2018 TRUE WEST AWARDS, Day 25
The voter-approved cultural tax not only turned 30 this year –
it went over $1 billion in distributed funds
Artists, scientists and residents of the seven-county Denver metro area have a billion reasons this holiday season to be thankful for the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District. The voter-approved penny tax on $10 purchases not only turned 30 years old in 2018 – it went over $1 billion in distributed funds. The benefiting organizations include groups both big and small, from the Denver Center for the Performing Arts to the Butterfly Pavilion.
Last year, the SCFD provided nearly 300 nonprofit arts and science groups with $58 million. When the tax was approved in 1989, there were only 135. “That’s pretty extraordinary,” SCFD Executive Director Deborah Jordy said in marking the 30th anniversary. Denver had a metro population of 1.8 million then, and today that number is 3.1 million.
SCFD funds go toward free days at museums, local arts festivals, youth orchestras, neighborhood dance studios, nature programs, community theaters. The Denver Center received $6.8 million last year and used it to reduce costs for theatre productions, student matinee performances, school activities and in-house education initiatives. In the 2017-18 fiscal year, SCFD made it possible for the DCPA Theatre Company to make 8,442 $10 tickets available through its DCPAccess program; engage with 144,000 students, and present 18 locally produced plays and readings. It also allowed the DCPA to offer student, senior and military rush tickets; focus on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion efforts, and offer a variety of free audience engagement programs.
The SCFD went before voters for their approval for the fourth time in 2016 and the reauthorization passed by a margin of 67 percent to 37 percent, making it “a bright ray of sunshine voters could agree on,” The Denver Post opined. That vote extended the tax until at least 2030.
The SCFD, said DCPA President and CEO Janice Sinden said, has become the nation’s strongest example of public funding for the arts.
“The goal from the beginning of the SCFD has been to ensure broad access to our area’s incredible assortment of cultural opportunities,” said Sinden. “Plus, SCFD funds help arts organizations employ more than 11,820 people, educate nearly 4.3 million students and generate $1.9 billion in economic activity every year. We join with nearly 300 organizations in gratefully acknowledging the work of the SCFD, the generosity of Denver metro residents and the incredible impact one penny can make.”
The SCFD is a point of pride in Denver and the envy of metropolitan arts organizations around the world. And it should never, former Colorado poet laureate Jovan Mays says, be taken for granted.
“Let’s not assume that children will always get their free days at the zoo or the museum,” Mays said in a 2016 video endorsing the SCFD’s reauthorization. “From the pirouette at the ballet to the sky dance of the monarch butterfly, we tilt our heads back in amazement. Let’s remember what theatre, what arts, what dance have given us. And how nature, how music, how history have moved us.”
Video: A history of the SCFD from Rocky Mountain PBS:
DCPAccess: Upcoming discount on-sale dates for select performances:
Last Night and the Night Before
On sale: Tuesday, January 8, at noon
On sale: Tuesday, January 15, at noon
On sale: Tuesday, January 29, at noon
On sale: Tuesday, April 16, at noon
About The True West Awards: ’30 Days, 30 Bouquets’
The True West Awards, now in their 18th year, began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001. DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore — along with additional voices from around the state — celebrate the entire local theatre community by recognizing 30 achievements from 2018 over 30 days, without categories or nominations. Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S. by American Theatre magazine in 2011. His daily coverage of the DCPA and the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org