Happy 40th to one of the biggest weekends in Crested Butte. The Crested Butte Arts Festival will spread out along Elk Avenue starting Friday night and running into Sunday afternoon. As noted by reporter Toni Todd, this middle-aged event is not afraid of change and may be more hip now than when it was 20. It is still a great draw and marks one of the busiest and most interesting weekends of any Crested Butte summer.
In the same vein, the Mountain Theatre is a classic Crested Butte arts pillar, also celebrating 40 years. With a play opening this weekend to commemorate its virgin production and a big gathering on August 11, the theatre is a staple that reflects the community.
Both of these significant arts organizations have made a real impact on the north end of the valley.
These two cultural contributors have always had an impact on the community. They have helped open our hearts, see things with fresh eyes and made us think. But, as we will see when August sales tax revenues are tallied, the arts in general also have a big economic impact.
Overall, the arts are a boon to sales tax, which benefits the greater community. A study by the group Americans for the Arts shows that locally, more than $450,000 is pumped into local and state revenues. That means the rest of the community is getting far more than that. In fact, it is estimated that the arts in the valley is a $7 million source of revenue for the local economy. That’s impressive…and important.
Crested Butte and Gunnison will likely forever be first and foremost a destination resort for those looking to the great outdoors. We live in a giant playground. But the playing gets more interesting when there are alternatives. And there is no better an alternative than art.
Whether it is an outdoor concert, the opera or chamber music, the bridge art going up this weekend around Crested Butte, photography exhibits, plays like Dark of the Moon, dance performances, plein air canvases popping up around the valleys, Bluegrass in Paradise, the galleries in Gunnison, the Crested Butte Film Festival or the art of the cocktail—it all presents a new and interesting face for Crested Butte and Gunnison.
Art says something about a place and we are fortunate as a community that we are blessed with artists who can speak fluently in many languages. The arts rarely can stand on their own. From the Renaissance on, art has depended on patrons to help pay the way. This valley is lucky in that aspect as well. Patrons who frequent the arts and donate to their existence are necessary and active. Locals, second homeowners and tourists appreciate and patronize the myriad artistic offerings.
Now a bit of politics to help the arts. I’ve made the argument before that the money funneled to the Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism Association might be better spent if those funds were focused like a laser on marketing and promoting art, festival and education attractions at both ends of the valley. Use that money to powerfully add arts and education as part of our brand. Intertwine art with our established outdoor reputation.
The approximately $750,000 spent annually through the TA has an impact but doesn’t do a lot if it is used to promote everything from ice fishing to opera. It becomes too much of a shotgun approach trying to please everyone but is not much a game changer on any level.
Those funds could have a great impact on one important box if they were spent on drawing people here for the arts and education attractions in terms of things like RMBL and WSC. Both ends of the valley would benefit. It would more quickly add a loud, new dimension to our collective reputation. It might actually help bring the two ends of the valley together.
Think about it. Instead of trying to give a little boost to a lot of things, concentrate on making one large impact on something that benefits everyone. That doesn’t mean you don’t mention our other diverse offerings with these monies, because a person who comes for the opera might want to be reminded she can also take a river trip. But by focusing on culture, these marketing monies can enhance our overall draw.
The bottom line is that the arts are a spiritual benefit to our community. We are lucky at the options we all have in that regard. But as we will see the next couple of weekends, the arts do more than enrich just our soul…the arts can pad our pocketbook. Not a bad combination and one we as a community should support every chance we get.