Wealth supports culture. You want culture; you have to generate wealth.

Last month, the Colorado Springs Independent ran a story about the Pueblo arts scene and how it could change Pueblo’s fortunes. Weeks before the story ran, the reporter asked me about my January editorial “Watching Them Leave” and the premise of arts saving Pueblo.

I should have declined because the reporter already had her story written before she even contacted me. What could go wrong? It’s a story on the arts.

We chatted for more than 45 minutes and discussed a wide range of issues but essentially I disagreed with her premise and tried to give her context on issues of Southern Colorado.

What the Colorado Springs Independent missed was that the arts scene in Southern Colorado mirrors every other scene in Pueblo.

Southern Colorado isn’t Taos because we lack an abundance of artists, we lack an abundance of people so well-off that they can afford art and we fail to attract an abundance of those well-off to come here to buy art.

Sound familiar? This is exactly the problem Pueblo is having with economic development.

It’s always hoping for outsiders to come in to save us. From art, to capital, to economic redevelopment—Pueblo gives the impression that if you aren’t from here you must know what you are doing. If you are from here, you can’t possibly know what you are doing.

I am not wanting to close the border and banish all outsiders. I’m wondering if enough capital and leadership exists from within our borders?

Both sides, art and economic development, have had success stories in the last few years. Central Plaza and Shoe Factory for the arts and PEWAG and Vestas leading the way for job recruitment.

At Central Plaza, anchored by The Kadoya Gallery, new life has been injected into the arts scene by Gregory Howell. His ability to get things done along with his coalition building skills, matching desire with money, is achieving small and big wins for the art community.

There isn’t a downside to any aspect of what Gregory Howell is doing. The question has nothing to do with him; it has to do with asking what’s next and what scenes can grow. In a county of more than 150,000 people, is the cap of coalition builders at one? Or if he leaves tomorrow for another community, who has access to connect givers and receivers?

When the Creative Corridor, now the Arts Alliance, started their goal was to do just that. To provide connections, attract capital for art projects, link up music, theatre, fine art and street art, with the goal of enhancing an area that creates and sustains a cultural scene.

Switch out a huge bear mural by Mike Strescino and Mat Taylor for Pewag and it’s the same story.

PEDCO and The Pueblo Chamber of Commerce dolled up Pueblo with cattle, celebrated under the open sky and grilled meat for Pewag. There is nothing wrong celebrating Pewag moving here. But, I have to ask, is Pueblo so horrible at business that a local company of five can’t grow into fifty or five hundred, if viable?

That is why both the arts and economic development, even if they don’t think they are the same, are moving at the same pace in the same way. The arts scene needs to realize that you can’t solely rely on outsiders coming in and doing what Gregory Howell has done. Nor is focusing on fine arts on two blocks an alliance. Literature, music, fine, street and pop art, theatre and whatever else exists here needs to be supported. Local leadership needs to be recognized and nurtured. Then, heavily invested in. That’s the way you build a new Taos, a new Austin or a new Dublin.

The economic builders in Pueblo need to realize something most small market sports teams realized a long time ago—it’s cheaper and more effective to build talent locally than it is to bring in free agents. Grow outstanding young talent and then bring in free agents to do what you can’t do locally.

For what Southern Colorado lacks in big-name free agents, we have a few wonderkids sitting in the minors needing capital, time and support.

Why do any of these things? Wealth supports culture. You want culture; you have to generate wealth.

If you teach an artist to paint, the artist can’t feed himself. If you teach an artist to sell his art to people with disposable incomes because they have amazing jobs, the artist can create more art and eat more often.

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