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2023 Arts & Culture Budget CALL to ACTION (9.30.22)

The current City of Boulder Arts and culture budget proposal is $2.1M, including $720K for public art (a hefty increase) but only $1.5M of operating funding (which provides no increase and includes a flat grants budget). As a comparison, the city’s total budget of $513.5M is a record high and represents an 11% increase. The city’s general fund, of which the arts and culture budget is a part, is increasing by 14%.   


The general operating budget for the Arts Department is vastly insufficient to meet the needs of our arts organizations and artists, which are still recovering from pandemic-related impacts, and to meet the city’s goals as articulated in the 2016 Community Cultural Plan. It also deprives the community of critical arts and culture programming and clearly shows that arts and culture are not a high or even a moderate priority for the city. Today, we are requesting an additional $350,000 for operating money in 2023, to be used for the following purposes:


  • General Operating Support (GOS) grants to worthy organizations, including several of Boulder’s foundational arts organizations, that were not funded this year due to lack of available funds

  • Inflation adjustments for GOS grant recipients to bring support up from 2016 levels; inflationary pressures for these organizations mirror those that the city itself is facing

  • Rental venue subsidies for performing and visual arts that are facing increasingly acute space affordability challenges

  • Artist relief projects

  • Youth educational programming and mentorship


The city is messaging for 2023“a new commitment to align city spending with stated values”.  A 0% operating budget increase for the arts under the umbrella of other big investments and substantial overall funding increase sends a strong message of tepid commitment to arts and culture. How will our City Council react?  We believe the Boulder community is interested in long-term, sustainable, and transformational funding for arts and culture and plan to launch a campaign called “1% for the Arts” in the coming months.  For now, we need to address critical funding gaps in the 2023 Recommended Budget.   Please demonstrate your interest in supporting increased funding in 2023 and help set the stage for additional funding going forward by sending a message to City Council that the arts should be funded as a priority in the 2023 budget and in the future.




Get your Executive Director, Board members, artists, and biggest supporters to do one of the following:

  1. Join the Council meeting on October 6 in which they will discuss the budget. Participate in the Public Hearing by talking for 2 minutes on the importance of the arts and your own personal experience. General information about the Council agenda is Here. Sign up to speak Here (you must be pre-registered). Note, you can participate virtually or in person that evening.

  2. Write to City Council. This can be done anytime until October 5 at the following link:

Under topic, please select “Recommended 2023 budget” and send to “Entire City Council”.

  1. If you personally know a Council member, please call or email him or her with your thoughts.


Overall message:

  1. The arts are important to you and this community. Please align the city’s spending with the public’s stated values.

  2. The arts are not out of the woods yet from the pandemic and are experiencing significant inflationary pressures at a moment when COVID funding is no longer available.

  3. Artists and musicians need employment. Look at programs that will put them to work.


Tips on messaging:

  • Tell personal stories about your organization and the current financial situation including the impact of inflation since 2016.

  • For those organizations that have been long-time GOS grant recipients, speak to the impact that the loss of GOS support would have meant to your organization.

  • Have a personal message about the ROI of arts & culture in your life or in your constituents’ lives.

  • Acknowledge past efforts to increase funding for the arts.

  • Be complimentary of the Office of Arts and Culture.

  • Tell them it’s time to increase investment in Arts & Culture


BACKGROUND:  Boulder is known as a creative, arts-friendly community, and the city consistently ranks in the top 10% nationally for creative culture and artists per capita. However, organizations and artists struggle from the lack of affordable art space, performing and rehearsal space, and live/workspace. Performing arts organizations are suffering “long COVID”; it is anticipated that ticket sales will not recover to pre-pandemic levels for years. The lack of additional grant funding in 2023 budget will negatively affect arts & culture organizations, their employees, artists, and students. Indeed, it will impact the whole community.


Several long-standing, foundational arts organizations, touted in the city’s own 2022 budget book as to “What Makes Boulder, Boulder” did not receive General Operating Support grants this year, due to a lack of funding. Performing arts and visual arts organizations are suffering from lack of availability of affordable rehearsal, performance, and gallery space, and the city’s rental assistance program funding was expended in days. Artists are suffering from the after-effects of COVID on employment and the high cost of living and workspace. Many organizations are soon facing a cliff in funding due to drop off of COVID-related relief programs.


Decades of research show that every dollar invested in the arts generates multiple dollars of economic impact in the local community. A thriving arts and culture sector drives residents, workers and visitors to Boulder’s stores, restaurants and hotels and is critical to attracting and retaining the talent needed by our Boulder businesses. In addition, robust arts and cultural activities are key to meeting the city’s diversity, equity, and inclusion goals. The arts are the backbone of a vibrant, resilient, healthy and inclusive community. It’s critical that we communicate that the Boulder community values and prioritizes arts and culture.

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