The Nonprofit Resource Center regularly meets with leaders of nonprofits, service clubs and other organizations in the city. Some groups are busy creating educational opportunities for children, some are concerned about the health and well-being of the elderly, some are in the air force. The Estes Arts District (EAD) was established six years ago; the group works to bring together artists, creative businesses, nonprofits and patrons. We spoke with Greg Miles, the current chairman of the board and the only founding board member still in office.
The mission of EAD is to cultivate enthusiasm, promote interaction and create memorable experiences for the betterment of the Estes community. What is the organization currently working on this mission?
Creation of a new mission.
We want a clearly articulated mission that all board members can relate to and easily repeat.
What words or ideas do you think are important to include in a renewed identity?
Words are less important than emotional connection. It is a matter of easily identifying “what are we doing here?” The current mission and vision were developed with a totally different group of people. The emotions we want to cultivate are excitement, which is part of the original statement, but there needs to be more clarity and connection with that. What is exciting about Estes Park and how is it generated? Rather than declaring that we are cultivating the excitement, we are doing cool things for the Vallée des Estes.
Things that enhance the flavor of artistic culture in the Estes valley. For example, we do cool things with music events: we launched and produced the Friends of Folk Festival (FoFF), First Friday Art Groove, and Mountain Mardi Gras (a benefit for the American Legion). We sponsor the Snowy Grass Music Festival and The Art Studio Tour as well as the Plein Air event and the Lumpy Circus. There’s more to it though, we want to shift the culture here into artistic endeavors.
Tell us more about this change.
To put it plainly, this city has been on commercial memorabilia – our economy is built and relies on tourism, but the spirit of the experience is changing. Ask any real estate agent in town and they’ll tell you: the market has changed. Housing prices have skyrocketed. Twenty years ago you could come here and find a place to live in one day. Today, many of our working class – our teachers and many healthcare workers – do not live here. They come up from the bottom of the hill. Times are changing, that’s good. But there is a detriment to our culture and, at the same time, there is an advantage.
What is the advantage?
Economic. The economy of the community is strengthened. We are still a tourist destination, a huge amount of income is going to come from accommodation etc. But more and more housing here is being taken over by a culturally different class of people who come often and expect a higher standard (and support) of arts and culture. This city was not known as an arts destination, but there are enormous resources here in the arts community and they are under-recognized.
How do you cultivate this?
We want people to know we’re way more than kitsch, but I don’t think we’ve really hit our stride with this. Most of our work at EAD has been to produce and promote local community events. It’s a good start, and we want to do it too… but there have to be better and more impactful ways for us to support artists. Many of them are under-represented, if not not represented at all. The “curious about art”, the buyers and the patrons who want to find them. Community members want a more culturally enriching experience.
How do you currently support or “educate” in the arts?
We gave scholarships to FoFF. If we believe that there will be an economic return to our community by the artist or his work, we award this scholarship. The idea of economic return is sort of the ultimate goal, but in front of that, there is financial aid to the artist.
How much are you paying?
From $ 500 to… last year we offered $ 3,000. Some apps have arrived and together we’ve found that there are better ways to help them than just cash.
Give an example.
We have experience in printing, professional contacts in the art market. It may be a scan or a sound recording. They may have done some research that tells them they need $ 6,000 for printing. We know the ways to make this much cheaper. We meet with them and help them go through the process which requires a fraction of that cost. Some of us also have professional marketing-oriented lives. So we may be able to advise emerging artists on how their work can be scalable.
What is this organization most proud of?
Our evolution from infant to toddler. We have big ideas, big visions, great things we can do for our community, but right now we are a working committee made up of all the volunteers. We need a sustainability plan to support our initiatives and our paid staff. Members of our Board of Directors attend creative events and network with the Arts Districts of Greeley and Breckenridge. We have a point of view on what we could do for the city.
Do you feel like you are on the verge of something?
Yes, we feel like we are becoming a more conscious and forward thinking spark for our community.
What is the benefit of improving the arts? And for whom?
We are all, deep down, creators. For some, it’s about cooking, sewing, painting a house, writing code for a computer program, finding the answer to tax returns. The kind of joy that takes you away from the daily grind. All aspects of our culture benefit from the arts. If I sold this to Town and Visit Estes Park, I would focus on the economic drivers. People love to come to a place where they can experience the visual, performance, culinary and craft “arts” of beverage. We want to continue the growth we have seen in these areas.
You are working on a mural in front of Avant Garde Aleworks on the west facing wall of Napa Auto Parts. Why?
We want to visually enhance our city. Our idea is almost like the pikas that were done in town. We finally want to have a treasure map or a location scavenger hunt.
Is it for locals or guests?
Yes both. Most people don’t even know the history of the photography we do in Napa. It’s a scene of horses running down Elkhorn. In the 1920s, you could hire a horse to tour the city, explore, or enter the park. At the end of the day, you would simply hit your horses on the butt and they would run back, without a rider, to their stables.
What events or programs are you currently planning?
No more murals. Typically, we want it to be on private property. If it’s public, we have to overcome more obstacles. This is good, but we are finding that we can get more momentum with private property. We don’t want to promote a business, so the Napa mural isn’t about Napa, it’s about the history of Estes Park. We want places that locals and tourists can see.
If a private owner is interested in a mural, how does he get started?
They contact us. Most likely, they contribute to the cost of people’s painting time and materials. They obviously have a say in the image.
How is EAD funded?
About 80% grants, some income from donations and fundraising at events.
How could our community support the work of EAD?
By getting involved. Come say, how can I help? We need an army of volunteers, but it’s fun work. Drawing the mural last week was 50/50 board members and volunteer community members. Second, communication. Tell us about your unique vision for this community. What would the whole community benefit from? And if we could make it happen, we want to do it.
What about professional services?
We would love to help with sustainability planning. Also, a membership program… do we need it? And if so, how does it work.
To learn more about events, volunteering, and / or becoming a member of the East Arts District Board of Directors, visit estesartsdistrict.org.