts and culture to try and keep people here during down times,” she said.
The 2012 NEA study surveyed 37,000 adults nationwide in order to compile the data. According to the study, 52 percent of Colorado adults reported attending a live performing arts event, compared to the national average of 37 percent. An even higher 59 percent of Colorado adults said they’d been to a visual arts event, compared to a national average of 39 percent.
“Telluride is certainly not Denver or Boulder, but for our size the offerings we have in Telluride are amazing and can even be overwhelming at times,” Warren added.
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