Printed in the Durango Herald October 5, 2019

How is the Creative District coming along?

In my February 23rd column on the Durango Creative District, I had just finished a 30-day trip down the Grand Canyon and spoke to the inspiration of the outdoors and a burgeoning initiative to establish a Creative District in Durango. 

As I write to you today, fresh off a Rio Chama float, I am pleased to update the community that the Durango Creative District has officially wrapped up a year-long stakeholder process and has been invited to apply for certification. Along the way, we engaged individuals a total of 436 times in approximately 28 meetings where we covered everything from what makes Durango unique to the legal structure and organizational needs of the Creative District. Our community responded with a resounding “Yes!” to the establishment of a Creative District and guided us along the way. 92 people voted on the final logo that depicts our mountain scenery along with the Animas River flowing through the foreground. And our tagline group came up with “Where Inspiration Flows” as a complement to this logo and directly speaks to the importance the river plays in our community, the inspiration of the natural environment, and our day-to-day lives. 

We would like to thank all the community members who engaged in this process for their inspiration and support. The number of engagements is truly impressive and it demonstrates the dedication of the many organizations that worked tirelessly to get the Durango Creative District positioned for success. They can’t all be named in this column, but you can check out for more information on our Steering Committee and the Creative Kickstarters that funded our planning work. Thank you’s would not be complete without a round of applause for Hayley Kirkman, Local First’s Creative Director, and now the Interim Director of the Creative District. Hayley led the charge on a community dialogue that was thoughtful and inclusive for over a year, and will continue to lead this effort into its next phase. Please reach out to both thank her and discuss her vision for the Durango Creative District in 2020.  

For those of you that are still wondering what a Creative District is, first and foremost, it is a state certification from Colorado Creative Industries, a division of the Office of Economic Development and International Trade. This certification is unique to Colorado and other states like California are starting to catch on and look to us as an example of creative economic development.  The Durango Creative District will be a specific geographic area that can attract artists and creative entrepreneurs, infuse new energy and innovation, and enhance economic and civic capital. A Creative District enhances the community as an appealing place to live, visit, conduct business, and generate new economic activity. The Durango Creative District geography follows the Animas River and has many important hubs including north main, downtown, Bodo Park, College Drive,, and Fort Lewis College. It will shine a light on existing creative areas and provide an opportunity for other areas to grow. 

And, last but not least, the economic case for Creative Districts is strong. Take the Front Range as an example. In 2017, the Denver Metro Science & Cultural Facilities District (SCFD) was funded to the tune of $57 million, creating an additional $1.9 billion in economic activity. This is a 33X multiplier including 15 million visitors and 11,820 jobs. Extrapolate this to Durango where the Creative District anticipates a $218,000 operating budget, which would create $7.2 million in economic activity. When looking at Creative Districts specifically, our research shows that in 2017, 18 Creative Districts with $6.3M in funding generated $262 million in economic activity, which is a 42X multiplier! 

Certainly the proof will be more clearly demonstrated when the Durango Creative District is established. We plan to track our impact annually so we can report back on the benefits of this unique designation. We ask the community to support this initiative by articulating the importance of the creative economy to your local decision makers as well as showing up to our quarterly creative connection hours and all the other unique opportunities we have to offer. As a Creative, put yourself on the map and sign up for our online directory (available on our website in mid-October).

We expect to hear back from Colorado Creative Industries in December of this year with the results of our application, so hang on tight Durango, the Creative District will be upon us in 2020!

Monique DiGiorgio is Executive Director of the Local First Foundation in Durango. Contact her at