BY FREDA MIKLIN
In October, as part of the process of reviewing its $60 million 2023 citywide budget, the Greenwood Village City Council decided that its Arts and Humanities Council (GVAHC) had to discontinue its policy of awarding three $5,000 merit scholarships annually to talented Arapahoe County high school seniors planning to major in the arts in college. The city council told the GVAHC that it could only award two scholarships and they could only be given to students whose parents lived in Greenwood Village.
GVAHC members, along with the Cherry Creek High School Honors Art teacher, wrote letters and appeared at city council meetings, pleading that the new policy was unworkable for several reasons and also inconsistent with GV’s stated goals of being inclusive, welcoming, and valuing the arts. City Council Members Dave Kerber, Libby Barnacle, Donna Johnston, Dave Bullock, Paul Wiesner, Tom Stahl, and Judy Hilton would not budge. Only Council Member Anne Ingebretsen agreed with the arts commissioners. One commissioner resigned in protest. The remaining GVAHC members voted unanimously to stop awarding the scholarships altogether because they did not feel they could do so with integrity or based on merit under the council’s new conditions.
On February 6, two Cherry Creek High School seniors and the mother of a student who got the scholarship in 2020 addressed the city council.
Julie Weinstein, who’s youngest child, David, won the scholarship, pointed to the “myriad of way that art strengthens and enriches a community,” and GV’s “rich history of supporting the arts,” adding, “Art, music, and songs unite us, comfort us, and help us make sense of this crazy world we live in.”
Weinstein continued, “To pursue a career in art as a young child is a bold choice. It is a grind that requires an undying passion for your craft and an unbreakable sense of self. You have to have enough confidence to overcome the naysayers and the obstacles you will undoubtedly come up against. You must be willing to work tirelessly for an unknown and likely unremarkable payout. As much as we value the arts, we don’t do much to encourage our next generation of artists.” Art is not widely “viewed as something to pursue as a career. The image of the starving artist is not lost on our kids. What this scholarship did for David went well beyond the dollar amount. It was a stamp of approval for his life choices, valuable recognition from his community that gave him that extra bit of confidence that every artist needs that they are capable of creating a life for themselves through the arts. Thanks, in part to the scholarship, David is well on his way to becoming a financially stable artist, writer, and producer.”
She told the council that her son “didn’t get a lot of encouragement from his art or choir teachers for his pursuit of music outside of the classroom…Math, science, and tech careers are currently consuming the spotlight…But getting rid of the award does nothing to right this wrong. It does nothing to change the perception of an art career in our society. Instead (of limiting the number of scholarships and who can get them), I suggest you double the award. Make people take note. Send a strong message that seeking a career in the arts is not only okay, it is something to be proud of, something to strive for. Do your part to make sure that we don’t lose this generation of artists and the gifts they have to offer, not only to our community, but to humanity as a whole. As we all know, we all benefit when art is strong. Thank you.”
Sophia Diaz De Cruz, who lives in GV, pointed to the fact that the city received $628,677 from the sale of the Denver Broncos to be used specifically to support youth programs and activities, adding, “Spontaneously changing the policies of your scholarship after nearly four decades further diminishes the opportunities offered to marginalized and underprivileged groups.” Sophia described the role of art in her life this way, “When societal norms have diminished my ability to freely express myself, I reach to art. It is the secondary voice that I rely on. When words fail, we reach to creativity.”
Chloe Mazenko, co-president of her thespian group, pointed to three highly acclaimed artists at her school “who have grown up in our community, attending school, shops and restaurants in Greenwood Village, who would be incredibly deserving of this arts scholarship to help them pursue their passions…but would be denied the arts scholarship simply because their houses are in Englewood or Centennial. These brilliant artists deserve consideration for the scholarship as taxpayers and members of the Greenwood Village community and economy,” closing with, “I ask the council to please…bring back this wonderful scholarship for young artists and allow (the arts council) to honor the best of our community based on merit, not street address.”