The Future of Steamboat’s Creative District

Steamboat Springs earned the Creative District designation in the summer of 2017. So what? Most people in the community still aren’t sure exactly what a Creative District is and what the benefit is for Steamboat, which is a shame because being a Creative District has the potential for positive economic growth for the entire community. Let’s break down what the Creative District is, what the benefits are, and what’s being done to ensure Steamboat becomes a premiere Creative District.

The mission of the Creative District is to support and promote Arts & Culture in the Yampa Valley. This means working with arts and humanities organizations and creative entrepreneurs to have a positive educational and social impact on our community. Arts and culture enhance communities through an increase in quality of life, the ability to brand the town as a creative and cultural destination, attract new residents and become a destination for creative businesses.

As a certified Creative District, Steamboat is now officially recognized as a hub for creativity and creative enterprises. Colorado Creative Industries, the organization that designates Creative Districts, markets and advertises Steamboat’s unique identity on both the national and state level. Part of what helped Steamboat stand out among other towns was our strong tie to history and heritage.

One question on people’s minds is what’s in it for me? If you are an artist or a creative and a member of the Steamboat Springs Arts Council, you will gain increased exposure for your work by being listed in the directory, a hub for arts and culture in the Yampa Valley. Additionally, you will be forwarded opportunities for grants and exhibitions. Local artist Chula Beauregard’s work was recently chosen to be displayed in the Colorado Office of Economic Development, giving her the ability to share her work with a new audience. If you are not an artist, there are still benefits for you. Increased galleries, cultural and heritage events attract visitors and second home owners with high levels of discretionary income. As a result property values often increase, and the value of the experience for locals and visitors improves. For local businesses, increased tourism due to arts and culture events trickles down into the entire community with more people booking lodging, spending money in restaurants and local businesses.

One of the key factors for affecting change will be how well Steamboat can weave the creative identity into Steamboat’s brand in order to attract cultural visitors with an appreciation for our community and a willingness to contribute financially to our community’s success.

So, how do we measure success? The first step in being able to assess positive growth and economic impact is to create a baseline. What is Steamboat’s current creative economic impact, how many creative businesses, individuals and venues currently exist in Steamboat? In order to inventory the different aspects of creative activity, the Creative District Steering Committee set up working groups in the following areas:

  • Creative Economy
  • Art & Cultural Programming
  • Community Development

John Bristol, Economic Development Chair for the City, is compiling a list of cultural assets, businesses and industries. Cultural assets include public art, events and festivals that are culturally driven, historic and heritage sites and creative venues. Melissa Hampton, who is leading the Art & Cultural Programming work group, is currently creating an asset list of creative sectors and creatives in Steamboat Springs. Current categories include Authors & Poets, Creative Businesses, Dance & Theater, Music, Visual Arts & Galleries. If you feel you or your business should be included, please contact

Two key indicators of success would be growth in the number of creative industries that call Steamboat home and an increase in economic contribution from the creative sector. Down the road, the Creative District will be exploring opportunities for affordable housing for artists as well as affordable spaces where artists can create.

The first step, however, is to get the word out about our Creative District and what we have to offer. will launch early February as an arts and culture center for the Yampa Valley. The website will include classes & events in Steamboat Springs, a searchable directory of artists and creative industries, a responsive map that highlights Public Art, Authors & Poets, Creative Businesses, Dance & Theater, Historic Sites & Heritage, Music, Visual Art & Galleries. The new website will help marry people with their interests. For example, many people don’t know that Opera Steamboat holds world-class opera performances each summer. Acknowledgement and participation in cultural offerings will grow. A visitor may not know there are musical performances in the Botanic Gardens in the summer, or that Literary Sojourn brings in nationally-renowned authors to speak about their craft. Creating one place for people to explore what Steamboat offers as far as art and culture will help people understand and appreciate the scope of artistic offerings the Yampa Valley has to offer and to find events that stir their soul.

The Steamboat Springs Creative District holds bi-annual meetings that are open to the public for comments, collaboration and community. To find out more or to get involved, visit or call the Steamboat Springs Arts Council at 970-879-9008 and ask for Kim Keith.

-Dagny McKinley