Finding Respite (and Civic Inspiration) in Colorado


Environmental graphics for Denver's Civic Center Cultural Complex

A piece of heaven. Enjoying the first several days back in my old Colorado stomping grounds, I’m camped out at the Hershbergers’ house this particular afternoon, listening to a live string quartet rehearse for an upcoming wedding and drinking a fresh cup of coffee while I write. I'm grateful to have this place to escape to for refuge/sanctuary. I’ve returned to people, sunshine and mountains where my days start with a run (at altitude!) in Boulder, the foothills—located within miles of my brother and sister-in-law’s house—to the west and the sunrise to the east. Yes, heavenly.

Colorado is typically associated with the Rocky Mountains, which are undoubtedly breathtaking. As I’ve been revisiting my favorite places, however, I’ve been appreciating more than just the magnificent views. Unabashedly drawn to anything and everything that is beautifully conceived or created, I am happy to see signs, both large and small, of continuing redevelopment in Denver.

Public art, Denver, Colo.

The main branch of the public library, the Civic Center Park and the Denver Art Museum, along with the recently renovated space that makes up the History Colorado Center, all located adjacent to one another, now comprise the Civic Center Cultural Complex. New businesses, including a Design District, populate the south end of Broadway. And yes, the light-rail train is finally being extended to Denver International Airport.

We undoubtedly expect larger cities to provide these types of amenities. Of course Denver and Boulder are flush with farmers markets, bike trails, art galleries, libraries, beer and wine tastings, food tours and outdoor movies. Of course Denver and Boulder have super public transportation systems. Of course Denver and Boulder have cultural centers. Of course Denver and Boulder have public art programs.

Public art, Denver, Colo.

It would be impossible to spend any amount of time in either place and not come away with the impression that beyond investing in the kinds of facilities or activities that are meant to draw tourists, these cities embrace the arts for the intrinsic community enrichment they provide.

So, why not hold smaller cities and towns to similar standards? Goshen may not have the same resources as Boulder or Denver—unfortunately, there’s not much that can be done as far as mountains are concerned-—but as I’ve been arguing since my early blog posts, we have made ourselves competitive.

Mt. Quandary, one of Colorado's famous "14ers." (I hiked it before moving back to the Midwest.)

The question becomes, then, what more can we do? How can we build on the expectations that visitors might have about the kind of experience a Midwestern town can provide? Rather than cut back on the Goshen Public Library hours, why not find ways to make it more of a cultural center worth preserving?

(I went to a cooking demo at the Denver Public Library on Saturday titled, “United States of Food: Better Living Through Ignoring Chemistry." If anyone wants an amazing rubbed kale salad with quinoa and feta dressing recipe, consequently, let me know.)

What can we do about improving the public transportation system we have? What about public art programs? Gallery and open studio tours are not a new concept to us but how to ensure that these types of ventures are both supported and sustainable?

I’ve made no secret about the fact that there are specific things I’ve come to Colorado for -- that is, things that Indiana can’t provide, in an effort to recover my creative mojo and re-energize in preparation for the fall semester. That is no reason, however, that Goshen can’t become someone else's piece of heaven while simultaneously enriching the lives of its residents.