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Businesses step up for the arts

Colorado Business Committee for the Arts (CBCA) brought a new sense of accessibility, creativity and purpose to its annual Business for the Arts Awards.

In its 36th year, the statewide event was scheduled for March 9 to honor companies and individuals for their partnerships and engagement with the arts, with a (virtual) twist. The event was live-streamed from the People’s Building in the Aurora Cultural Arts District and featured some pre-recorded performances and videos of honorees.

As the state’s art industry grapples with the devastating effects of COVID-19, the event celebrates the resiliency of the arts community and the businesses that continued to lift the community. Not only were Colorado’s art and creative industries hit hard when the pandemic forced the closure of arts and cultural venues, but corporate giving and support to the arts declined significantly in 2020.

“We need arts and business partnerships now more than ever. The arts are struggling, and we need the private sector to stand up and continue to support them and the role that they play in our community,” says Meredith Badler, deputy director at CBCA. “There are some really wonderful examples of arts and business partnerships continuing on, and we are giving awards to many of them to be honored.”

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Lending support

Even in trying times, the organizations and individuals honored at 2021 Business for the Arts Awards stepped up this past year to support the arts through new programs and projects as well as through the continuation of pledged support.

One honoree, RedLine Community Art Center, was quick to help provide artists and the creative sector with access to resources when the economic and health crisis took hold. The contemporary arts center not only helped administer arts relief funds, but helped artists find work opportunities and stay engaged in their communities. This included a project where the organization hired local textile artists to sew masks that they could then pay artists for and provide to the community.

“Partnerships between businesses and arts entities are so important because they connect and build relationships between individuals and new ways of thinking that can expand the impact of support that is possible on both sides,” says Louise Martorano, executive director of RedLine Community Art Center. “Mutual aid models and collaborations that tackle both the economic and health crisis under one program or effort will help the creative sectors and business sector better persevere through the pandemic.”

This desire to enhance collaboration between arts and business drove one local business owner to activate artwork across the city. “I saw firsthand the impact COVID-19 had on my local experiential marketing agency,” says Nikki Kolakowski, co-founder of Eclectic Activation. Kolakowski started Windows of Inspiration, which paired artists and small businesses to bring art and activation to local businesses and draw attention to both the creative and private sectors.

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“Windows of Inspiration has strengthened our tie to the community and deepened our relationships with our sponsors, artists and local businesses,” Kolakowski says.

Pizzeria Locale was honored for its Community Pizza Box program, launched last year. Though the restaurant industry was also hit hard during the pandemic, Pizzeria Locale used the resources it had to support the arts. Pizzeria Locale featured artwork on its pizza boxes from local arts organizations – such as Access Gallery and Art from Ashes – to amplify their voices and work. The chain also supports the arts through food donations, commissions and by prominently featuring local art at its locations.

“This past year highlighted the tenuous nature of beloved restaurants and arts organizations, which give life to our communities and cultures,” says Chris Donato, brand manager at Pizzeria Locale. “It’s never been more important to actively support restaurants and arts organizations that bring life and positive change to Denver.”

Other honorees this year represented those who, amid the challenges of the past year, held steadfast in their commitment to the arts. This includes Charles Schwab, which maintained its support of accessible and inclusive arts and performance programs at the Lone Tree Arts center as well as its integration of the arts at its Denver headquarters.

Honorees also included Jeanette Trujillo-Lucero, founder and artistic director of Fiesta Colorado Dance Company, who was recognized for her lifetime of work as a leader, performer, choreographer, educator and mentor for the Latino arts.

Trujillo-Lucero formed Fiesta Colorado in 1972 and has been dedicated since to preserving the cultural traditions of the Spanish and Mexican dance and music arts for the community. “I have been able to see my mission come full circle … fulfilled through the many students, professional dancers and world leaders I have taught over the years,” Trujillo-Lucero says. In fact, one of her students, Jose “Chepe” Rosales, was honored by CBCA as the founder and artistic director of ArtistiCO.

For Trujillo-Lucero and her organization, this year has been one for growth; virtual performances open the doors for broader audiences and greater preservation of the art she and her dancers create — as well as remaining consistent in what has brought her success all these years, even through the challenges that came in 2020.

“The arts are the brighter part, the spiritual part of the pandemic, of what we’re all going through,” says Trujillo-Lucero. “We’re gonna come out of it, but we need more support.”

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Artwork outside 7Twenty Boardshop in Denver.

2021 Business for the Arts Awards Honorees

  • Carbondale Clay Center: plays a vital role in the Roaring Fork Valley as a supportive and healing place to build community through artistic expression and education.
  • Charles Schwab: integrates the arts into its metro Denver headquarters and supports a range of accessible and inclusive arts and performance programs at the Lone Tree Arts Center.
  • Craig Hospital: embeds the arts into its rehabilitation programs and partners with groups like Phamaly Theatre Company to ensure the arts are accessible for all.
  • Eclectic Activation: for its launch of the Windows of Inspiration, which brings together corporate sponsors, small businesses and artists to boost awareness and hope during this challenging time.
  • Jack’s Solar Garden: The solar-powered farm in Longmont is cultivating creativity through its Artist on the Farm program and unique community partnerships.
  • Levitt Pavilion Denver: Beyond hosting 50 free music concerts a year, the Pavilion is advancing Colorado’s music industry through education, inclusion and advocacy.
  • Pizzeria Locale: amplifying the transformational power of the arts through partnerships with Access Gallery and Art from Ashes, such as featuring poetry and original artworks on its pizza boxes.
  • RedLine Contemporary Art Center: Honored for its support of Colorado’s creative sector, from administering vital economic relief funds to community organizing for social justice.

EY Next Wave Leadership Award

Jose “Chepe” Rosales, founder and artistic director of ArtistiCO and professional Mexican folklórico dancer, is honored for his leadership and entrepreneurial spirit and for innovating new ways to advance arts and culture across heritages, generations, borders and technology.

PNC Bank Cultural Leadership Award

Michael Sattler, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Arts Association, is a true arts champion even in the face of uncertainty. He is honored for leading his 2020 Leadership Arts class to raise record-breaking scholarship funds while steering the growth of his own organization comprising Denver Gay Men’s Chorus and Denver Women’s Chorus.

Volunteer Attorney Impact Award

Shirin Chahal, associate attorney at the Law Offices of Daniel T. Goodwin, is honored for her legal practice that supports the creative industries, including pro bono assistance through CAFTA and civic leadership positions.

John Madden Jr. Leadership Award

Jeanette Trujillo-Lucero, founder and artistic director of Fiesta Colorado Dance Company, is honored for serving as a pillar in the Colorado arts community. She has been a tireless performer, educator, mentor and catalyst for Latino arts for more than 40 years.

Check out the 2021 Awards Honoree video playlist below.