Using Travel to Change the World

Social Causes

Traveling for a holiday, engaging with a new culture and diving into the relics of the town is such an adventure. Travel fills the spirit, delights the soul and broadens the mind. Some people travel once a year to have an experience. Some travel once a month for work. Some make a lifestyle of travel by being a digital nomad. No matter the circumstance, when you go you are given the opportunity to change the world.

According to the global travel and tourism statistics, “The travel and tourism industry is one of the world’s largest industries with a global economic contribution (direct, indirect and induced) of over 7.6 trillion U.S. dollars in 2016. The direct economic impact of the industry, including accommodation, transportation, entertainment, and attractions, was approximately 2.3 trillion U.S. dollars that year. Some countries, such as France and the United States, are consistently popular tourism destinations, but other, less well-known countries are quickly emerging to reap the economic benefits of the industry.”

There are socially conscious organizations and companies that give back to communities they visit which builds awareness globally and unites the world in a way that is positive and strengthens the broader outreach of a destination location.

Travel is a luxury for so many. A journey is a place but when you land the people who live there also have an opportunity to learn about you. You can enrich people who may never even leave their hometowns just by being open to giving back and sharing your story. The vulnerability can bridge the gap, build trust, and unite connections.

Traverse Journeys is just one company that is making an impact in the sustainable ecotourism space. Every trip generates a donation of 5% of sales to the community partner. The benefits are money stays within the community not only through the employment provided through tourism but also by supporting local organizations that are working hard to enhance conservation, support community healthcare, mitigate homelessness, provide education, create job opportunities and engage in myriad other social and environmental causes.

Join Traverse on New Zealand Fantasy in November. Project Jonah is their local registered charity partner. Project Jonah believes marine mammals desperately need our help. Their vision is to create a world where these animals are respected and protected.

If traveling changes your life so much, why not make an impact on others when you travel?

New Zealand offers on American Airlines until September 14, 2018.

Sign up using CW‘ in the discount code field for $100 off with Traverse Journey.


Womxn in Music Rising Up In Fort Collins

Fort Collins Music, Social Causes

An incredibly strong and talented group of people formed a movement in the Fort Collins community on Sept.10, 2017. The first Womxn Up event happened at the Music District. This brunch and mild-meld opened the dialogue for the future of female-centered events in the community.



One of the small group topics at the Womxn Up Brunch. Photo by the Music District


The spelling ‘womxn’ is pronounced women and is used to promote intersectionality and show solidarity with LGBTQQIA, racial, ethnic, and other systmically maginalized communities.

Womxn Up brought together musicians, music business owners, tech-production creatives, and anyone interested in shaping womxn in music in Northern Colorado. They branched out into small groups to discuss their focused topics then convened as a large group.



Musician Danielle Ate the Sandwich, Mishawaka Owner Dani Grant and Cohere Bandwith Owner Angel Meakins Kwiatkowski present Music Entrepreneurship. Photo by the Music District


The themes discussed intertwined proving that this group, and the womxn in the industry, are often struggling with the same issues. The group presented solutions collectively and discussed ways to make changes. This is a process that will take a long time. The group aims to introduce new methods to deal with the challenges and start the conversation.

There is much work to be done to merge the ideas with actions. This group will help with the organization of that. There are some innovative and fun things that are emerging out of the first meeting.

Anyone interested in joining the group should email Kebrina Chirdon: <>.


Some of the members of the group pose for a funny photo. Photo by the Music District




Changing the World One Bicycle at a Time

photography, Social Causes

The headquarters of World Bicycle Relief (WBR) is small and humble. The staff is united like a family. We toured the facility to see where the production happens. Our organization, Chooda, has been donating to WBR for several years. It is clear that our generous donations have made an impact.

WBR uses donations and sales to donate bicycles to kids in rural Africa. They train the mechanics to build, maintain, and ride the bike safely. Each mechanic has a school they serve. They are at the school every week taking care of the bicycles and checking in on the participants. The workers can stay the life of the program.

“With a Buffalo Bicycle student attendance increases up to 28%”



Our guide through the WBR headquarters. Photo by Argento Studios


The General Manager, Brian, tells us a story about a girl he ran into at the grocery store. She recognized him from the bike donation. The recipient had been gifted a bike from the program. The bike came at a time when she wasn’t sure she had the strength to continue going to school. Because of the bicycle, she was able to complete school and start a full-time job. She was so proud and was still using the bike. Every story we heard had a similar outcome.



