Artsy locals protest Gov. Owens |

Artsy locals protest Gov. Owens

SUMMIT COUNTY – Gov. Bill Owens will accept an award for cultural enrichment at a fundraising dinner in Denver Wednesday, but protesters might spoil his appetite.

Frisco resident Sandy Greenhut will join arts advocates, including Chris Alleman and Joshua Blanchard of the Lake Dillon Theatre, and Backstage Theatre director Jeremy Cole in protest of the governor’s award. As they march and chant in protest, the Mizel Center for Arts and Culture will honor Gov. Owens for his contribution to community cultural enrichment at its annual fundraising dinner, called “Celebrating America Through Arts and Culture.”

Last year, Owens eliminated all state arts funding for the Denver metro area from the Colorado Council on the Arts, which moved Colorado’s funding support of the arts from 47th to 50th in the nation. This year, the Joint Budget Committee cut funding for not only the Denver metro area, but also the entire state to $200,000 (as compared to the more than a million dollars granted in previous years).

Cole wrote to the governor saying the award was a joke, considering it’s being given “to a man who has singlehandedly destroyed the arts.”

“I’d almost pay money to be at the dinner to see what they’re going to say about him as they give him the award,” Cole said.

The governor responded to his letter by saying Colorado and its taxpayers support the arts, particularly through the Scientific and Cultural District tax.

“I wrote back and said, “yes, that’s great, but that’s (for) six counties,'” Cole said. “That’s 50-some counties short, and it doesn’t include (Summit).

“It’s going to be pretty embarrassing for Coloradans to give the governor an award for supporting the arts. It’s like giving Hitler a humanitarian award.”

The Mizel Center has given the community cultural enrichment award to community leaders for the past 14 years. There are no specific criteria for the award.

“We regret that our colleagues in the arts community feel the way they do, but we feel now is the time to build bridges to the future,” Mizel marketing director Ruth Segal said. “In tough times like these, we really have to reach out and work together and find creative solutions to seemingly insurmountable problems. We appreciate Gov. Owens and first lady Frances Owens’ commitment to our dinner. Their participation is really in support of the arts because they’re helping us raise monies that are in support of our institution, which plays a role here in the arts community.”

“This award is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, as the Mizel stands to solicit over 1 million dollars from this event by attracting the governor and others not as arts supporters but as personalities,” Brian Freeland of the Metro Arts Coalition wrote in an e-mail to arts supporters. “These are not the values we hold for this community, and we ask that the arts community make its voice heard to both the governor and those attending the event.”

Arts supporters from Summit County plan to carry signs with messages such as “oxy-MORON” and march outside Denver’s Wings over the Rockies Air and Space Museum, the site of the fundraising dinner. They will join a large group of arts supporters from the Front Range.

“I think it’s going to be pretty big,” Cole said. “Everybody seems to be up in arms about it – not just me and Sandy (Greenhut).”

“People need to stand up and be counted,” Greenhut said. “If people say they’re opposed but don’t stand up and protest, it will continue.”

To carpool down to Denver for the protest, meet at 4 p.m. Wednesday at the Lake Dillon Theatre. For more information, call Greenhut at (970) 468-7557.

Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 245 or by e-mail at

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