Colorado Creative Districts

The Colorado Creative Districts program certifies communities that contribute to our state’s economy through creativity, culture, and the arts. The program’s goal is to help communities increase jobs, incomes, and investments in creative places.

Colorado Creative Districts attract artists and creative entrepreneurs to a community, infusing new energy
and innovation, which in turn enhances the economic and civic capital of the community. Districts also serve as a focal point for celebrating and strengthening a community’s unique identity, become a space to showcase cultural and artistic organizations and events, and contribute to the development of healthy communities.

Benefits of the program include:

  • a cash award of up to $10,000 for newly certified districts (local match required)
  • a technical and professional assistance fund available to districts that have been certified for one or more years (local match required)
  • a marketing strategy developed in partnership with the Colorado Tourism Office to support tourism and bring Colorado’s Creative Districts to a national audience
  • support in developing and pitching content and news about how creativity is changing Colorado through the work of creative districts
  • two highway signs placed on state highways near districts
  • access to statewide economic data on the impact of creative districts
  • access to the Western States Arts Federation (WESTAF) Creative Vitality Suite, an online platform for creative economy data
  • facilitate access to resources and facilitate a learning community among districts

A year after certification, districts can apply for the technical and professional assistance grant (see below) for projects and activities that support strategic goals.


Type: Certification, grant, and technical assistance

For: Communities 

Applications: By invitation only

OEDIT division: Colorado Creative Industries

 Applications are open and will close on May 28, 2021. Apply now.

This grant is available only to certified creative districts. The project and technical assistance grant helps creative districts advance strategic goals. Funds are open to all creative districts that have been certified for a minimum of one year.

If you apply and receive this grant, you will not eligible for any other Colorado Creative Industries grants.

The grant provides quick support that meets the different needs of districts. Funds can also be used to leverage additional support such as public funding and grants.

Past funds have been used:

  • to build on the next steps of a past evaluation project focused on public outreach
  • to support for longterm collaborative planning between the town and creative district
  • to create a logo for the district
  • to support for the production of new works of small scale public sculptures
  • for wayfinding signage celebrating and honoring the cultural heritage of the region
  • to support traffic box wraps designed by local artists
  • for a structural engineering study

Districts must go through a rigorous application and certification process in order to become a Certified Colorado Creative District. Communities need to:

  • complete one of these two prerequisites:
  • be a contiguous area, with a mix of uses in the boundaries, that is easy to walk and navigate
  • be distinguished by physical, artistic, and cultural resources
  • be a concentrated area of artistic and cultural activity, including major arts or culture facilities, arts, entertainment businesses, arts and cultural activities, or artistic/cultural and creative sector production
  • promote, preserve, and educate on aspects of arts and culture
  • have broad community support and buy-in
  • be a structured entity such as municipal or county government, a registered neighborhood organization, downtown or economic development authority, 501(c)(3), or 501(c)(6)
  • have an advisory or governing board
  • have paid district staff (can be a dedicated percentage of time)
  • have a strategic plan (preferably covers three to five years)
  • have a minimum $10,000 cash operating budget and sustainable funding source(s)

If your community is not eligible or does not wish to become a formally certified Colorado Creative District, you may be interested in the Call Yourself Creative program.

If your community is eligible, please contact the program manager below to learn more. Applications are by invitation only. The Colorado Creative District program does not accept unsolicited letters of inquiry or proposals.

The Colorado Creative District program has a rigorous application and certification process. If you are invited to apply, we recommend that you register in the Colorado Creative Industries Grant portal and review the online grant system with plenty of time before the deadline to allow us time to answer your questions or solve issues.

Application timeline

April 2021 Grant information and support staff available
Thursday, June 3, 2021 Online application submit deadline at 4:00 pm
June 2021 Review panels evaluate applications
June/July 2021 In-person and/or virtual site visits
July 2021 Recommendations approved by Colorado Creative Industries Council


Submit all application materials through the Colorado Creative Industries Grant portal. Log in to your account or create a new account. If you're having trouble navigating the grant portal, review the Navigating the CCI Grant Portal Guide. If you need additional support, email Colorado Creative Industries staff.

