Our view: Steamboat’s art scene grabs spotlight | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: Steamboat’s art scene grabs spotlight

Steamboat Springs' brand is multi-faceted, from our famous Champagne powder skiing to our ranching heritage to our home-grown Olympians, and woven into the rich fabric of our community is another thread that dates back to the arrival of Charlotte Perry and Portia Mansfield in the early 1900s and the founding of our now world-famous Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp.

That thread is Steamboat's creative spirit, it's strong artistic identity, which is on display in the artwork hung on the walls of local galleries, on the murals adorning the exteriors of downtown businesses and in the music performed on stages across town from the Strings Music Pavilion to the free summer concert series at the base of Howelsen Hill to outdoor opera performances at Strawberry Hot Springs.

On June 8, that artistic voice was amplified when Steamboat Springs was named as one of three communities in Colorado to be designated as a Creative District by Colorado Creative Industries following a highly competitive application process. It's a statewide recognition the local arts community and civic leaders have been working toward for at least five years, and we're proud of their ongoing efforts.

The designation is a big deal for Steamboat, making it one of only 21 Creative Districts in the state. The program provides our community and its artists with access to grants, technical advice, distinctive signage and statewide and national marketing opportunities, and maybe more importantly, the Creative District status gives credence to the importance of the arts in Steamboat Springs. In the words of Steamboat Springs Arts Council Executive Director Kim Keith, it means Steamboat's creative sector is being recognized as one of our community's critical industries.

According to Keith, the local creative arts industry is one of Steamboat's economic drivers, generating $47 million annually and providing 431 jobs to local residents. It's obvious to us that boosting the arts has the potential to strengthen the overall economy, which benefits everyone, and other communities that have received Creative District status have proven just that. Greeley, for instance, reports it achieved a $2.2 million gain in total creative industry earnings after the initial year of certification, and a 38 percent gain in regards to nonprofit revenues.

Being a Creative District also helps Steamboat widen its appeal beyond that of a world-class tourist destination known for its outdoor recreation. Now, Steamboat has access to a creative network that will help support and grow the town's reputation as a community with culture — a place where diversity is celebrated and creatives can find their tribe and thrive.

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This designation, and its accompanying statewide marketing and advertising campaign, will also help Steamboat reach a new kind of visitor – the person who is looking to travel and experience the arts in different creative communities — think Sante Fe on a smaller scale.

Steamboat's appeal to artists, craftsmen, architects, authors and musicians will grow with time as the local arts community undertakes efforts to make Creative District goals a reality. Some of these plans include securing grants to help create live-work art studios and participating in training and mentoring provided by world-renowned consultants on a variety of topics from strategic planning to branding to community engagement.

If you've ever visited Salida, Telluride or Denver's Art District on Santa Fe, you have experienced the power of a Creative District designation. These towns have a distinct creative feel, and the arts have become an important part of the identities of those communities. It's our belief Steamboat's designation will produce the same vibe here and give our local arts community and creative entrepreneurs the spotlight they deserve.

At issue: Steamboat Springs has earned designation as one of Colorado’s Creative Districts.

Our view: The Creative District designation helps strengthen Steamboat’s brand and its ability to attract a new kind of local, a new kind of visitor.