Downtown Grand Junction Creative District

Originally published in the Fall 2019 issue of Spoke+Blossom

DEVON BALET

DEVON BALET

What do Salida, Colorado Springs, Telluride, Trinidad and Grand Junction have in common, besides being in Colorado? They all have Creative Districts which showcase the arts, local artists and myriad creative entrepreneurs, attract tourists and host a wealth of exciting cultural events and festivals throughout the year.

Grand Junction’s downtown shines with the Art on the Corner sculpture exhibit, First Friday Art Walks, “Street Beats” public pianos, Avalon Theatre performances, entertaining festivals and countless creative businesses — architects, art galleries, graphic designers, tattoo artists, book stores, dance studios — the list goes on. In summer and early fall, the Thursday night Market on Main fills the air with music and thestreets with people exploring sumptuous stands of local produce, arts and crafts and appetizing food booths.

According to Brandon Stam, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority (DDA), “We can now showcase Downtown and make it not so much a hidden gem and more of a well-known gem. I think that benefits us all.”

Grand Junction’s downtown is one of 23 districts officially designated by the Colorado Creative Industries Division (CCI) of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT). According to coloradocreativeindustries.org, the certified Creative Districts focus on specific areas that “attract artists and creative entrepreneurs to a community, infuse new energy and innovation, and enhance economic and civic capital.” CCI’s district designation comes with financial and technical support, networking and training and also highlights the districts on the state tourism website.

While it seems obvious to those who live here that downtown is indeed very arts-centric, the application process to secure certification was an extensive year-long effort by a community task force of local arts activists, cultural organizations, creative businesses and the DDA.

As Robbie Breaux, CCI council member and task force chairperson, explains, “We already had all the pieces in place, so it was easy to see that we were a Creative District, and the state certainly recognized that, and a lot of people worked hard to make it happen.”

Caitlyn Love, marketing and communications specialist for Downtown Grand Junction, points out, “Our being recognized as a Creative District puts the final stamp on downtown’s own unique identity. It opens doors with the state, and it’s been very helpful to be able to network with other districts.” There are plans in the works to increase the creative offerings throughout the district with additions like a new downtown coloring book (featuring several Art on the Corner sculptures) and proposed art, sculpture and murals along Seventh Street toward Los Colonias Park.

Coming up October 4-6 is the annual Downtown Art Festival, presented by Alpine Bank. This festival includes three days full of local and regional creatives and makers with First Friday (October 4), the Artist Expo (fine art vendors, demonstrations, street performances and entertainment) and the always-anticipated installation of the 2019-2020 Art on the Corner exhibit (October 5). New this year is the Grand Junction Film Festival, occurring on Sunday, October 6 at the Avalon Theatre. Downtown Grand Junction personifies the state’s desire to amplify hubs of cultural and economic activity and draw attention to the many communities throughout Colorado which are appealing places to live, visit and do business because of their creativity.

Allison SarmoArts+Culture