In rural Africa, the modes of transport are ox and cart or bicycle. Photo by Argento Studios


A bike is the way to school, work, and so much more for someone in rural Africa.  The rural roads are scattered with children running free and happy. The modes of transport are ox and cart and a bicycle. Bikes will be loaded with charcoal to sell, or the goods picked up from the local market and driven excessive miles to their prospective location. Bikes increase survival and allow for someone to travel long distances in shorter times. Children who live far from school face the danger of fatigue if walking so far. The donor program gives these children a future and opportunity to succeed.

The Chooda team had the opportunity to tour the headquarters and build bikes with the crew. In addition to building the bikes, it was a reminder we took as we rode 350 miles across Zambia. Each time we spotted a child or an adult on a bike we knew their life had been changed because of it.





Make More Art Call for Contributors

Everything Can Be Art, Social Causes

Open Streets is a nationally recognized day in the street without cars. It is located from Overland Park to S. Shields St, including Pleasant Valley Rd., Clearview Ave., Castlerock Dr., and Springfield Dr in Fort Collins. The celebration includes food trucks, live music, local artists. Learn about local businesses and organizations on the streets of Fort Collins. A highlight of the day will be the Make More Art Battle. 60 artist will participate in an epic art thrown down. Create Places, a nonprofit which advocates for Artist in Fort Collins, is the producer of Open Streets Battle.

The Artist Call

This is a call for the artist in the community who like to work spontaneously. Join a live celebration of art in the community of Fort Collins. Participants can be any age. All you need to bring is a tube of paint and a dream. There will be creative juices flowing all around for inspiration.

There is an easy sign-up form. Be a part of a national movement and prove that art is a viable part of the Fort Collins Community.

The Battle

Artist will gather in the streets at 10 am and pick a theme from a hat. Each artist will have 30 minutes to reflect on the topic. If an artist wants a redraw, they can contribute $1 in a cup to veto the theme. There is a time limit of 90 minutes to paint a 24×24 art piece using black and white paint provided by Create Places.

The creator may bring one one additional acrylic color to use. This paint will be contributed to the collective and used only once by the artist. After each round, the paint goes into a bag; each continuing series will have a blind draw

The Format

There are three rounds each formatted the same. There are judges on hand to choose the winners, encourage the artist, and feed compliments to the participants. Completed artwork will be displayed and for sale during National Arts & Humanities Month in October (Venue/Dates TBA). All proceeds from the sale of work will go to the artist who created it.


If you would like to support the battle and more art related events, give a tax deductible donation here:


Make more art. Make It local.Make the community colorful.

Vinyl record being scratched

Open Beats in the Streets of Fort Collins

Around town, Fort Collins Music, Social Causes


Create Places, an artist-organized economic and workforce development nonprofit, is hosting Open Beats on September 17, 2017, from 11:00am-2:00 pm. The event is held at the Overland Park shade shelter in Fort Collins, CO. Local electronic artist Full Metal, Kind Dub and Two ScoopS will be on hand to guide the crowd through an ultimate digital music experience.


Two Scoops, Cody KindDub, Full Metal DJ and Corey KindDub at the Music District. Photo by Argento Studios.

All ages are invited to come and experience the creation of electronic music, learn to scratch like a DJ, and create live hip hop beats. All the equipment will be set up, and the artist will demonstrate techniques. Open Streets shows how important this type of music is in today’s industry. Fort Collins music scene has been invaluable in filling the void for the hip hop and DJ producers.

Diego Felix, AKA Full Metal DJ:


Full Metal DJ on the rooftop of the Music District. Photo by Argento Studios

Diego Felix, AKA Full Metal DJ, is a DJ, turntablist, and scratch expert.  He battles and competes routines against other DJ’s and is determined to win a championship this year. He started scratching when he wanted to get into music and hadn’t learned a “traditional” instrument. He got a turntable and some vinyl and learned the technique of scratching.

Diego’s mission is to use music to bring the community together. He started an open decks scratch session, Scratch Lab, at the Art Lab in Fort Collins. It is essentially an open mic for DJ’s open to all ages and abilities. It has brought together many turntablist, DJs, and electronic artist by creating this event.  Scratch Lab happens the second Monday of every month starting in October. Everyone who wants to touch a turntable and scratch a record gets an opportunity. Look to build friendships, connections partnership, and skills at the Lab.

