Denver is supporting local music institutions and projects to the tune of $100,000

In its first round of funding, the new initiative is already spending more than promised on local music.
10 min. read
Vevian (left to right), Andrea, and Gabriella wait to perform at Swansea Elementary. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

One hundred thousand dollars in grants have just been awarded to 30 local music projects, kicking off the Denver Music Advancement Fund's pilot year with a bigger effort than originally promised.

When the fund was announced in July, along with the creation of the Denver Music Strategy and Denver Music Advisory Panel, the intention was to give $80,000 to “new projects that will spur growth in the local music business as well as growing new audiences, particularly youth,” according to Denver Arts & Venues. Instead, the total was upped by $20,000. Each of the 30 grantees will each get up to $7,500.

"With over 90 applications coming through in our first year, (more than any of our other grant programs have seen) and such substantial proposals, Denver Arts & Venues agreed to round out the additional $20K," Create Denver program administrator Lisa Gedgaudas wrote in an email to Denverite.

The grants are funded through a public-private partnership between Arts & Venues, Illegal Pete’s and LivWell Enlightened Health.

Approved proposals have to meet a set of six requirements:

  • Advance new music-centric programs or initiatives
  • Provide fair pay for artists
  • Take place in the calendar years 2019-20
  • Have a project leader that will initiate, plan, implement and track impact of the program
  • Demonstrate a 1:1 match or more of resources, including volunteer labor (valued at $20/hour), donated materials, professional services or cash (match does not need to be confirmed at the time of application)
  • Ensure diversity, equity, inclusiveness and accessibility

Recipients are also required to complete a project evaluation that includes documentation of the project, any related press, an assessment of whether the fund’s objectives were met, and the project’s successes and challenges.

Among the first class of Denver Music Advancement Fund grantees are El Sistema, a youth music program serving northeast Denver, ArtHyve, which works to make the archiving process more open to the public, and Youth on Record, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

Jessie de la Cruz, founder of ArtHyve, poses for a portrait in her new office above City, O' City, Oct. 10, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

At ArtHyve, which is in the process of remodeling its space above City O' City, they're going to use the funds to create a guidebook for musicians looking to archive and preserve their work.

"ArtHyve’s whole goal is to help support visual artists, writers, performers, musicians, creators in the radical acts of self-archiving," founder and executive director Jessie de la Cruz said. "And we say it’s radical because we’re putting control in the hands of the artists as far as who is worthy of archiving."

There are some basics of archiving that apply to all mediums, but it's important that they made this system work specifically for musicians. The guide will be compiled with the help of a small committee of local musicians and archivists. It'll likely include some case studies as examples to follow, de la Cruz said, as well as an instructional video.

"A lot of musicians and artists in general that work with digital content are not thinking about how to preserve digital content so that it’s accessible in 50 to 100 years," de la Cruz said. "A website isn’t a archive and Facebook isn't an archive, and a lot of people think of them as such. One of the biggest challenges is -- in 20 years what are we going to know about the DIY music scene, about bands that have traveled through here, if we don’t have an archive that we can access? We really need musicians to kind of put on that lens and it needs to be part of their studio practice so we can understand the landscape into the future. ... I think with music that’s a little difficult, and a lot musicians have really important shows where they invest a lot of time and money in set design and video pieces and in and of itself that show is an artwork. So how do we create touchstones where we can visit that show in 20 years?"

Meanwhile, ArtHyve is going about its regular work. Its "Archives As Muse" project — through which it funds four works inspired by archives, this year with a home movie theme — will be featured at the Denver Film Festival. There's also a time capsule program that accepts 50 boxes from artists every year to be physically stored as well as scanned and digitally stored. And once the space above City O' City is remodeled, select artists will have access to go in and use the archiving equipment for a couple of hours. At just one year old, ArtHyve is off to a roaring start.

Stephen Brackett, known as "Brer Rabbit" of the Flobots, meets with U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development representatives inside Youth On Record, the music production nonprofit he helped found in Lincoln Park, May 23, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Youth on Record, of course, has been around much longer than that. In fact, 2018 marks a decade of giving Denver's underprivileged youth access to music education, and work and fostering community engagement through music.

For nonprofit with a strong legacy, the Denver Music Advancement Fund grant is so much startup money as it is a show of continued support.

"It’s everything we’ve dreamed of and more," executive director Jami Duffy said of how far they've come. She joined Youth on Record in 2009, back when it was still the new brainchild of Denver band Flobots, operating under the name "This 10 years shows that not only does this project work, but that we’re around for the long haul and we’ve become a staple in the community for artists and youth."

Youth on Record has grown 700 percent in that time. The nonprofit recently got a new digital music computer lab inside its state-of- the-art Youth Media Studio in the Mariposa District, thanks to a donation from Denver duo Big Gigantic. It now serves 1,000 teenagers a year and more than half of the money it brings in goes to artist salaries and payments — about $400,000 to $500,000 a year, Duffy said. Most of the Youth on Record staff are musicians and about half are former students.

Some of its current students get paid, too, and that's where the Denver Music Advancement Fund comes in. Youth on Record will use the money for its My Youth on Record podcast.

"The premise behind it is that we’re bringing musicians into the studio to talk about music they made at teenagers," Duffy said.

The first episode featured Flobots' Stephen Brackett sharing a hip-hop track based on conspiracy theories and comic book culture recorded when he was 17. The second guest was the Lumineers' Neyla Pekarek, who shared early barbershop quartet recordings. The third and much talked about episode featured Ben Roy of local punk band SPELLS and the TV show "Those Who Can't" talking about his sexual abuse at a Catholic summer camp and sharing a hardcore song he wrote about it as a teenager.

