By Mary Lowers

At a luncheon banquet attended by more than 700 people in Denver March 9, the Colorado Business Committee for the Arts (CBCA) presented the annual Business for the Arts Awards. The awards honor companies and individuals for their exemplary partnerships and engagement with the arts. Our own Crestone Mercantile was selected to receive the Philanthropy Award competing with US Bank the fifth largest bank in the country. This award honors exemplary corporate citizenship and generosity to arts, cultural projects and organizations. Crestone Mercantile was described at the presentation as, “a major philanthropic player in this rural community and actively involved in their burgeoning creative district.” The Crestone Creative District (CCD) is an organization supporting creative arts in our community.

This was the first time a Valley business has won the statewide award. Keynote Speaker at the awards event, Jane Chu from the National Endowment of the Arts pointed out, “Our lives, communities and businesses are richer and stronger when they’re integrated with the arts as shown by these organizations and individuals we honor here today.”

The family based Mercantile businesses include the hardware, the grocery, the laundry mat and Bob’s Diner. According to Elaine Johnson McDowell, “this family based business” sees “giving as a part of living, giving back to the community that’s supporting you.” The Mercantile’s generous support can be seen year round as they give to Crestone Performances/ Crestone Music Festival, Winterfest and our long standing 4th of July celebration among other things. These events are part of what keeps us going as a community. Local businesses of course provide the tax base that keeps our little burg ticking. The Mercantile crew sees the symbiotic relationship between customers supporting business and business in turn supporting the community who are its customers.

The CCD was instrumental in the nomination of the Mercantile for this honor. Kairina Danforth, Crestone Mayor and President and Executive Director of the CCD, told me the nomination of the Mercantile was unanimously supported by the CCD steering committee and directors. She said, “We are so honored to be able to nominate the Crestone Mercantile for this award, a business that has given to the arts so readily, so often, in so many ways, never asking for anything in return.” Crestonian and CCD member, Kim Malville, said in a letter supporting the nomination, “I know of no business that has been as generous and altruistic in supporting and encouraging growth in the arts and culture in its community as the Crestone Mercantile.”

CBCA Executive Director, Deborah Jordy addressing attendees said, “The social and financial impact of the arts on our region is significant. Today we acknowledge businesses and individuals who work to support this thriving sector of the Colorado economy. The winners and finalists demonstrate a strong commitment to philanthropy and service.” In addition to the Philanthropy Award acknowledgement and awards were given for: Impact Award, John Madden, JR Leadership Award, Create Award, and the Next Wave Leadership Award. There were fifteen finalists for these honors. Winners were presented with original digital ink jet photograph by Eric Anderman.