Full Metal teaches private lessons at the Music District. He and Two Scoops just held a DJ 101 course of 6 weeks teaching the basics of mixing and scratching.

Full Metal DJ first instrument was the turntable. He talks about how he got started:

“Thinking about when I wanted to get into music, feeling like I couldn’t, that I was never going to learn an instrument, that’s where I found my motivation to bring scratching to the community.” ~Full Metal DJ

Cody Kind Dub Marsden :


Cody KindDub Marsden on the rooftop of the Music District. Photo by Argento Studios

Cody Marsden of Kind Dub is a guitarist, DJ, and a videographer. His mission is to be a mentor and an example to youth who want to pursue hip hop. He is increasing accessibility to hip hop education.

Cody wants to give kids access to a set of tools to create beats live and start them as early as they have an interest. He seeks to create an environment that is fun and sparks an interest in a child learning music. His band, Kind Dub, hosts an open hip hop session at Colorado room every other Thursday called Colorado Come Up. This event is an all age show for anyone interested in Hip hop. He wants to break down the barriers and preconceived notions of hip hop and demonstrate its versatility in modern music.

Kind Dub is an excellent example of a Musicprenuer. The group performs regularly, supports the community, and has a production company.

Cody shared his views on the digital era of music:

“Live instrumentation or digital instrumentation it doesn’t matter as long as you are having fun creating music and having a good time with it. At the end of the day, it is going to put a smile on your face.” ~Cody Kind Dub Marsden

Mike McTernan, AKA Two ScoopS:


Two Scoops on the rooftop of the Music District. Photo by Argento Studios

Mike McTernan, AKA Two ScoopS, is a producer and a DJ. He teaches the craft of digital production at the Music District and is involved in the digital music production scene in Northern Colorado. ScoopS values the importance of the technique and the fundamentals. He believes digital music is the foundation of most modern music. He focuses on the live access to digital music and blending genres and analog turntables multiple areas of digital music. He loves that the technology is evolving and combining analog instruments with digital.

Mike wants to give access to anyone interested in becoming a DJ. He wants it to be easy and accessible to the Fort Collins community. He has mastered his craft and wants to show the world that digital music production is the future of music creation.

Two Scoops expresses the beauty of his work:

“The beauty of electronically made music breaks boundaries if you are a band. A big deal is to pull from multiple genres. Different techniques incorporated into the craft of electronic music.” ~Two ScoopS

Two Scoops teaches private lessons at the Music District and is very involved in the electronic music scene across the Front Range. Two ScoopS host and curates a monthly electronic night at The Speakeasy at The Whiskey in Old Town, Fort Collins. It features bigger Colorado acts in an intimate setting. It happens every first Friday. The next show is on October 6th and will feature Chando, Golden Ghost, and 92 degrees.

The three extraordinary musicians will be on hand for demos, assistance and educating the community on their musical arts. There isn’t a more genuine, kind group of artist, that are willing to teach the youth, around. This is the first step to becoming a DJ in the Open Streets.


Create Places First Friday Creative Relief Fund

Everything Can Be Art, Fort Collins Music, Social Causes


On First Friday, 9/1/2017, Create Places of Fort Collins is launching a call for donations. Any musician or artist that donates portions of their sales to the relief efforts of Harvey Hurricane in Houston will be matched dollar for dollar for up to $1000. The donations can be in the form of ticket sales, merchandise sales, fundraiser shows or any profitable contribution. This initiative encourages local grassroots philanthropy from artist and creatives in Fort Collins.

Create Places is an artist-organized economic and workforce development nonprofit established in 2014, that aims increase arts-related employment in Northern Colorado. Andrew Schneider is the visionary behind Create Places. He advocates for other organizations within the community to participate in a drive to match donations.

Andrew says,

“this match is to support, encourage, and celebrate those grassroots efforts as our signal of a music community doing well and doing good.”

A statewide drive created by Colorado musicians and media was launched to raise ONE MILLION DOLLARS to aid the working musicians affected by the flooding in TX. September 15 is a Kick off meeting for anyone wanting to get involved.

