Artists flock to Boulder County, but struggle to make ends meet

Does Boulder County’s stunning scenery have anything to do with the fact that it’s considered an arts cluster? Charlotte LaSasso, Executive Director of the Boulder County Arts Alliance, thinks so.

“I’m reminded every morning as I get up and head out to work – these are my mountains,” she said.

The conclusion that Boulder County is attractive to artists comes from more than a contemplative gaze at the Flatirons. In 2016, a National Endowment for the Arts study found that Boulder had the third highest per capita rate of artists in the country. Only Los Angeles and Santa Fe had higher rates. In addition, ticket sales and donations to the arts have risen, and the city of Boulder has increased its support for local artists.

Americans for the Arts conducted a national survey in 2015 on the impact of investments in the arts. It found that Boulder’s nonprofit arts and culture organizations generate nearly $70 million and provide more than 1,800 jobs with a total of nearly $48 million in income for households. LaSasso adds that the arts are growing all over the county.

“Longmont is a different city than it was 10 years ago. It’s very interested in highlighting the arts,” she said. “Lafayette and Louisville are getting more organized.”

However, the “ood of 2013 hit Lyons particularly hard and took a toll on the arts community there. “It’s been a really vital arts community. It’s interested in retaining that status,” LaSasso said.

She worries about artists being priced out by the high cost of living. The average wage of Boulder County residents working in the art, entertainment or recreation industries was less than $24,000 in 2015.

La Sasso is also concerned about a drop in the resources local media are able to devote to the arts, although she does see local artists and arts organizations doing more to promote their work.

“How do we get the word out?” she said.

LaSasso also said she’s glad the city of Boulder upped by 50 percent the amount it will spend on local artists and art organizations in 2017 as part of its community cultural plan.

That’s in addition to funds Boulder County and other communities in the Denver metro area receive from the Scienti‹c and Cultural Facilities District. In 2016, the sales tax funding for the district was overwhelmingly approved by voters, meaning Boulder County and others will receive funds through 2030.

She said she’s hoping to see more effort in spotlighting local arts events.

“Most cities have signage to promote the arts,” she said. Despite these quibbles, LaSasso is optimistic about the future of the arts in Boulder County.

“This is an amazing community, the intelligence that lives here,” she said. “It’s incredible how many off-the-charts smart people there are, the creativity. … There are so many pieces. If we can put them together properly, we’ll really have something.”


by Cindy Sutter