Steamboat establishes itself as a premier destination for the Arts.
Steamboat may have trademarked the term “Ski Town USA” to denote what some may consider its main attraction. But in the last few years, Steamboat has also received the esteemed designation as a Colorado Creative Arts District, a testament to the community’s evolving arts and culture scene.
That’s in part thanks to Steamboat Creates, a non-profit organization devoted to supporting and promoting arts and culture in the Yampa Valley.
“The Arts” is a term that casts a wide net, according to Steamboat Creates Executive Director Kim Keith. “We consider creatives to be not only traditional artists but also literary artists, culinary artists, design, film, theatre, performing arts and anything made by hand from masonry to microbreweries. We see the impact of creatives not only in traditional art forms, but across a wide variety of industries.”
When Steamboat finally received its designation as a Creative Certified District by Colorado Creative Industries in 2017, it was a big step in the right direction. It was also a huge accomplishment. An elaborate application process and stringent requirements required Keith to pull out all the stops.
“The state of Colorado has some pretty high standards for what constitutes a Certified Creative District that requires a wide range of requirements that are all encompassing.” Keith said she had to show there was a strategy in place for how Steamboat Springs would integrate the arts into things like marketing, economic development and tourism, and how all these different sectors which are critical to the success of the district can be integrated. “They want you to prove that you have relationships with different sectors of your community, and that those diverse sectors are going to grow and support the local creatives, to ultimately help the district become successful,” Keith says.
That’s just for the application—once a city is selected to become a finalist, the Colorado Creative Industries staff is flown in for an extensive site visit that can last 3-5 hours. “Several state dignitaries come to your community to make sure your application meets reality,” says Keith. “They literally want to be able to feel the creative energy walking down the street.”
After becoming a finalist in 2016 and not making the cut, Keith went big when they were named a finalist again in 2017. “We amped up our game in 2017 and focused on building our relationships with the City of Steamboat Springs and Steamboat Chamber Resort Association, as well as local creatives. The result was night and day from what we had presented to them in 2016. There was no doubt whatsoever that we deserved this certification.”
She had the team picked up at the airport by helicopter for an aerial tour of Steamboat so they’d be better oriented once they were on the ground. (A former aerial real estate photographer, Keith had a pilot friend who was willing to help her out.) She then had the team driven around in vintage cars and even had people dressed up as historical characters pop up all over town to demonstrate Steamboat’s reverence for its history and heritage, with a mandatory stop at the Tread of Pioneers Museum. “I was doing everything within my realm to really impress upon these people how cool and amazing and special Steamboat is,” she says. Keith had artists on site to talk about their work and concluded with a chili lunch and live music at the Art Depot. “We wanted to show them our western heritage combined with the creative spirit we have here.”
Finally getting that designation has been a game changer in terms of the opportunity it has provided for Steamboat’s creative industries. “One of the biggest things it’s done is to give us a seat at the table. We are being considered a resource, not only as a Creative District, but it’s also helped our local creatives to be taken more seriously. Now they’re being considered as an additional resource to help the city or an organization with their messaging in a non-traditional way, to better meet their goals.”
Armed with the Creative District designation at last, Steamboat Creates looks forward to upcoming programs, including the Lost Art Revival, a weeklong event featuring a variety of art workshops and events that draw inspiration on Steamboat’s Western heritage. Future generations of artists can find their inner creative with Creativity Camps, a variety of morning programs offered throughout the summer.
The future looks bright for the Arts in Steamboat, says Keith. “Our goals are to increase the visible vibrancy of the creative spirit, to support our creatives and to acknowledge what was already going on here for quite some time.”
For more information about Steamboat Creates and its programs, go to www.steamboatcreates.org.