The Salida Arts District

By Patty LaTaille 


Those who have lived in Salida any length of time, say from 2002 onward, may have noticed an artistic renaissance slowly transforming the rural mountain town of 5,300 from its origins as a railroad/mining town. Salida has one of the largest historic districts in Colorado, with beautifully renovated buildings – many dating from the Victorian era. Interspersed in and amongst them are nearly 125 artists in residence – showing their work in the local galleries, and on building exteriors.

Salida, home to many creative entrepreneurs, gained instant credibility as a “Creative District,” designated by Colorado Creative Industries (CCI) in 2012. The Colorado Legislature passed a law in 2011 encouraging the formation of Creative Districts in communities, neighborhoods or contiguous geographic areas.

“Each district received a $15,000 grant and assistance to attract artists, creative entrepreneurs and visitors as a strategy to infuse new energy and innovation and enhance the economic and civic capital of the community,” according to a 2012 press release from Gov. John Hickenlooper. The program is administered by the Office of Economic Development and International Trade through the CCI division. It is one of only two districts in the state, out of a proposed 44, that qualified for the prestigious designation (the Santa Fe Arts district in Denver being the other). This small creative community contributes to the recreational outdoors town having a year-round economy – bringing in the bucks during the shoulder seasons with a kick-start with the Creative District’s ensuing grant.

That critical mass of “artistic, cultural, and creative enterprises and activities is really important,” noted  Margaret Hunt, CCI director, commenting on Salida’s designation. Incite Consulting owner Kathryn Wadsworth spearheaded the initiative to apply for the designation and grant, and she worked closely with Salida SteamPlant Event Center Director Michael Varnum, and Chaffee County Visitor’s Bureau Marketing Director April Prout. Crissy Supples, responsible for marketing and social media at the SteamPlant in 2011-12, authored the grant, with the support of many artists and business leaders throughout Salida.

“It was a huge honor to play a liaison role with so many visionaries – encapsulating their work into grant form and contributing to positive social change in our community,” said Supples.

Not only has the Creative District designation given Salida instant “street cred,” it has attracted more visitors and boosted sales tax revenue – and provided a focal point for celebrating and strengthening Salida’s unique identity. It’s been an economic as well as an aesthetic catalyst.

“Salida had everything in place to make this happen – creative entrepreneurs, creative amenities, an economic development committee – which is why Salida richly deserves the local and national media attention it is receiving,” said Supples.

Former Salida Mayor Don Stephens noted, “Salida is a creative, vibrant community, and we are honored by the recognition we are receiving from CCI. The assistance that will be provided as part of the Creative District program will have a significant impact in our planning and marketing efforts as we further develop our creative industries.”

The City of Salida Creative District is hosting the 2014 Creative Industries Summit on May 1-2. The theme for the Summit is “Creative Convergence” and is a chance for creative professionals to meet and network with fellow creatives from around the state. ?


Patty L. is back loving life in Salida – and grateful for clarity after a brief stint in the city/corporate world on the Front Range.