Denver comedian Jordan Doll started his set at Denver’s McNichols Building Tuesday night by taking in the scene at the inaugural Stompin’ Ground Games.
“It’s a very library atmosphere going on,” he said to a crowd of about 100 people. “I could just do a reading ... from a completely empty book.”
The remarks, while tongue-in-cheek, hinted at the building’s history and the theme of the night: to share significant yet little known stories of Denver’s Civic Center Park. And those behind the Stompin' Ground Games hope to connect residents to more neighborhoods -- particularly ones like Globeville, which are at the center of development debates.
Founder Evan Weissman, who also directs the civic health club Warm Cookies of the Revolution, will take the monthly event to 11 other neighborhoods starting in October.
“We have to know these stories, where we’ve been, the struggles and victories of the past, and what the culture is now, how it is changing, and who has a say in what the future is going to be like,” Weissman said. “We want to create a space where diverse groups of people can come and strengthen bonds and to get people who typically aren’t engaged in civic issues to get involved.”
The event also serves as a hyper-local showcase for artistic talent. Tuesday’s event featured live painting, music and spoken word poetry amid presentations on topics like Denver’s potential as a more bike-friendly city and past demonstrations for both immigrant and disability rights.
Big changes around the city
The McNichols Building in Civic Center was Denver’s first constructed public library. It reopened in 2012 to house arts and cultural events after a major restoration. Built in 1909, the building signaled a big shift for the Evans Addition subdivision, an area now known as the Golden Triangle neighborhood.
“In the 1890s and early 1900s, it was ground zero for this first wave of change,” History Colorado tour director Shawn Snow said. “It was on the outskirts of Denver, while Larimer Square was the center.”
Snow says the city used eminent domain to raze residences and other buildings to develop Civic Center Park.
“Right now in Denver, demographics are shifting, economics are shifting,” Snow said. “It’s happened before, and Civic Center was a prime piece of that.”
Capitol Hill resident Emily Przekwas wants more bike lanes in her neighborhood, a thought she shared on a big whiteboard Tuesday night. Her comment joined various suggestions by other attendees.
Organizers of the Stompin’ Ground Games will use these ideas to inform where the event will go and other activities it will incorporate.
“It’s important because it comes down to quality of life,” Przekwas, a Denver native, said.
“People are living in these isolated, cold, Styrofoam lives. So this is a way to say let’s be together.”