The arts revitalize.
The arts in Denver have helped to strengthen local neighborhoods and communities by preserving the culture and memories of a specific place, while also helping to secure and stabilize its vitality moving forward. You may have heard this referred to as Creative Placemaking.
ArtPlace America defines Creative Placemaking as “projects in which art plays an intentional and integrated role in place-based community planning and development. In practice, this means having arts and culture represented alongside sectors like housing and transportation – with each sector recognized as part of any healthy community; as requiring planning and investment from its community; and as having a responsibility to contribute to its community’s overall future.”
Nothing has the power to transform the vibrancy and livability of a place more than the arts.
 Creative Placemaking definition from ArtPlace America.
The arts engage.
While the area in Denver where Park Avenue, Broadway and Arapahoe Streets intersect is a primary location for Denver’s homeless population, it is also home to several thriving arts organizations.
The area is the site of several missions and human services programs targeting this vulnerable population, such as Samaritan House, Denver Rescue Mission and St. Francis Center. The location is at the confluence of several very different neighborhoods – Five Points, Denver’s historically African American neighborhood; the Downtown/Ballpark area; RiNo,a fast-growing creative district, and Curtis Park, one of Denver’s oldest neighborhoods that is a mix of African American, Latino and other residents.
Some arts groups might shy away from being located in the midst of the homeless population. But an exciting array of arts enterprises have chosen to locate here, expressly to be a part of a diverse community, engaging this population through their art and adding to the vibrancy of this place. These organizations include Wonderbound dance company, RedLine, a visual arts organization, and The Temple, a for-profit creative social enterprise located in a former synagogue building, as well as PlatteForum, an organization that supports underserved youth – through the arts – located in The Temple.
Wonderbound creates world-class dance, while opening up the large garage doors of their street-level space to welcome anyone, including the homeless, to view their rehearsals. Wonderbound also engages in extensive partnerships with schools and senior centers, and performs to live music with local musical artists. RedLine focuses much of their gallery exhibition work on the connection between art and various social issues and timely civic topics. They host several artists-in-residence studio spaces, and run a specific arts program for the homeless population. Like Wonderbound, RedLine also has many partnerships and programs that reach out into the community. The Temple, created by an entrepreneurial former RedLine employee, is just a block away. The Temple houses a wide array of affordable artist studio spaces, a collaborative artist “maker space”, a collaborative shared space for culinary arts (with a focus on bakers), and PlatteForum, a group that creates long-term arts projects that connect youth to an artist-in-residence.
Taken as a group, these arts organizations and artists work to fight the stereotype of artist as gentrifier. While they did not grow organically from within this community, they seek to have an authentic connection to their neighbors and be a part of both a dialogue and solution for the community’s needs and challenges.