In October 2020, Colorado Business Committee for the Arts (CBCA) reached out to the Colorado Senate candidates leading in the polls to inquire about their platform and policies related to arts, cultural and creative industries. Below are their responses to that questionnaire.

Senator Cory Gardner (incumbent)

We are still waiting to receive a response from Senator Gardner. CBCA has reached out multiple times inviting his response to this questionnaire. We look forward to receiving and sharing his responses related to his arts platform and priorities.

Former Governor John Hickenlooper

Responses received on Monday, October 25 and provided here without editing.

1. What is your arts and culture platform? Is there anything specific in your arts policy agenda in support of arts education? If you are reelected / elected, what are the most important parts of your agenda that will impact the lives of artists, nonprofit workers, and the creative industries?

As a former board member of CBCA, along with a number of other arts institutions in Colorado, I’m thrilled to support the vital role that the arts and culture play in our society.

As Senator, I will work to promote ‘STEAM’ education and ensure that the arts are included in federal education programming.   While schools have embraced the need to encourage and teach students in the vital areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, arts skills play a unique and vital role in building the innovators and entrepreneurs who will advance the cultural and economic future of the United States.

I also will work to support and strengthen our creative economy. The National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEA & NEH) perform vital functions across the country, directing money into small communities around the United States that builds jobs, employs artists and designers, inspires students, and enhances the cultural vitality of our communities. As Senator, I will work across party lines to ensure their funding is secure. I will support funding for the NEA and NEH that supports the development of creative districts, as I did across the state of Colorado as Governor. I’ve seen first-hand how a small amount of resources and a huge amount of commitment from dedicated and creative people can transform communities large and small, rural and urban, and will support the expansion of this vital work.

Finally, we must acknowledge the role the creative industry plays in preserving our diverse traditions including native languages, visual arts, traditional music and dance and an indescribably rich tapestry of cultural practices. The arts and culture industry, like all industries, must grapple with the historical practices that have prevented full inclusion and rebuild itself as a catalyst for cultural preservation and advancement that recognizes the unique contributions of all communities and that serves all of our citizens. Much can be done at the federal level to encourage inclusive practices, and as a Senator, I will always support programs that make equity, diversity, and inclusion foundational at all levels of implementation.

2. The Senate will soon be discussing critical legislation affecting the creative industries, including the expansion of pandemic funding for small businesses, expansion of the PPP, Put Creatives to Work, the Save Our Stages Act, the RESTART Act, and appropriations to the NEA.  What is your position on some of these critical bills?

If elected, I always will work to ensure that artists, nonprofit workers, and creatives are included in any employment and relief programs. As a result of serving as both Mayor of Denver and Governor of Colorado, I am well-versed in the important work that CBCA does linking arts spending to economic development. With this awareness I will continually look for opportunities to ensure that the arts and culture are always at the table.

I also will insist that the arts and culture are reflected in any broad pandemic relief bills and support efforts like the Save Our Stages Act.  As someone who dabbles in a number of musical instruments and counts many musicians as good friends, I have a personal awareness of how devastating the pandemic has been to musicians and music venues. As Governor, my top priority was attracting and creating good jobs for Coloradans, and I’m proud of my record of job creation in Colorado’s creative industry, particularly in the creative districts that we helped foster around the state. In order to get things done, we must bring people with opposing viewpoints to the table to make these types of important programs possible. As Senator, you can always count on me to fight to have the arts and culture included in any economic recovery program.

3. A recent study by Colorado Creative Industries and Colorado State University finds that, during the first few months of the pandemic, Colorado’s creative industries lost an estimated 59,588 jobs and $2.6 billion in sales revenue between April and July 2020 due to the COVID-19 crisis. This four-month period of estimated losses will contract the region’s creative economy by 31% in terms of employment and 8% in annual sales revenue.  Is getting creative workers back to work a priority?  What is the role of arts and creative industries in your plans for the economic platform? 

My economic platform prioritizes public health to reopen the economy, and the arts and culture sector is a vital piece of that economy. As these sobering statistics illustrate, creative industry workers have been some of the hardest hit in the pandemic, with the devastating closure of performing arts and live music venues and the drastic curtailing of access to institutions like museums and galleries. Indeed restaurants are a vital part of our culture that is near and dear to me, and this sector also has been gutted.  As such, I am keenly aware of the need to safely reopen our economy and support those sectors that have been hit the hardest. My economic platform includes support for small business, support for local governments (which in turn are vital supporters of the arts and culture sector), and the emergency relief and rebuilding funds that will be vital to rebuilding our economy.

Most artists are small business people and many need support to recover from this devastating pandemic. Many venues are small businesses that will disappear unless they receive assistance to reopen. Local government programs like those we built in Denver when I was Mayor and in Colorado when I served as Governor (such as Create Denver and the Creative District program) provide vital support for creative workers, but funding for these essential programs has been decimated by the pandemic. As Senator, getting creative workers back on their feet will be a priority, and I always will value the job of an artist or other creative just as highly as any other worker.

4. Equity and racial justice are critical conversations in the arts community of Colorado.  What is your position on the changes needed to address systemic racism?  Do you see a role for arts nonprofits, artists, and creative leaders in this work?

The United States has a long history of racism, segregation, and legalized oppression based on skin color. The economic disadvantages associated with race are varied and persist to this day. The arts and culture have a vital role to play in grappling with our history of racism and with the persistence of discrimination in all areas of society. My equity platform is inclusive of the arts and culture when it encourages investments in education, in the social safety net, and in entrepreneurship- artists and the arts and culture have a vital role to play in each of these areas. Additionally, we must recognize the vital role that the government can play in ensuring that our rich and diverse cultural practices are documented, celebrated, and preserved.

Addressing systemic racism will take the commitment of all Americans. The incredible outpouring of support for racial justice that we saw this summer is an opportunity to engage in important conversations that will lead to real change at every level. Make no mistake, addressing systemic racism is hard, and it will be one of the hardest challenges we ever face. Artists play a crucial role in facilitating difficult conversations–by their very nature they push us in uncomfortable directions and make visible that which some in society want to remain hidden. I am a firm believer in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, who told us “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” But we can’t bend the arc of history without the commitment and hard work of people from all walks of life, and artists are at the forefront of that work.