To learn more about the musician match from Create Places email Andrew:



Grassroot Soccer Zambia Harnesses the Power of Soccer to Educate

Social Causes

Grassroot Soccer-Zambia is an NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) in Lusaka, Zambia that educates youth about positive choices while using the power of sport. The messages learned in soccer can translate over to other areas of the children’s lives. Using the power of soccer to make a change they can reduce HIV dramatically in the community. HIV is 100% preventable, and Grassroot Soccer teaches the youth how.

In just one year they were able to graduate 10,966 youths and test 6,817. They reached over 12,650 participants directly through the program.

The organization aims to reach youth ages 13-15. They run after school soccer skillz clinics that are spread over 12 sessions. They provide support and encouragement, while discussing healthy choices and positive behaviors. They host a community day and provide free testing during a tournament for members of the community and the youth.

Their mission supports:

  • Avoiding Drugs & Alcohol
  • Keeping Girls in School
  • Engaging In Physical Fitness
  • Mental Health
  • Employability
  • Financial Literacy

The leaders go through a two-year development program to prepare for this role. They are making education and testing fun while fostering an atmosphere to learn about HIV positive choices. This reduces the stigma around the disease and opens lines of communication. The youth are empowered to discuss their personal struggles or ask questions within this environment. The organization has seen massive results from this model.

GRS Zambia’s partnerships with Young Women Christian Association (YWCA), Zambart, Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia (CIDRZ) and various government line Ministries to deliver high-quality adolescent health interventions.

This year, Bike Zambia will be trying to raise $5,000 for this group to host a soccer tournament in Livingstone at the end the trip.

If you want to support the GRS mission here is a breakdown of service cost:

$8 = 1 adolescent to attend an after-school program and become empowered with sexual reproductive health and rights knowledge

$15 = 1 adolescent to be HIV tested, and if found positive, to be linked to services

$33 = 1 HIV+ adolescent to receive ongoing treatment and services, acquiring access to treatment and learning life skills, which help them, remain in and adhere to a treatment plan

If you feel compelled to give, Donate Here

Learn More About Grassroot Soccer: Website · Facebook · Twitter · Instagram

Bike Zambia 6: Ending HIV/AIDS, Empowering Women, and Girls in Zambia

Social Causes

Bike Zambia is a 350+ bike ride across Africa with a mission to change the world. Bike Zambia is in its sixth year and has seen an incredible change in the communities they visit annually.  When given access to a reliable mode of transport, a family is given access to education, the ability to acquire healthcare, and a tool to trade goods or services.  A simple gift of a bicycle changes an impoverished family into an empowered one.  Solid transportation has a socioeconomic impact and increases the overall quality of life.  Wheels can strengthen a person’s world that has to work so hard every day just to survive.

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“Zambia is one of Africa’s poorest countries with one of the highest rates of HIV infection. 1 in 8 adults have HIV infections and 64 percent of the total population lives below the poverty line, rising to 80 percent in rural areas. Life expectancy is just 58.1 years, however, this is a considerable increase from the 2012 life expectancy of 49.4 years, partly thanks to improved access to antiretroviral treatments.”

Participants of the ride raise $4000, all of which is given to 3 nonprofit beneficiaries. The riders handle their own transportation cost to and from ZambiaChooda, lead by a Board of Directors that have united efforts to raise over $650,000 in five years for organizations working in HIV/AIDS, poverty, and women’s empowerment, organizes the ride.

Chooda is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with a vision of personal transformation and global social change. Chooda’s mission is to create transformative experiences for its participants while providing much-needed resources abroad. At Chooda, we believe that by advocating for social justice in the world and by contributing a part of ourselves in service to others, we evolve.”

The beneficiaries of the rider’s funds are:

  •  World Bicycle Relief (WBR) mobilizes people through the power of bicycles by helping people conquer the challenge of distance to access education, healthcare, get goods or offer services more easily.
  • Grassroot Soccer-Zambia is an organization that uses the power of soccer to educate, inspire, and mobilizes communities to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS.
  • Zambia Health Education and Communication Trust (ZHECT) fight HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases through a multifaceted approach, providing access to health services, education, and also working on community approaches through advocacy and capacity building.

The ride takes place from June 29—July 9, 2017 (arrival in Lusaka, Zambia on June 29th departure from Livingstone, Zambia). The ride includes a visit to World Bicycle Relief HQs in Lusaka to build Buffalo Bicycles and distribute to beneficiaries.

