A Local Incubator for the arts
Written By: Katie Hearsum
community engagement manager, Town of Grand Lake
The Town of Grand Lake is well known for many things: the western gateway to the majestic Rocky Mountain National Park; its historic downtown district; a world-class destination for outdoor recreation such as snowmobiling, sailing and hiking; and home to the highest natural lake in Colorado, plus the headwaters of the mighty Colorado River that feeds it.
What many do not know is that this tiny mountain hamlet also holds the unique honor of being one of only 29 official Colorado Creative Districts, a designation recognizing select communities that especially contribute to the state’s economy through creativity, culture and the arts.
According to the Colorado Creative District website (a division of the Colorado Office of Economic Development & International Trade) such communities are believed to, “Attract artists and creative entrepreneurs to a community, infusing new energy and innovation, which in turn enhances the economic and civic capital of the community.”
The website goes on to say that, “Districts also serve as a focal point for celebrating and strengthening a community’s unique identity, become a space to showcase cultural and artistic organizations and events, and contribute to the development of healthy communities.”
The Grand Lake Creative District aims to celebrate the town’s people, places and partnerships to present creative events and activities that attract attention year-round, enriching the cultural and economic vitality of Grand Lake. It also strives to provide opportunities for creatives of all levels and mediums to learn, work and live, enhancing an authentic and inclusive creative economy.
Many factors were considered when selecting Grand Lake for its designation, including walkability and current cultural vibrancy, indicated by the creative organizations that already exist there such as the Rocky Mountain Repertory Theater, the Grand Arts Council, the Juniper Library and the Grand Lake Area Historical Society, to name a few.
Since receiving its certification in 2018, the Grand Lake Creative District has made great strides in evolving its creative and cultural amenities. For example, it secured grant funding to upgrade the sound and lighting systems in its historic Community House, which hosts events and entertainment throughout the year. It has also been working diligently to lay the groundwork for a future live-work development called Space to Create, which will provide 18 to 20 attainable housing units. As well as creative workspaces for painters, musicians, chefs and anyone else who considers themselves an artist.
The most recent achievement by the Grand Lake Creative District team was the creation of the Rocky Mountain Folk School, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that provides learning opportunities of traditional art forms – such as quilting, rug hooking and pottery – to help the community further its creative vibrancy and economic development year-round.
The Folk School is primarily housed in Grand Lake’s Pitkin Annex building, but classes and programs are also offered at other locations around town, like the Grand Lake Center (full schedule can be found at RockyMountainFolkSchool.org/).
In the future, the Grand Lake Creative District hopes to see the town flourish as a champion and incubator for the arts, becoming recognized as a premier year-round destination for authentic, family-friendly creative expression and experiences, matched only by the natural beauty that surrounds it.
Stay tuned for more exciting updates from the heart of Grand Lake Creative District.