Centennial examining options for arts-culture organization

Council to hear ideas on creating nonprofit or city board to support initiatives

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Centennial sits amid several suburban cities that boast entities to support arts and cultural activities, but it doesn't have its own.

The Centennial City Council will soon hear options on how to change that — if it so chooses. And it may be an uphill battle no matter what.

“I think it's a marvelous idea, one that I've been promoting since 2006,” former Centennial Mayor Randy Pye said when he heard that the city is considering forming an organization.

Pye, who was elected as the city's first mayor in 2001, said an arts organization is a crucial part of creating a community's distinct identity. The change would signal that that Centennial, a city that was established less than 20 years ago, is “more mature now,” Pye said.

And that “we're not just a pass-through to another city that has a cultural arts facility,” Pye added.

Having a stronger cultural arts footprint — where works such as plays are showing and kids have a place to explore the arts — can have a positive economic effect too, Pye said.

“Interestingly enough, when companies come to a city to say, 'Are we going to start our company here?,' they look at the amenities the city provides.”

City council will hear ideas about creating an arts organization at its March 2 study-session public meeting. In June, council asked city staff to look into options on creating a nonprofit, a city board or commission, or something else, according to Allison Wittern, city spokeswoman.

Parker, Lone Tree, Greenwood Village, Castle Pines, Castle Rock, Aurora, Englewood, Lakewood and Thornton all have foundations or other entities related to the arts, with varying degrees of independence from the city, according to a fact sheet from a Centennial City Council meeting. Aurora's Cultural Services office is a division of the city government, for example. Littleton is home to the Town Hall Arts Center.

Suburban arts centers rely more on public arts funding more than their counterparts in the larger cities, partly because of a lack of longstanding traditions with philanthropic groups, Pye said.

“You're going to need public funding and private funding,” Pye said. “It's going to be a mix that I'm not sure the city is going to want to walk down.”

If the city were to consider creating an actual arts center, the timeline to complete it would likely be about 20 years, Pye said. The city would have to make the pitch to citizens and convince them public funding is worth it, he added.

But the city has not indicated that it would consider going the route of creating a center in itself.

Pye felt that opening the conversation about arts initiatives in general is a positive step.

“There are so many opportunities when you get into the cultural arts arena,” Pye said. “It does so much for your community.”

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