Boulder County is an arts county

Paintbrush art paint creativity craft backgrounds exhibition

It’s probably no surprise to most people who live or work in Boulder County that the arts are strong here. From large organizations such as the Colorado Music Festival to small associations like the Longmont Concert Band, dozens of arts groups call Boulder County home. In fact, the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD) funds 68 operations headquartered in Boulder County, which is 38% more than the other five suburban counties in metro Denver. These cultural treasures not only enrich our lives but also contribute significantly to our local economy and community well-being.

While the arts scene in the city of Boulder is well-known, the arts community in the rest of Boulder County is also vibrant, with a wide variety of disciplines and groups represented. Downtown Louisville, Lafayette and Longmont all host monthly art nights in the summer where galleries are open and activities abound. Bigger festivals like Longmont’s Artwalk draw thousands.

The arts organizations in Longmont, Louisville and Lafayette showcase a wide variety of artistic disciplines and media. In visual art, we have the East Boulder County Studio Tour, Mudslingers Pottery Studio, the Collective Community Arts Center and the Firehouse Art Center, to name just a few. In performing arts and dance, there’s the Centennial State Ballet, the Arts HUB, the Longmont Symphony Orchestra and Center Stage Theatre, again just to name a few. Boulder has no monopoly on quirky arts organizations, either — the Lafayette Art UnderGround Hustle (LAUGH) holds funky art tours that invite you to “meet your local weirdos.”

Why are the arts so strong in east Boulder County? One factor is that while truly “affordable” housing is rare in Boulder County, housing in east Boulder is more attainable than anywhere else. As property values soar, artists and cultural organizations are finding it increasingly challenging to find affordable spaces to create and showcase their work. Addressing this issue is essential to ensure that Boulder County remains a welcoming home for artists and creatives. The pandemic further highlighted the vulnerability of the arts sector and the urgent need for long-term support mechanisms to safeguard our cultural assets. It is an issue that challenges the future of arts across the Front Range.

This fall, there are initiatives relating to the arts on the ballot in both Longmont and Boulder. In Longmont, voters are being asked to vote on a branch library and a new performing arts center, while in Boulder the vote is to redirect an existing tax to support the arts, heritage and culture. The results of these initiatives may reaffirm residents’ commitment to and passion for the arts, and also shape access to the arts for many future generations to come.

Of course, I would be remiss not to mention my own institution, the Longmont Museum, which recently launched an $8.1 million capital campaign. The campaign will fund larger gallery space for art and history, renovate and expand our courtyard to allow for larger outdoor concerts and performances, and open a dedicated children’s gallery to show that museums can be places of wonder for all ages. It’s a great sign of the community’s support for the arts that we have already achieved 81% of our campaign goal.

As a resident or visitor to Boulder County, you can also support culture by visiting local galleries, attending performances and buying art from local artists; it’s a simple yet effective way to sustain the arts in our county and meaningfully contribute to the arts ecosystem.

We are very fortunate to live in an area where there are so many opportunities to enjoy and participate in the arts. The state of the arts in Boulder County is a reflection of our collective commitment to creativity, expression and cultural richness. While we face challenges, we also have the opportunity to build a future where the arts continue to flourish.

Erik Mason is the director of the Longmont Museum. In addition to his nearly 30 years of service at the museum, he is also the author of a comprehensive history book called Longmont: The First 150 years.

This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly. 


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