A national network of private, public, and corporate arts funders, Grantmakers in the Arts supports the growth of the arts and culture by providing leadership and service to amplify and appropriately apply philanthropic and governmental resources. The only national association of its kind, GIA includes “independent and family foundations, public agencies, community foundations, corporate philanthropies, nonprofit regrantors, and national service organizations.”
From Oct 13-16, Grantmakers in the Arts convened in Denver to discuss cultural intersections for funding in the arts and best practices for emergency preparedness.
Matthew Ché Kowal, Denver Music Strategy Contractor for Denver Arts & Venues and founder of Majestic Collaborations spoke on Tuesday, Oct 15 on the topic of emergency preparedness, a segment day dubbed “The Readiness is All.” He followed Tom Clareson, project director of the PAR project and Senior Consultant for Digital & Preservation Services at LYRASIS, and Lisa Gedgaudas, Create Denver program administrator for Denver Arts & Venues.
Setting the stage, Tom Clareson of PAR and Lyrasis began with some practical information everyone involved in event planning would appreciate: every one dollar spent for arts and cultural emergency preparedness leads to six dollars saved down the line. Laying down the economic benefit of emergency planning helps event producers think ahead, instead of maintaining the mindset that music and art are “here and now,” and can only be experienced in the present moment.
Lisa Gedgaudas followed Clareson by highlighting the need for and preservation of safe creative spaces and DIY communities, referencing Oakland’s response to the Ghost Ship warehouse fire and its aftermath. Gedgaudas closed her segment on an upnote, saying the future of Denver’s arts and culture is not rooted in “doom and gloom,” referencing the deeply rooted and thriving brightness that already exists in our arts and cultural business and communities. And this brightness needs to be preserved. The role of DIY art spaces can be profoundly life-affirming; cities need to work harder to devise ways to accelerate life-safety measures in these spaces, while (in many, but not all cases), allowing those spaces to stay open.
Kowal took the stage, calling for a solution to the monotony and tedium of “preparing for the worst.” Attending an event preparation seminar shouldn’t be dull, like learning how to organize your sock drawer. Kowal’s work with Tour de Fat allowed him to see ways to make it fun to prepare for the worst, and this is what he is building into the Art of Mass Gatherings.
Kowal learned that an organization can do all kinds of work for bike advocacy without protesting cars. Advocates simply had to show cities how providing an infrastructure for bike riders would enhance their transportation system as a whole. This was the case for both Tempe and Phoenix: two cities that saw the need and made the changes to accommodate the need. We can use this same approach to make disaster preparedness into a positive thing.
On Monday, Oct 14, Yo Yo Ma highlighted spiritual qualities of arts and music. He said that arts and music have to help encourage a spiritual sensitivity in humans. In the spirit of fostering connections that both stimulate the imagination and reinforce our humanity, he attested that “we can’t do this with science alone.”
The way Majestic Collaborations sees it, people need to see the importance of event preparation, and people need to be able to want to do it better, for the sake of our fellow humans. We can do this by providing more opportunities for skill sharing among events, in the spirit of “each one teach one.” In this way, cities and event producers can learn how to apply preparedness strategies to any situation.
After the conference, Kowal was moved to write the following song. Dubbed “Gringorian Calendar” after a hilarious conversation between Kowal and Elias Garcia and Yuzo Nieto after the Pink Hawks show at McNichols, this piece sums up Kowal’s thoughts on the intersection of science, art and music. Denver is a great place for the arts, no doubt, but it can be further strengthened as a place of equity, diversity, and forward progress where the arts can flourish and thrive.
His lyrics are transcribed below.
Time marches on, waits for nobody
storms will rage while the bees still make honey
oh what’s it mean –
what am I supposed to do?
just want to hunker down in a low pressure zone with you
low pressure zone suits me fine
how about you and me decolonize time?
waxin and waning with with all that stuff that we won’t do
been a coon’s age since I laid eyes on the moon
everybody’s been talking about some Anthropocene
going to wipe this all out
I don’t worry don’t worry about a thing
while you glue on your quarks make theories about strings
Rationalizations bout all the installations
Solicitations for validations
The Gringo-rian Calendar
Tick tock, tick tock
Don’t be late
Why don’t you just go syncopate
Of their recent conference in Denver, Grantmakers in the Arts describes the following:
In Denver, “collaboration is a way of life and culture is found everywhere from small local breweries to the largest museums. The vibrancy of Denver’s cultural community is visible throughout its street art, the independent music scene, community theater, musical classrooms, a deep spoken word tradition, and eclectic arts districts. Arts practice in Denver and across Colorado can’t be separated from the landscape. Here is where artists, ranchers, environmentalists, business owners, creative thinkers and dreamers, and funders converge to build healthy and thriving communities.
Denver is a perfect laboratory for important conversations around where the arts are going, how best to engage an increasingly diverse nation, and how to use a variety of forms of investment in culture all anchored in equity. Engage with your colleagues at the GIA Conference for an exciting opportunity to be inspired by the people and culture of Denver.”