At Youth on Record's 10th anniversary party this Saturday, they'll release the latest episode, featuring Dominic Lalli and Jeremy Salken, who share their first Big Gigantic recording and talk about the need for music education.

DeVotchKa's Shawn King co-hosts along with a paid student, and students are also paid to help produce the podcast. The grant money will go directly to paying those students — just one piece of Youth on Record's mission for the next 10 years.

"The one thing that Youth on Record has really been focused on is how do we foster emerging talent as opposed to trying to get talent outside of Colorado," Duffy said. "How do we build that talent from within?"

Some other things to watch out for as Denver Music Advancement Fund projects get underway:

Girls Rock Denver will start a multi-week after-school program, The Hollow will start holding a monthly mental wellness meetup for the music community, Su Teatro is launch a series of panels, workshops and free performances in conjunction with the 23rd annual Chicano Music Festival next summer, and Bringing Music to Life will be collecting and repairing instruments and donating them to underfunded DPS schools and music programs.

Arts & Venues also announced the recipients of its IMAGINE 2020 Fund, a program in its fourth year.

Those 27 grantees, chosen from more than 70 applicants, will also get up to $7,500 each — $130,000 in total. That's a big jump from last year, when IMAGINE 2020 funded $75,000 in projects.

To secure that money, projects needed to be "inspired by one or more of the seven vision elements outlined in IMAGINE 2020, Denver’s Cultural Plan — integration, amplification, accessibility, lifelong learning, local talent, economic vitality and collective leadership" and to "further develop Denver’s creative landscape and bring Denver’s collective vision a reality," according to a press release.

Here's the full list of Denver Music Advancement Fund grantees:

  • 7th Circle Collective: AV Club
  • Adam Baumeister: Colorado Audio Archive
  • Adrian H. Molina: Rap as Literature
  • Amber Blais: Zabiti - An Immersive Circus Adventure
  • Andre Carbonell: Insomniacs Live
  • ArtHyve: Escaping Erasure: A Musician's Guide to Archiving
  • Birdseed Collective: Globeville Center "Visionary Music Program"
  • Black in Bluhm Project: The Black in Bluhm Project (BiBP)
  • Bring Music to Life: Instruments to Support Denver Public Schools
  • Catherine Beeson: Sensory Friendly Family Concerts
  • Denver Bass Squad: Double Bass Doubling
  • Denver Children's Choir: Neighborhood Choir Program
  • Denver Public Library: United by Music / Unidos Por La Musica
  • Denver Young Artists Orchestra Association: DYAO Cultural Exchange Central European Tour
  • DocuWest Film Festival: Film and Music Festival
  • El Sistema Colorado: Profressional Development for Teaching Artists
  • Girls Rock Denver: Girls Rock After School Program
  • Lauren Kashuk: Denver
  • Levitt Denver: BandStart - Inspiring, Teaching, Engaging in Music (ITEM) Performance Series
  • Nathan Hall: Active Music
  • Patrick Riley: Mutually Detrimental - Denver Artists Fund
  • Su Teatro: Inclusive or Derivative Workshops and Performances
  • The Black Box, LLC: Studio and Career Exploration
  • The HadaNou Collective: Vocal Coalition presents Universo Holografico con 2MX2
  • The Hollow, LLC: Mental Wellness Meetup
  • The Newman Center: Musical Explorers
  • Think 360 Arts for Learning: Colorado Song Laboratory: Where History Meets Tomorrow
  • Toluwanimi Obiwole: Rhyme and Rhythms
  • West Community Economic Development Corporation: Músicos de Westwood
  • Youth on Record: My Youth on Record Podcast: The Past, Present, Future of the Colorado Sound

And here's the full list of IMAGINE 2020 Fund grantees:

  • Access Gallery: Art of Access Alliance Programming
  • Cherry Creek Arts Festival: CherryArts’ Mobile ArtCart - Ink the Neighborhood
  • Colorado Artists of Color: InterFest Colorado
  • Colorado Ballet Company: Tour De Force
  • Community Cypher: Place Matters
  • Curious Theatre Company: Staging Justice: Denver Faces its KKK History Through Theatre
  • Dencity Media, Inc.: Dencity Online Platform Launch
  • Edgar L. Page, Feel the Movement: The Feeling of an Emotion
  • Go Play Denver: From A to Zine
  • Kathryn Speer: Live Arts Festival
  • Latino Cultural Arts Center: Building Creativity Into the Future!
  • Lisa Engelken, LLC: Breaking Barriers
  • Lucha Martinez de Luna: Chicano Murals Website/Archive
  • Metropolitan State University of Denver Foundation, Inc.: Creative Industries Internship
  • Mirror Image Arts: It Starts With Us - Empathy through Collaborative Theatre Making
  • No Easy Props, Inc: Queenz of Hip-Hop 10th Anniversary Jam
  • Phamaly Theatre Company: 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration
  • PlatteForum: ArtLab Underground
  • Rocky Mountain PBS: Rocky Mountain Public Media Arts Bureau R&D - Phase I
  • Sarah Megyesy: Not in My Backyard
  • Su Teatro: The Westside Blowouts
  • The Art Garage: ReVisioned
  • Theatre Artibus, LLC: Recipe
  • Toluwanimi Obiwole: Pan African Festival
  • United for a New Economy: Transformative Leadership for Change - Artists in Residence
  • Youth Employment Academy: Vibrant Denver - Inside and Out
  • Youth on Record: FEMpowered

Recent Stories