Denver mural

Why Public Art is Thriving in Colorado

Colorado boasts one of the largest arts districts in the nation

Public art is alive and well in Denver, Boulder and surrounding cities. And there’s a little-known, yet powerful force fueling the region’s art scene.

For more 30 years, Colorado’s Scientific and Cultural Facilities District, or SCFD, has funded nearly 300 organizations across seven Colorado counties. In all, the district funnels more than $60 million each year to support the arts and culture in Colorado.

As one of the nation’s largest arts districts, the SCFD continues to see wide-scale support from Colorado voters. This is largely because they see the district’s wide-spread impact on cultural organizations of all sizes and backgrounds.

An evening at the Bluebird Theater in Denver. [MARK HESSLING on Unsplash]

A call for public art

In the late 1980s, the Denver metro economy was in a significant economic downturn. Cultural funding was slashed, and many cultural organizations were on the verge of closing their doors.

At the proverbial “last minute,” a group of local arts and culture supporters rallied support for a regional tax. The tax would give 1 penny from every $10 purchase back to cultural organizations across a seven-county region. The proposal passed with an easy 67 percent of voters in favor.

As the second-largest cultural funding mechanism in the United States, the SCFD is a “catalyst for bringing world-class exhibits and events to the Colorado metro regions which would otherwise never be presented.”

They believe that “SCFD is proof that we are stronger together. [Because of SCFD] culture is not just available in the epicenter of our cities but surrounds us throughout the metro area.”

Even as in-person events are temporarily canceled, the SCFD is finding creative ways to keep the community connected to the arts. The organization’s leaders said, “Even in this difficult time, arts and culture have the capacity to lift our spirits and feed our souls.”

Here are just a few of the many events the SCFD recommends to keep Colorado residents and the world-at-large feeling inspired.

The Denver Art Museum

The Denver Art Museum is one of the largest art museums between Chicago and the West Coast. It boasts a collection of more than 70,000 works of art, divided between ten collections. Visitors can take a free virtual tour of the museum’s many collections and exhibits.

The Denver Art Museum boasts an impressive 70,000 works of art. [Courtesy of Visit Denver]

Museum of Outdoor Art

Englewood’s Museum of Outdoor Art is offering a rotation of virtual tours, films, and documentaries during the COVID-19 crisis. There is also a self-guided walking tour of public art pieces that visitors can enjoy provided that they practice safe social distancing.

Tesoro Cultural Center

The Tesoro Cultural Center protects and celebrates the treasures of America’s Southwest, Spanish, Mexican, Native American, African American, and Early European cultures. They are offering on-demand virtual lectures and studies on the history of the American West.

Denver Museum of Science and Nature

The Denver Museum of Science and Nature offers a host of virtual activities and programs for children of all ages. It recently launched “Scientists in Action,” a series that helps children explore concepts like archaeology, weather, and more.


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