I'm a Denver native. My parents were Denver natives. My son was born in Denver. Both sets of grandparents met, fell in love, got married, and had kids in Denver. They were from elsewhere but found themselves in the Mile High City 100-some years ago and did what humans have been doing for centuries -- they got busy being human.
But this isn't about Denver. It's about NoCoSoWy or, if you prefer, SoWyNoCo. It's about Cheyenne, Laramie, Fort Collins and Greeley. It's about the counties of Laramie, Albany, Larimer and Weld. More than 720,000 souls live in this region, far less than the millions who inhabit Colorado but more than the 580,000 or so who inhabit the Great State of Wyoming.
Some 350,000 people live within a 50-mile radius of Cheyenne. There should be 600 people in there who are interested in taking the Cheyenne Artspace Artist Market Survey that was launched on Thursday. That's the number that Arts Cheyenne and Cheyenne DDA/Main Street hope to reach in the next eight weeks. I think they can do it. I attended the survey launch party Feb. 26 at Asher-Wyoming Arts Center across from the Cheyenne railyards. A pair of engines pulled a line of graffitied railcars toward San Francisco. A teamster was wrangling a loaded semi in the parking lot. Lace-like snowflakes danced on my windshield.
Attendance was pretty good for a cold, snowy Thursday. We hung out at tables arrayed around the bare-brick second floor center. Sixty of us ate, chatted and listened to music by Todd Dereemer and his band. The stage was designed as a multi-media stage/altar for the Vineyard Church. The church moved out and the arts center moved in.
Here's how's Arts Cheyenne described this initiative:
Artspace is a non-profit consultancy and property development organization specializing in affordable housing and work space for artists and arts organizations. Artspace has developed 37 similar projects in 13 states, with a dozen more in development or under construction. A nearby Artspace project in Loveland, Colo. is slated for completion this spring.
Artspace representatives visited Cheyenne last year to tour buildings and make presentations to community leaders and artists. The visit convinced Artspace there was a market for an artist live/work project and in Cheyenne Feasibility Report recommended the survey to help determine project specifics, like space, location, and number of potential users.
Artspace and Arts Cheyenne will work together to promote the online survey to local artists and arts organizations. A survey report will be compiled and delivered in August 2015.At Thursday's gathering, Shannon Joern from Artspace HQ in Minneapolis gave us an overview of the project and provided a rough timeline.
The survey may show a need for the project. It may not. That happened in Casper a few years ago. While a live/work style project wasn't in the cards, Artspace is still working with Casper on a consulting basis. Casper's core business area is booming. The Casper Artists' Guild will move into its renovated downtown warehouse on May 1. A brewpub, gelatto shop and other small businesses will occupy the other half of the warehouse. In some ways, Casper is ahead of Cheyenne when it comes to creative placemaking. If only they could get a new library....
Felicia Harmon of Loveland Artspace noted that the arts survey conducted six years ago in the south end of Colorado's Larimer County helped to "quantify and qualify the arts in our community." Even before construction started on the live/work space, Loveland Aleworks opened a block away because it "wanted to be close to another arts community," Harmon said. Across the railroad tracks from the former feed and grain depot, now the arts center adjacent to the Artspace development, is a group of new studios for mid-career artists and in the works is a new maker space. The Arts Incubator of the Rockies (AIR) has moved into the neighborhood, adding a regional arts component to the local one. AIR was based in Fort Collins but heard the drumbeat of innovation and moved south.
My advice? If you're interested in the arts and the future of Cheyenne, take the survey. A good investment for 15 minutes. I'll wager that you spend at least 15 minutes a year listening to people say, "There's nothing to do in Cheyenne."