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State Rep. Leslie Herod talks about new funding available for Colorado creatives and arts organizations

Colorado State House Rep. Leslie Herod, Chair of the Appropriations Committee spoke with KSUT about funding available for artists and arts organizations.
courtesy Rep. Leslie Herod
Colorado State House Rep. Leslie Herod, Chair of the Appropriations Committee spoke with KSUT about funding available for artists and arts organizations.

A recently passed bill (HB21-1285) at the Colorado Legislature aims to bring new funding to Colorado artists and creatives. Some of the money will be spent locally, in certified creative districts like Durango, Mancos, and soon, Ignacio.

We talked to one of the bill’s sponsors, Leslie Herod, a Democratic state representative for Colorado’s 8th District, which includes Denver. She discusses some of the new funding opportunities and the importance of the arts in Colorado.

Interview Transcript:

Tami Graham
We'd love it if you could share a little bit more with us Rep. Herod, about the various sources of arts funding, that are now available in Colorado. And specifically, that funding to support Creative Arts Industries that you sponsored in June.

Leslie Herod, Colorado State Representative
I am a lover of the arts of all types of artistic expression, and not really a great artist myself. So I have a unique and shared appreciation for the arts that I think so many of us have, which is we know how much they enrich our lives, even if we can't perform, or aren't as creative as we would like to be ourselves. But also, you mentioned some of the communities that your area covers, and it's just so important that arts are there, because they make a community so vibrant and alive and really define and help people to understand the cultures that are there. That's what I love about the arts so much.

During the pandemic, a lot of our arts organizations and artists really suffered. They didn't have venues to perform in, they had no way to share their arts necessarily with other people. Organizations had to shut their doors because you couldn't gather in places. But the relief funding that came, especially the first round of relief funding from the federal government, and really the state government didn't do enough to support our vibrant arts scene that's happening right here in Colorado. And so on the Joint Budget Committee and through the legislature, we decided that arts were going to be a priority along with housing, along with small businesses, but that we were also going to make sure that our creative industry was going to recover strong and had the funding to do so.

And so we created a number of programs: the Colorado Arts Relief Grant, the Colorado Creative Core Grant, Arts and Society Grant, so many opportunities for individual artists. But also things like the Community Revitalization Grant, bringing back our theaters and our venues so that they are strong, and really acknowledging that they are so core to our communities. So there's a lot of opportunities right now. We put millions of dollars into this funding opportunity. One of these grants received about $15 million to support the creatives in our communities.

And so it's really important that one, folks know about it, and, that they apply. So if you don't mind, I'd love to talk about the Individual Artists Grant. This is one of my favorites, because I think it's, well, I know it was unique to Colorado, and now so many other places are doing it, but with our recovery dollars, we are able to provide direct cash assistance to Colorado artists who can demonstrate that they have received some type of loss because of the pandemic, maybe their shop was unable to open, maybe the festivals and fairs where they usually sell their wares didn't happen. Or they're a dancer or do lighting, you know, an artist or a technician and they just didn't have anywhere to do their craft. This grant goes directly to creatives in Colorado, up to $4,000 per individual who can demonstrate that they lost funding or money through the pandemic, that program is available now. We previously funded it.

This is our second round of funding for $7.5 million dollars and that first round was gone. Within days, we only reached about a quarter of the people who were eligible. This next round, we have $15.5 million. That does include also funding for organizations that can go to these artists, these crew members, these organizations, these cultural and entertainment individuals, people and venues directly, for direct cash assistance of $4,000. And I think that's such an exciting opportunity because we know that the PPP did not reach our organizations in the same way that you know, the direct cash assistance and unemployment didn't reach the creatives in the same way as others. And so we want to make sure that folks know that this funding is available. And all you have to do is go online and apply. It's about a 10 to 15 minute application. That's it. And the deadline is November 2.

That deadline is coming right up, and that website, for any creatives out there listening, whether you're an individual or an organization, arts organization, or a school is: coloradocreativeIndustries.org. Colorado is really unique, I know you know, this Representative Herod, in its support of, its creatives. And I just want to thank you personally for being such a champion of creatives in our state and really recognizing the value they bring on many levels to our state.

Rep. Herod
Oh, yeah, of course. I'm just excited to be able to say that Colorado is a leader in this and to be able to highlight so many of the amazing things that we're doing, and to say that your value, like come back and come back strong, and think of something creative to do with that funding. We're really excited to see what Colorado creatives come up with.

Arts relief funding is distributed through Colorado Creative Industries, a division of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT). A complete listing of grant funds is available at Colorado Creative Industries.

Tami is the Executive Director of KSUT Public Radio. She is a fifth-generation Coloradoan and has lived in Southwest Colorado since 1984.
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