Last year we hosted a similar event, right in this room, called Our Vision for Denver.
This year, we decided to speak on our Denver Vision with a focus on a new big thing happening, Meow Wolf coming to Denver.
I have a unique perspective as I lived in Santa Fe for thirteen years and have lived in Denver for almost three years. I’ve been an artist for over twenty years and like most of you, I worked day jobs then worked on my art at night.
Watch the entire keynote below.
I witnessed what was happening in the evolution of Meow Wolf pretty closely. At one point I served on the Javier for the Arts committee with now Meow Wolf CEO Vince Kadlubek. We helped former mayor Javier Gonzales get elected.
And now Meow Wolf is coming to Denver. It seems only right that I would help navigate the Denver community through this shift. I see this as a huge opportunity for this city.
And as we all know,
- Artist communities are notoriously underfunded.
- The world is changing rapidly and communities around the globe are witnessing increased rents.
- Where there is a financial disparity there is gentrification. And just like many cities in the world, we are experiencing that in Denver.
The Meow Wolf Effect is an intimate and intentional look into a cultural phenomenon sparking the creative economy in a way that I have not witnessed in my lifetime. My plan is to explore the Meow Wolf Effect through our blog series, public events, and collaborations.
We have a unique opportunity to explore and experience this phenomenon as being one of the first cities Meow Wolf is coming to.
There are many influencers out there making a change. Meow Wolf is one of them. We have several in this community including our panelists whom I look forward to speaking within a few minutes.
You are all the experts on this town and on your experience. That is why you are here.
What I can do is help facilitate the beginnings of a conversation.
I want to help create a new possibility for you, my community. The possibility I see is an interconnected community that spans across the state of Colorado and into New Mexico (why not) that is inspired to create a new economy that is supportive for creative innovators.
Think of the most amazing community that you can imagine. What do you want that to look like? Let’s create that.
- An opportunity to do what is your purpose with love and support from your community. That’s what I envision.
- To make a living and thrive doing something that you love while inspiring others. That’s what I envision.
- More ability to have the influence to shape the world in a way that you want to see it. That’s what I envision.
This is our moment of opportunity. If we do this with great intention, we can make a huge shift in the economy.
- Traditionally, artists have not sought out to build businesses and focus on the creative economy.
- We don’t feel supported by the current economic structure supporting creative jobs.
- And like every other human we have a negative dialog going on in our heads.
- Some of us even believe that we must suffer to be real artists. We place social pressure on other artists by calling them “sell outs” if they make money.
A few years ago I decided to change those beliefs in myself. Why I started Alt Ethos and DATA.
- I no longer wanted to live hand to mouth and work for someone that wasn’t necessarily treating me with respect.
- I want to have a larger influence in the world and these organizations will allow a bigger reach.
- I want to have money to create more opportunities for everyone.
I want to share with you today some of my what-ifs and ask that you add to that list.
- One of my favorite clear indicators in identifying your what-ifs is judgment and uncomfortability or contrast if you will.
I want to ask, what are your what-ifs?
I encourage you right now and throughout this event to think about in what ways are you unsatisfied with the Denver Arts community?
What are you unsatisfied with or fearful of with Meow Wolf coming to town? Keep that and we will touch back on it later.
Is it gentrification? Is it access to space? Is it funding? Is that jobs? Is that all the above? Now take that statement and turn it into a positive action – something that you are going to do to work on finding positivity in that problem.
Here are some of the facts as we know.
Meow Wolf is coming to town.
Meow Wolf anticipates 1.5 million people a year to their Denver site. I anticipate 3 to 5 million people a year. Now think about that – 5 million people a year coming to Denver to spend money in the creative economy.
- What opportunities are there?
- Where are these people going to stay where they can eat?
- Where can they get their entertainment?
- What are they going to buy as a souvenir?
- What kind of art will they buy?
- Where will they want to visit when they like to do it in a group as part of a tour?
So I just want to say that this isn’t about whether or not you like Meow Wolf.
- This is not whether or not you agree with the way that they’re going about expressing their art.
- This is not about whether or not they can hire you.
- Or if they you think they favored one group of people over another.
- This is about harnessing the energy with strategic planning in order to make the best possible outcome. This is happening.
So tonight and moving forward, we will all be gathering knowledge.
- What do you want to do with this knowledge?
- Do you want to sit around and complain and point fingers and say I can’t have that we can’t do this we can’t do that how come they’re doing this is how come they’re doing that?
- Do you want to use this as an opportunity for a catalyst for change?
- We already have some ideas of what is going to happen. We can look at Santa Fe and we can compare our own economy and how things are going here and we can take some guesses we can take some risks and we can enjoy ourselves along the way as a community.
So what if we could do that? What if we could do this together? Let’s make this city in this state the best experience we could ever imagine. You’re welcome to come with me and you’re welcome to lead the way. I promise to walk beside you. Together, let’s make some change.
There are so many people in this community already doing great things. It’s not fair to just sit back and say that they need to do more or do it this way or that. These people are putting their necks on the line. Through their experiences, they have a lot of information that if we all could harness it, would help make a better community. Let’s take advantage of some of that now. I welcome our panelists so gracious to spend their time with us and share their experience.
Read the blog series that inspired this event, The Meow Wolf Effect.