Downtown Grand Junction Becomes Creative District Ahead Of Its Flagship Arts Festival

<p>Alex Scoville/CPR News</p>
<p>A public piano on Main Street in Grand Junction.</p>
Photo: Grand Junction Main Street 2
A public piano on Main Street in Grand Junction.

Grand Junction’s “long history of supporting arts and culture” helped the city’s downtown area earn its designation as Colorado’s newest certified creative district, Colorado Creative Industries executive director Margaret Hunt told CPR News on Monday.

Downtown Grand Junction, which includes the Downtown Development Authority and the Downtown Business Improvement District, will oversee the new venture. Director Brandon Stam said it’s been a long process to reach this point.

But the city's downtown area is full of cultural assets, including the renovated Avalon Theater, the long-standing Art on the Corner program and Las Colonias Park, where a new riverfront area is being built.

“At last we can showcase that and make it where [downtown] is not so much a hidden gem and more of a well known gem,” Stam said. “I think that benefits us all.”

Hunt also singled out those cultural sites.

“I can just see this momentum. I think the entire committee that did the site visit also commented on the momentum that’s taking in Grand Junction right now,” Hunt said.

Colorado Creative Industries, or CCI, is the state’s arts and culture agency and a division of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. CCI administers the Creative Districts program.

The Colorado General Assembly passed House Bill 1031 in 2011, which sparked the formations of these creative districts. With an official designation, creative districts receive award packages that include financial support, assistance for marketing efforts, CDOT highway signs to direct people to the district, access to other funding opportunities and leadership training. Each district also gets $10,000 the first year of the five-year certification period. The goal is to draw creatives to that community in an effort to enhance local economic activity via the arts and to create cultural hubs. CCI invites communities to apply.

Photo: Avalon Theatre Grand Junction
The renovated Avalon Theater on Main Street in Grand Junction.

Stam said the first step going forward is to form a steering committee for the Downtown Grand Junction Creative District to determine the “priorities for that funding.” Though, he added, the funding could go towards additional staffing if needed or to support events for the district. One bigger goal is to develop “more creative activities and events … to bring people downtown.”

“[Downtown Grand Junction] is more than just the look and feel,” Stam said. “There’s a vibe that people are going for.”

The announcement of the certification comes weeks after the death of Dave Davis, a local sculptor who founded the Art on the Corner outdoor sculpture exhibit in 1984 and is credited with being instrumental to the development of the area’s arts and culture scene.

“It’s a great tribute to a lot of the things he started,” Stam said. “It would have been cool to be able to have him see it … a lot of things in downtown Grand Junction wouldn’t have been the same without him.”

Earlier this summer, CCI certified a creative district in Grand Lake and recently recertified districts in Trinidad, Pueblo, Paonia, Telluride and Ridgway. This brings the state’s creative district total to 23. Hunt said they’ve tracked job and economic growth in the already established creative districts.

“I think the word is out that, particularly for communities that have not had the economic recovery that the Front Range has had, they’re seeing this as a viable economic development strategy,” Hunt said.

Downtown Grand Junction will celebrate the area’s new designation on Oct. 5 and 6 during the third annual Downtown Art Festival. Oct. 6 also marks the installation of this year’s Art on the Corner temporary exhibit.