2012 Mayor's Awards for Excellence in the Arts: Denver's Art District on Santa Fe
Every year since 1986, Denver has recognized creative individuals and organizations that make an artful impact on the community with the Mayor's Awards for Excellence in the Arts. The 2012 winners were just announced, and for the first time, they were split into three new categories: Youth Arts, Entrepreneurial Arts and Impact Arts.
The winners will get their official awards at the Mayor's Awards for Excellence in the Arts reception on November 15 at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. But in the meantime, Westword is profiling the winners. First up: Art District on Santa Fe, winner of the Entrepreneurial Arts Award.
A couple of decades ago, there were just a few galleries along Santa Fe Drive. But then many artists were priced out of their studios in LoDo and nearby NoDough, where a new stadium dedicated to beers, bratwursts and baseballs was being built. Rent was still cheap on Santa Fe, though, and many of these artists moved there, setting up studios and, soon, establishing more galleries.
In 2003, seventeen galleries, museums and theaters joined together to form the official Art District on Santa Fe.
It was around this time that current ADSF president Jack Pappalardo took up residency on Santa Fe. He remembers how, even after his street was dubbed an official arts district, the business-to-homeless ratio was still relatively even. "Ten years ago, I may have seen people sleeping in my front door at any time of the day," he says. "If I hadn't lived in New York City at one point in my life, I may not have moved to Santa Fe Drive."
But instead of turning a cold shoulder to the loitering horde, Pappalardo embraced all members of his new neighborbood. He talked with the homeless and offered them jobs. He helped incorporate art into lives of adolescent youth. He "wants everybody to understand the fabric of the neighborhood and elevate it," he says, and that policy has helped guide the growth of the ADSF.
One constant in the ADSF's efforts to improve the community is keeping art inside the galleries -- and off their facades. "You don't see graffiti anymore," Pappalardo promises. "It's painted over by 8 a.m. that next morning."
That's not the only improvement. In 2011, over 100 energy-efficient LED lightbulbs were installed along a four-block stretch of Santa Fe, which will save enough energy annually to power seven households for an entire year.
Next up on the ADSF's to-do list is accessibility, both to and from Santa Fe Drive as well as along the street itself. Hangar 41, an architectural firm headquartered in the ADSF, has already teamed up with Mayor Michael Hancock and the Denver Housing Authority to design a promenade from the Tenth and Osage light-rail station to Santa Fe.
At the same time, Pappalardo says, "Widening the sidewalks on Santa Fe Drive is something we've been dreaming about for years." This would require converting the street from three to two lanes and removing parking from one side, but Pappalardo suggests that it "would make the ADSF a more enjoyable atmosphere every day of the month and not just on First Friday."