Ignacio community leaders are taking steps to become a certified creative district, both to express the heart of the community and to create economic opportunities.
This week, Creative Ignacio, the committee of community leaders exploring the idea, is launching a Facebook page to engage the public and traveling to the Mancos Creative District to learn more about the creative district certification process. The process takes a while – there are steps within steps just to start. However, Ignacio is pulling together to create a district that celebrates its diverse community.
“We want to create economy, but lasting economy,” said Trennie Collins, president of the Ignacio Chamber of Commerce. “We want people to come here, see the beauty of Ignacio and want to stay. I think we all agreed on that, as the creative committee.”
Colorado has 23 creative districts that are certified by Colorado Creative Industries, a branch of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. Creative districts – centers of community, culture and the arts – contribute more jobs, earnings and tourism, according to the Colorado Creative Industries 2017 report. Through the free certification process, communities get access to a national audience through CCI’s partnership with the Colorado Tourism Office, access to statewide economic data which helps get more investment, funding for technical and professional assistance, and more.
Certification is by invitation only, and CCI invites communities once they have completed a rigorous application that could take Ignacio two years to complete. The town is on step one of three, according to committee members, and each step is filled with smaller tasks. In addition to reaching out to the community through Facebook, the committee is exploring partnerships with local artisans and organizations, and identifying grant opportunities.
“The strength of the application depends a lot on community buy-in and local government buy-in,” said Sheila Sears, deputy director of CCI. “It really is a process that can take some time to get the community engaged.”
Some of Ignacio’s most prominent groups have joined in the effort to establish a creative district. Creative Ignacio consists of members from the town of Ignacio, the Ignacio Chamber of Commerce, Dancing Spirit Community Arts Center, Ignacio Community Library, the Southern Ute Indian Tribe small business division, the Southern Ute Museum, the Sky Ute Casino and Region 9.
Carol Mehesy, board president for the Mancos Creative District that was certified in 2016, said that finding what is unique about your community and emphasizing that is one of the most important parts of the process.
“We are very fortunate because we have different cultures in our community that have been rooted here,” Collins said about the area’s Native American, agricultural and Spanish heritage. “I think we’re unique because we have that.”
The creative district will introduce others to Ignacio’s complex cultural history, said Linda Baker, director of the Southern Ute Museum.
Ignacio has not been subdivided and developed as much as other areas – it still has some of the original rancher and cowboy culture that people come looking for when they visit Southwest Colorado, Baker said. The elk herds and apple orchards that she remembered from her childhood still exist.
“The community in Ignacio is a great mix of just ... humanity, of people, of history. All those things just right here in this pocket,” she said. “People can learn a lot about what’s around them ... and I think people need to explore that. This district will give people an opportunity to look at things from a fresh perspective.”