“Bike Zambia is the flagship program of 501(C)3 nonprofit Chooda and donations are tax-deductible. If you wish to donate by mail, please make donation checks payable to “Chooda” and mail to 5851 Morpeth St, Oakland, CA 94618. If you would like your donation to be credited to a specific rider, please be sure to note the rider’s name in the check memo line.”

The ride will have media support this year to document the journey, the community, the riders and the beneficiaries. It is an important story that the world should know. In efforts to support this Argento Studios will be a rider using multimedia production to create the story.

Donate Here To Support Argento Studios on the Ride

Children Battling Critical Illness Get the Gift of Music

Everything Can Be Art, Social Causes

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Clark Hodge is the Executive Director of Chase the Music. Chase the Music has original music composed and performed for kids battling critical conditions. Hodge spent the majority of his life working in High Tech. Now Clark spends his day’s enriching lives through music with his non-profit.

Five years ago Clark met a little girl diagnosed with Leukemia and his world view was altered dramatically. He wanted to comfort her in some way. He thought a stuffed animal might do the trick. When a child is sick, they get dozens of soft teddy bears.  Clark realized the gift he wanted to give was music.

He connected the Colorado Symphony and Orchestra with the little girl, and together they wrote a song. A unique event held in her honor served as the unveiling of the song with close friends and family in attendance.

That little girl was Lauren. She told Hodge:

“Clark, I’m never going to stop smiling.” – Lauren, age 5, Leukemia

It changed Lauren’s life to have the opportunity to compose her own piece of music. It also moved Clark so deeply that he started the non-profit that pairs composers with critically ill children. He hopes to help many more children like Lauren.

Chase the Music is expanding its model and growing so that it will go beyond Clark’s circle. This summer a pilot program is launching in another country.

Music offers a special kind of healing. According to Cancer Research in the UK,

“Some studies show that music therapy can help children with cancer to cope, by encouraging them to cooperate and communicate.”

Music can alter a mood, evoke a feeling, serve as a reminder of a particular time, or just be a vehicle for peace. Music is a gift that truly keeps on giving for a lifetime.

“Music therapy can help people with cancer improve their quality of life. It can also help to reduce some cancer symptoms, and side effects of treatment.” –Cancer Research UK

Not only does the music touch the child and the family but also the artist is impacted. The audience fills the room with love for the child at the event. The whole process is healing and makes the child feel like a rock star. The event includes the family as a whole, knowing they are all going through a very traumatic experience. There is food, drink, and a presentation that honors the child in the critical condition.It is a true celebration of life. These have been very special moments to previous recipients.

To learn more about the organization or to get involved visit Chase the Music.


The Ghost Ship Digital Compilation and Fundraiser at Downtown Artery

Everything Can Be Art, Social Causes


DJ Anna and Echo live in Fort Collins but felt very connected to the Ghost Ship devastation that happened in Oakland. They knew that the community of Fort Collins could do more than contribute worry. They joined forces with the Downtown Artery and created the Ghost Ship Fundraiser.


The Fundraiser was a concert that took place on 1/21/2017 featuring 3 local acts:


The Ugly Architect

Maxwell Hughes

Madelyn Burhs

In addition, one national touring act Tristen.

Tristen is set to launch Nat Geo at the Sundance Film Festival.

They also recorded a 10-track compilation for purchase. This has only Fort Collins recording artist. All proceeds benefit the Ghost Ship Fund.

So far they have had great success with the support of the local community. Anna realizes the value of a DIY network of artist and how powerful it can be to support one another.

If you feel compelled to help in any way, please visit the links below.

You can download the album here: Fort Collins Friends Comp for the Victims at the Ghost Ship

Want to learn more about the fund? Click here:Relief, Recovery, and Resiliency Fund for Oakland Fire








Laura Burhenn of Mynabirds teaches about protest songs at the Music District

Everything Can Be Art, Social Causes

featuredShout It Out

Laura Burhenn is a new revolutionist. She examines the question:
“What does a revolution look like today, and what are we fighting for?”
Laura presented her version of protest through song at the Music District  workshop, “Shout it Out,” in Fort Collins, CO on November 22, 2016. She speaks of the threads of change in her TED Talk and through her band the Mynabirds.

She is accustom to the spotlight and chooses to use it to make a difference in this world. Laura is using her voice through creative projects in an attempt to help heal the nation. She hopes to see a significant shift occurring in thought leaders, as the country experiences this division. The idea is to use art as a powerful form of protest. Laura explained how she devoted her voice to protest in Under the Radar Magazine interview in September of 2012.

