It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of J. Joe Craft, a beloved teacher and creative force within the DPS community. Joe was an innovative leader in DPS for over 50 years, serving both as a teacher of Drama and Speech, and as a passionate advocate for the arts in public education.
Joe was known for his deep commitment to the arts and arts education, his ability to create forms of connection through high-level instruction, his relentlessness in making the arts and culture a ubiquitous experience for all of DPS and the larger Denver community, and for his love of Shakespeare and the power of language to positively affect our lives.
Joe founded the DPS Shakespeare Festival in 1984, and it grew to become the largest festival of its kind in the nation. An all-encompassing annual festival experience, the DPS Shakespeare Festival included up to 5,000 DPS students performing an array of 400 short scenes, dances, soliloquies, madrigals and sonnets on 12 stages spread throughout the grounds of the Denver Performing Arts Complex.
When the DPS Shakespeare festival was selected as a national demonstration site, Joe was appointed as the third steward of the Shakespeare Library of the Folger Library in Washington, D.C. Additionally, Joe received many awards of recognition for his tireless dedication to the arts. He was inducted to the Colorado Thespians Hall of Fame in 2002, given the Mayor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, was recognized as the Higher Education Theatre Educator of the Year by the Alliance for Colorado Theatre (ATC) in 2001, among many other honors.
During the late 1980s, Joe and other community visionaries responded to the increasing disappearance of the arts from the public-school curriculum by developing a concept for an arts school in Denver. As he had shown throughout his life and career, Joe hoped for an arts school within DPS that would engage and foster the expression of creativity and wonderment through the education of every child. Denver School of the Arts (DSA) opened in August 1991 and is thriving today as a comprehensive, 6-12th grade arts magnet school in DPS.
“Mr. Craft was a unique force of nature who loved and believed in his students and the power of the arts,” said Superintendent Susana Cordova. “He was an amazing example for all of us on how passion, creativity and an unyielding commitment can bring wonderful experiences for our students, teachers and our communities.”
Joe touched the hearts and minds of thousands throughout his career at DPS. He will be missed. Joe is survived by his beloved wife Jane, of 65 years, and his daughter Kim Macklin. He was the proud grandfather of Courtney Smith, Ian and Evan Macklin, and the great-grandfather to Taran Jeremy Blackwell and Mila Rose Macklin.