Centennial likely to launch arts, culture foundation

Council hears ideas on initiative aimed in part at bolstering city identity


Residents asked for it, and now, the city may deliver on a plan to create a foundation to support arts and cultural activities in Centennial.

The city formed a committee to explore how to create the organization after citizens' questions pushed Centennial to consider the idea near last June, said Maureen Juran, deputy city attorney.

“The mission of this organization would be to 'celebrate, inspire and connect arts and culture in Centennial,'” Juran said at the council's March 2 study-session meeting.

Council agreed on — or approved by consensus — the filing of the paperwork to form the nonprofit.

At a future meeting, council will formally vote to approve the documents to form the nonprofit and appoint Mayor Stephanie Piko, Councilmember Kathy Turley and a citizen member as its initial governing body, according to Juran.

If a foundation could “put on art shows and cultural concerts and so forth, I think it would be a real boon to our city,” Councilmember Candace Moon said at the public meeting.

'Not a pass-through city'

The Arts Formation Committee started meeting in early October to explore how to start such an organization. Eight citizens — two from each city council district — and three city councilmembers served on that committee, considering whether to create a city board to oversee arts or to form an outside nonprofit that would eventually be generally independent from the city government.

The exploration committee recommended that Centennial create a separate 501(c)(3) nonprofit because “that status opens up the door to a lot more grant funding than even an in-house city (entity) might,” Juran said.

The committee suggested that the city provide $10,000 in “seed” funding to get the foundation off the ground.

“What the committee recommends is that council get involved, hold hands, get this thing going, and then slowly evolve away and let it stand up on its own,” Juran said.

Council would name the initial group of directors for the foundation, which eventually could have seven members, Juran said.

At first, two city councilmembers and one citizen would serve as directors to adopt the nonprofit's bylaws and execute documents for the 501(c)(3) designation, a tax-exempt status under the federal Internal Revenue Code. Once the foundation gets rolling, it could look at the bylaws the exploration committee recommended and make changes as members see fit, Juran said.

The foundation's major projects and activities have yet to be decided. The discussion at the March 2 council meeting didn't mention the idea of building an arts center, a concept that former Centennial Mayor Randy Pye has supported but recognized how expensive it might be — also noting the timeline to complete it would likely be about 20 years.

Pye has been promoting the idea of forming an arts organization since 2006, he has said.

Creating one would cement Centennial as “not just a pass-through to another city” that boasts more cultural arts activity, Pye has said. Numerous Denver suburbs — from Thornton down to Castle Rock — all have foundations or other entities related to the arts, with varying degrees of independence from their municipal governments.

Forming identity

The cohesiveness of the identity of Centennial — a sprawling, 14-mile-wide suburb — still comes into question two decades after the push to form the city. An arts organization is a crucial part of creating a community's distinct identity, Pye has said.

Councilmember Turley touched on the point of identity at the meeting.

“It does fall into our identity and our commitment to our community, to the city, that the city has taken it upon itself to start this organization,” Turley said.

City staff has had identity on the mind: Centennial's 2020 budget includes a section on “strategic planning,” and one prong of that is called “Signature Centennial.” It lists initiatives planned to demonstrate that “Centennial is a desirable, inclusive community with … memorable places, and experiences that bring people together.”

One initiative is to implement a “Centennial signage program” to help solidify city identity — the planning also mentions programs put on by the city's Senior Commission as a 2019 accomplishment. Contemplating the creation of an organization to support arts activity in Centennial was also among the 2020 budget initiatives aimed at bolstering identity.


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