Space to Grow

Why Loveland's art scene is bigger than one controversial exhibition.
December 2010

When an enraged Montana woman took a crowbar to satirist Enrique Chagoya’s politically charged portrayal of Jesus at the Loveland Museum Gallery this fall, the city was thrust into the national spotlight for all the wrong reasons. But Loveland’s thriving arts community has reason to believe that the Front Range town will continue to be an artistic hot spot for more substantive reasons.

In September, Loveland scored a major first in Colorado’s art scene: a coveted partnership with Artspace, the nation’s largest nonprofit real estate developer. Within a few years, Artspace hopes to open a $10 to $15 million downtown facility with 45 affordable live/work units for artists and their families, plus exhibition and meeting space. “[Loveland’s] large artist community would love to live and work downtown,” says Wendy Holmes, a senior vice president at Artspace, “which would contribute to the continued development of the downtown core.”

It’s no surprise that Artspace responded to Loveland, where sculptures stand guard on thoroughfares, murals span city blocks, and colorful installations sprout from sidewalk planters. Public art, supported by a city ordinance that sets aside a percentage of construction spending for purchasing art, has also paved the way for tourism: In 2005, Loveland earned the number two ranking in John Villani’s The 100 Best Art Towns in America—trailing only Santa Fe, New Mexico. Creative evolution, including the Artspace vision, has become a priority. “Artspace is an exciting project for us,” says Mike Scholl, Loveland’s senior planner. “It will certainly put us on the map nationally as an artists’ destination.”