“Shout it Out,” was an open dialogue of writing, reflecting, and sharing.  Laura expressed hopeful intentions of it being a refuge for the artist who was contemplating where to put their emotions.

Participants had moments to reflect on what it means to them to protest through song and write about it. Everyone shared what they wrote with the group. Attendees were from places as far as South Africa who spoke of protest songs from around the globe. In South Africa,  some of the most turbulent times brought people together singing in pubs, enjoying songs of protest because they could not openly protest the government. There is a beauty in people gathering for music in times of trouble and strife.

There was a feeling of decompression in the room from the most recent election in almost every piece of writing. Wide age ranges brought viewpoints from many revolutions that have happened for centuries. The perspectives were all very different, yet the willingness to share was outpouring.


A slide in the presentation that prompted a great discussion

Music has been a form of protest throughout the ages. Music is a mechanism that artist use to evoke emotion or propel change. There is a movement rising in the arts community that is using art to protest the transitional state of the nation.

The history of protest songs is rich. As early as the 1900’s, songs were a form of protest.  In the days of slave trading, a protest song was more of an allegory for the present status of the slaves. Sometimes the songs were code although spiritual in nature. The Library of Congress tells the story of the African American Spirituals,  “Because the Underground Railroad of the mid- nineteenth century used terminology from railroads as a secret language for assisting slaves to freedom, it is often speculated that songs like I got my ticket may have been a code for escape.”

In the 1960’s the song “Dancing in the Streets” was released just as the Vietnam War escalated. It became “a call to arms” song, for protesters. Time happens and the world ages, but it is clear that music is the vehicle of peace.

In the most recent election, “30 Days and 30 Songs,” was released on an Independent Website. Modern Day artist wrote songs to protest Trump. To learn more listen to the Spotify playlist.


Music’s role in the public good: Colorado Music Strategy

Everything Can Be Art, Fort Collins Music, Social Causes

“Music as a business” is a unique concept. Our culture often romanticizes the view of the struggling artist. A creative may struggle their entire life, chasing their passions, never quite making ends meet. A successful musician is a bit of a fallacy in our society. A movement is born to provide proactive solutions and change the industry standards.


That movement is The Colorado Music Strategy. The Bohemian Foundation and The Colorado Creative Industries are spearheading the plan. Fundamentally, this is an economic plan that infuses over $200,000 through music as a business development. Creatively, this empowers the music industry with resources such as funding opportunities, networking with national industry partners, music licensing, music for film and TV, and thought sharing opportunities with like-minded businesses and industry leaders.


The Bohemian Foundation contributed $75,000 to the strategy. Colorado Creative Industry matched that grant with equal funds. Also, there is a separate award called the Music Event Fund that is available for live performances throughout the Front Range. Gov. John Hickenlooper appointed Shawn King of Devotchka as the official Music Ambassador who will link other communities who are seeking the Colorado Sound in film, commercials, and other lucrative opportunities.

The Music District’s Jesse Elliott, who is a lifetime accomplished musician and Bohemian’s Bryce Merrill, lifetime musician and an arts research and cultural policy scholar, dreamed up this partnership after years of devoting their lives to the cause and worked aggressively to make it come to fruition. This concept is rooted in education for the musician but encompasses a mentorship-like role to help music as a business be profitable.



Music District is a separate entity created by Bohemian Foundation with a different mission that aligns with the strategy; The Music District will be the defacto home to the strategy. The Music District will be the “practical laboratory,”

Jesse Elliott, Director, states:

“ The strategy has even more physical and geographical locations, but it will be the central heart.”

 According to The Colorado Creative Industries:

“Colorado’s music industry currently, contributes 16,300 music-based jobs to the state’s economy and generates $1.8 billion in annual revenue. The state’s music economy has outperformed the nation as a whole, and job growth in live music has grown by 70 percent in the past five years. Colorado is a global destination for music festivals, and our musicians play to fans just about everywhere in the world.”


This plan can disrupt at the local level to strengthen musicians, at the state level to boost the economy, and the national level to build bridges to the Colorado Sound. The Strategy acts as a model for other states seeking ways to boost their economy.

Although the interest seems quite economical on the outside, the root of the strategy is:

What is music’s role in the public good?

