The SCFD Arts And Culture Tax—And Popsicle The Polar Bear—Turn 30

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Photo: SCFD Mascot Popsicle The Polar Bear
Popsicle, the SCFD mascot, waves while canvassing at the Denver Art Museum. Don't worry, that's not a real bear. It's a person in a suit.

If you don't know it by its name, you may know it by its mascot: a polar bear named Popsicle.

The Scientific and Cultural Facilities District, or SCFD, funds hundreds of nonprofits across metro Denver, from big institutions like the Denver Zoo and Denver Art Museum, to smaller ones like the Arapahoe Philharmonic and the Broomfield Veterans Memorial Museum.

Thirty years ago, in November 1988, Denver metro voters agreed to tax themselves to ensure their communities would have art and culture. Voters have since renewed the seven-county 0.1 percent sales and use tax multiple times, including most recently in 2016.

Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli, who worked on the initial and subsequent campaigns, and SCFD executive director Deborah Jordy talked to Colorado Matters about the past, present and future of the SCFD tax district.

Just as SCFD marked 30 years, the Colorado Business Committee for the Arts released its latest Economic Activity Study of Denver Metro Culture, reporting a record-high of $1.9 billion in total economic activity generated by metro-area arts.