Editor: Art is usually about breaking down barriers, opening minds, connecting communities, and reaching across borders. For members of Greenwood Village City Council, however, it appears to be about closing doors, building walls, marginalizing people, and restricting arts funding. That pessimistic conclusion follows the recent decision of city leaders to cut the funding for an arts scholarship after they couldn’t force the city’s Arts and Humanities Council to limit eligibility to only city residents. Previously, the annual scholarships of up to $5000 had been open to any graduating high school senior living in Arapahoe County.

Of the nearly seventy scholarships Greenwood Village Arts Council has awarded over three decades, the majority have been given to Village residents, with just twenty-nine of the winners living outside the city. However, last year’s three scholarship winners were from Smoky Hill High School, Overland High School, and Eaglecrest High School. It appears rather unseemly that following a year when three talented artists from outside the city won – a year when only two Village students even applied – the Council voted to restrict and ultimately kill the scholarship. Eliminating a scholarship, and effectively hurting young people who could have benefited, simply because they couldn’t give it to their own neighborhood kids, regardless of interest or merit, is profoundly disappointing.

Injecting politics and division into a program that should be about inclusion and joy is nothing short of spiteful. However, that is the nature of the local politicians who ran for office on a campaign of exclusion, the Save-Our-Village movement. Council Member Donna Johnston said, “It’s not our role to pay for anything outside of our city that doesn’t benefit us.” If that’s the philosophy of Greenwood Village city leaders, then it’s probably in the interest of people outside the city to reconsider spending money in the Village. For, apparently Johnston and her Council cronies believe their city is a self-sustaining island. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Greenwood Village is a tiny entity in southeast Denver, and most of its political business is irrelevant to people outside the city. However, this recent action should be of great interest to all residents of Arapahoe County. For, there’s little doubt that residents of Aurora, Centennial, Littleton, Englewood, and others spend money in GV, a town whose budget is heavily dependent on sales tax to fund its beautifully manicured parks, its pristinely plowed streets, its appealing parks and rec program, and exclusive community offerings. The arts scholarship issue is significant for non-resident families whose kids attend school there, study dance there, take arts and music classes there, attend concerts there, hang with friends there, spend their money there. It’s relevant to the 50,000 people who travel into Greenwood Village to work every day – taxpayers who are charged a monthly two-dollar fee for the privilege of working in the Village.

Perhaps, non-Village-residents who can spend their money elsewhere should consider keeping their business out of the Village. For the current crop of council cronies have made it clear to non-Villagers that GV business is “none of your business.” The scorched earth politics of the people on the Council has already led to businesses moving just across the street in the Tech Center. The curmudgeonly council effectively zoned the entire city against middle and working class people when it voted to outlaw any future townhomes, condos, apartments, or multi-family housing. As one former council member told me at, ironically, a charity event, “Look, I only want single family houses.” Yeah, he actually said that to a teacher who lives in a townhome in the Village.

The most egregious and deceptive part of the city council’s action is that the Greenwood Village Arts and Humanities Council does not use any city tax revenue. In 2011, a city ordinance established that “Monies required for the (Arts) Council shall come from donations, proceeds of fundraising events, and grants secured by the (Arts) Council, and held within the Special Revenue Fund.” The Arts Council raises its own money, sponsors its own events like the arts scholarship, and conducts its own business, the goal of which is to support the arts. Thus, theoretically, a resident of Centennial or Aurora could contribute funds to GV Arts with the expectation that they support a scholarship open to a kid from their own city, and the GV City Council could take that money and tell the Arts Council they can’t give it to non-residents.

And that’s just wrong.

Michael Mazenko, via letters@sentinelcolorado.com

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  1. Pretty hilarious that this dingdong is whining about partisanship and division while promoting it himself, all while playing Wokist Buzzword Bingo.

  2. Is it similarly wrong for the boards of Denver’s five elite Tier I cultural facilities, –working together with Dem and GOP party leadership– to economically sodomize the City of Aurora and other struggling communities for over 30 years?

    In 2019, the Denver SCFD collected $7.1 million in Aurora but returned less than $800K to grantees in Aurora.

    Picture in your mind both the Fox Theater and the Denver Art Museum as you consider this question.

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