 National Strategies exist around Music Cities; this envelopes states, cities, and foundations that focus on industry and community. 

Who else is doing this? Austin, Seattle, Tennessee, Australia and Canada to name a few.

The Colorado Strategy does have foundational components that mirror some of these models. What makes Co Music strategy unique?  Its ability to connect philanthropy, government, nonprofit and for profit, parties all at the same table.

The Colorado Strategy has a very broad approach that is:

What does music do that is for the vast good of humanity?


The Music Ecosystem Colorado is building captures the idea of a “music city”, amplified.

The transformative nature of the strategy is thinking beyond just disrupting the music model but rather a holistic approach to building an “ecosystem” that:

  • Supports the creative with resources
  • Lifts the creative up through mentorship
  • Enriches Economic development
  • Embodies social good
  • Creates social change 
  • Induces a better quality of life


A few things are at the heart of it as Elliott says,

“ To make it possible for musicians to make a living, to make it possible for small businesses related to music,  for non-profits related to music, all to make a living. On the other end of it, to then make it possible for those things to do a bigger and greater public good because they can make a living. A lot of the conversation is, What can entities government or industry do for musicians and music business? Then the follow-up is, what can musicians and music business do for the larger public good?”

 The strategy takes a deep look at how communities are symbiotic with the end goals that maybe don’t have anything to do with music. The outcomes support people who work in Colorado to be able to sustain a living as middle-class workers, in addition to reaching anyone connected to the music industry.



Merrill explains his goal as:

“The big picture for me is general health and well-being and sustainability of the state. Music for me is my little path. I have been playing music for 26 years, married to a musician, I am always hesitant to let music be too precious. It is critical, it is vital, this is absolutely about music, but it is in servicing a bigger picture.”


Fort Collins comes in as one of the best places to live for Tech, Families, Cycling, and Craft Beer. Although the strategy will live here, the reach will be statewide, national and international. Changing the personas of an artist and helping educate people how creatives enrich society can put Fort Collins on a mutual interest list one day.

Teaching youth that creative careers are an option. Allowing the community to see just how much they have touched my music every day and the power of its reach goes beyond just something on the radio.

This plan will give music a sector of the community that is lucrative, enriching for the soul and has a cyclical effect for the nation. Music is an art. Music is a feeling. Now Music can be a business. Music can be a career. Music can change the world and the communities people live, play and work in.




If you want to learn more about what other states are doing, the American for the Arts has a state-by-state guide.






infographic on the impact of creative communities

The Economic Impact of Colorado Creative Industries

Everything Can Be Art, Fort Collins Music, Social Causes


Colorado Governor Hickenlooper passed the HB11-1031 bill in 2011. This bill focuses on the conception of more Creative Districts in Colorado. A Creative District is an enterprise that adds economic value to a community through creative entrepreneurship. The Office of Economic Development’s initiative states:

“We have one of the only programs in place to develop affordable housing and work space, including commercial space, for artists and arts organizations in rural communities. We’re also providing access to grant funding and mentorship opportunities, and ensuring that more art finds its way into public spaces.”

This bill will attract other creatives to the community,  and provide a richer culture investing in the arts.

In 2014, a loan was created to supported this 2011 bill, 


What this means is, the state of Colorado is willing to fund creative business growth throughout the state. They value that so many visionaries live here.  The program also offers support for marketing, social media, access to mentors, and education. Additional sources of financing are available if the  creative projects exceed the original state grant.

This economic shift is lucrative and beneficial for people that work in Design, Literary and Publishing, Film and Media, Performing Arts, Visual Arts and Crafts and Heritage. There is also a significant crossover into other fields such as Crafts and artisan enterprises, tourism, information technology, and outdoor recreation. The pay scale for a creative is above average for the state median wage.

Fort Collins went through the application process that started in April of 2016 and became  Full Creative District Status in Oct. 2016. The City has formed a Creative District and is one of 13 across the state. The Bohemian Foundation built a campus for musicians called the Music District. Fort Collins is putting plans in place now also to reap the benefits and become a stronger, creative community that values art and artist from all mediums. The Bohemian Foundation became a public partner and is supporting the Colorado Music Strategy,  a strategic plan to garner music as a medium for economic growth in Northern Colorado.

There are coordination and collaboration between the state, the city, and the non-profit sector. Any city with the district status will be booming with artist and resources to support their work. Already the state has seen positive economic growth because of the Creative Districts.

