As many Denverites are well aware, the Art District on Santa Fe has gone through an extraordinary transformation since it’s inception in 2002. These artists and activists have taken Santa Fe Drive from a self-proclaimed “rough and tumble” neighborhood to a tremendously popular cultural district that hosts thousands of people for First Friday events every month. Today, the District is host to over 60 galleries and many other creative institutions. You’d think that now is the time sit back and take it all in, however, the members of the District are not satisfied. There’s always more to be done!
This ongoing transformation is thanks to the collective efforts of the Art District members, the Maintenance District, and NEWSED. These groups have been installing lights in the trees, painting bump outs and light poles, and repairing benches and other infrastructure. They have also obtained a grant from JP Morgan Chase to print and install banners on street poles along Santa Fe Drive and more recently to brand the newest part of the Art District at 2nd Avenue and Santa Fe. The district is now close to its many year effort to get a well-lit, landscaped connection from Osage Light Rail station to Santa Fe along 10th Avenue.
In the past few weeks, The Art District, with the help of member Michelle Jacobson, recently completed replacing all of the streetlights in the district with colored LED lights. The lights look awesome, are more environmentally friendly, but most importantly, serve to unify the district. Many observers do not know the true boundaries of the Art District, so the lights will serve two purposes: to let people know they have entered a special cultural district, and to make sure people are aware of how far the district actually goes. There are galleries that are currently being neglected for reason other than that they are not in the middle of the district.
Michelle believes that instead of the earth tones that many people are used to seeing down Santa Fe drive, she wants to see the district full of bright, vibrant colors, and the first way to accomplish this was by changing the lights. If you come out to the district at night, the difference is astounding.
However, Michelle and the rest of the members will not rest until the Art District on Santa Fe looks like many of the best art districts around the world. Michelle sees a pedestrian oriented area with restaurants and lounges where people can get a few drinks, hang out, and peruse the galleries whenever they want, not just during First Friday Events. Sadly, there are many obstacles standing in the way.
The transformation of Santa Fe Drive has taken 8 years to get this far, so everyone in the Art District is fully aware of the major uphill battle ahead of them. Michelle says that she will be happy if in 5 years, the Art District has crossed off some of their goals. As long as the district is on it’s way and plans are moving forward, she will be pleased. Next on the list for the district is widening the sidewalks to make the area more pedestrian friendly and adding additional parking. Each time the district is able to cross off each of these goals from the list, it is an enormous stride towards reaching that final, complete vision. Imagine our fair city of Denver having one of the premier art districts in the country.
Stay tuned for ways you can help!