Watering the West: Funding the Documentary

Everything Can Be Art, Social Causes

Community Funded Campaign

Shari Due and Mona Masser are the founders of Be Reel Parthena, a Film and Video Production company in Fort Collins, CO. They just launched a Community Funded Campaign for “Watering the West: The Story of the Cache la Poudre River.” This project is in pre-production but needs financial backing to become a reality.  Be Reel have set a 30-day campaign to raise $63,000 to fund the documentary. They are hoping to get the local community behind this project and expand their production team.

There is a significant war on water rights in Colorado, and this film aims to show who is battling.

According to Be Reel,

“Municipalities, oil companies, beer brewers, and recreational interests compete to buy farms with water rights and convert those rights to new uses in water court. This keeps Colorado’s numerous water lawyers in business. “It’s not the farmer that can afford to buy water in this state anymore,” says Brian Werner, Northern Water Conservancy District. Some say Colorado’s 150-year-old system of allocating water by seniority is outdated as every drop of precipitation is owned by someone, resulting in bidding wars.”

The Itemized Budget is below. The objective is not to make millions of dollars but to shed light on a pressing concern within the state of Colorado.




Be Reel Productions has one documentary under their belt, Desplazado, a gentrification film. It took two years to make and includes an animated art history of Hispanic settlement in Fort Collins. They are hoping the experience will bring insight into the production, budget, and distribution of their sophomore film. These issues are relevant to our community, but they offer value to the rest of the world as well.

In the shifts and the transitions our community is facing today, the growth plan and the becoming a creative arts community, there are underlying issues that occur that are not mainstream. The water that flows from our river feeds the whole United States. The culture that has built our town gave us the opportunity to be so nimble. With great growth comes great responsibility. It is all a process synced together. Be Reel acknowledges the creative opportunity this transition will give them. The story they tell in both films brings light to simple things that may go under the radar.

There are many ways to support beyond just giving money. Be a spokesperson. Tell a friend. Share the stories Be Reel is telling. Filmmaking is an art. The craft is the story.

Within the process, they bring together a collection of creatives from every medium. Pat them on the back and applaud their unique vision.

To fund this project and support local film click here: Community Funded

Arts Initiative in the North Fort

Everything Can Be Art, Social Causes

Music Creates Community is the topic of discussion, and three organizations have come together to build the case: The City of Fort Collins, Create Places, and Youth Art Connections. The very first initiative was presented at lunch and learn event at the Music District on September 28, 2016.

This new arts initiative has been born from a collaboration between Ann Denny of YAC and Andrew Schnider of Create places. Ann has a growing organization in Canada that has proven results to bring change into these communities that may be invisible. As Ann puts it she, “lends out my white privilege” to those people who may not be able to get a seat before the decision makers. Her strong views and appreciation for the art of diverse communities have been rewarded and changed the ecosystem in Canada. She hopes to help the North Fort become a thriving arts community that empowers the youth to become leaders in their neighborhoods and even out into the world.

Andrew Schnider has been a staple in the Fort Collins creative scene. He is a filmmaker and a true visionary. Schnider is the fuel behind the new formed create spaces, and he is a residence of the north fort. He hopes to make his neighborhood versatile and robust creatively. He wants to see growth and change but also showcase the diversity that lives here. Fort Collins needs to pull out the diverse nations that live here and allow them to shine. We easily have 98 nationalities that live here but often they go unnoticed.

Fort Collins is a creative town bustling with artist and musicians. Public initiatives foster pianos about town, independent collaborations, art in public places, and live music on every corner as well as the newly developed Music District envisioned by Bohemian Nights, the New West Fest, the expansion of the old town square, and city streets. Just this year Fort Collins was awarded a formal “Creative District.”

There are areas of town that don’t quite fit in, yet they have existed as long as the town has. These areas may be forgotten, or that quickly may be swallowed up by gentrification of this cool, eclectic community. If not given the opportunity to shine creatively.

The City of Fort Collins has funding to support initiatives like this and even a pilot program that will highlight individual neighborhoods. They see great value in the small community hubs around town and want to be a financial resource for building the arts and creativity in Fort Collins.

This initiative will be a revitalization for the North Fort and provide new opportunities and new career paths. The arts are important to the community. This program can shed light on how creative arts can be very lucrative financially for individuals if given the right tools needed for success.