All users are required to log into the portal and complete the online application. All support materials are uploaded into the online system. No hard copies or emailed copies of the application or support materials will be accepted. We recommend that applicants register in the portal and review the online grant system with plenty of time before the deadline to allow staff proper time to assist with any questions or issues.

Application materials

The word limit for each narrative question is 350 words. Type your answers in a word processing program, check your word counts, then cut and paste the text into the online application. Your organization’s fiscal year is your organization’s budget year and usually starts at the beginning of a quarter or calendar year.

General questions

The following questions are included in the application:

  • What is the name of the creative district? This is how the district is commonly known in the community and in marketing efforts. It does not have to match the legal managing entity name.
  • Who provides oversight of the creative district? For example, a working group, a board of directors
  • What is the creative district’s budget? How is the district funded and what are the sources of funds? Do you have a plan for financial sustainability?
  • What do you see as your district’s biggest challenges, and how do you anticipate overcoming them?
  • How would becoming a Colorado Creative District help your district and your community?
  • List the top three short-term and top three long-term goals you have for your creative district.
  • What is the creative district's organizational and governance structure? For example, 501(c)(3), 501(c)(6), partnership with local government, business improvement district, registered neighborhood organization
  • Does the creative district have paid staff? Volunteers? If so, how many, what are their roles, and how long have they been involved? What is the budget for staff salaries and/or consultants?
  • Does the creative district have a membership structure? If so, how many members are in the creative district, and what is the membership dues structure?
  • For re-certification only, describe two to three successes, challenges, or lessons learned during the initial certification period.

You will need to upload:

  • a map of (or provide a link to) a map of the creative district.
  • a list of the names and affiliations of those involved in the oversight group named above and the length of time each person has served.
  • the creative district strategic planning document.
  • up to three sample promotional tools – for example, brochure, guide, advertisement, poster

District characteristics

The following questions are included in the application:

  • What is the one thing that sets your district apart from other creative districts? What is your distinctive niche, and what are your differentiators?
  • Provide the current number of creative establishments and/or the number of creative workers in the creative district. Describe the data source, collection method, and definitions for the types of establishments and/or workers.
  • Provide the number of creative sector jobs in the creative district. Describe the data source, collection method, and the definition of jobs counted.
  • Provide the number of children and youth directly benefiting through creative district activities including students, participants, and audience members. Describe the activities.
  • What is the estimated number of visitors to your creative district annually and reason for these visits? For example, primarily for events, for venues 
  • What is the mix of other businesses and uses in your district? Is your district primarily retail/commercial, residential, industrial?
  • Provide other meaningful data for your creative district. For example, property value trends, sales tax data, occupancy rates, crime statistics
  • Define the distinctive cultural heritage story of your district. In particular, share how your district’s history relates to its present story and future plans.
  • How has your district established a distinctive physical sense of place? Do you have district wayfinding and signage? Streetscapes? Art?
  • Does your district have any signature events? What other ways does your district engage with the community?

You will need to upload:

  • a document with photos showing the distinctive sense of place described above
  • a document with up to three images that capture the district’s essence

Community buy-in

You will need to upload:

  • a local government ordinance or planning documents that demonstrate the local government endorses the creative district
  • a letter of recommendation from your mayor, city manager, planning director, community/economic development director, or cultural affairs director that supports your Colorado Creative District application
  • a letter of recommendation from your local convention and visitors bureau, chamber of commerce, or tourism association that supports your Colorado Creative District application
  • a letter of support from a creative entrepreneur such as an artist or business owner who works and/or lives in the creative district
  • one PDF that provides any additional letters of support from district stakeholders that support your Colorado Creative District application

Financial information

You will need to upload:

  • a simple line-item budget showing cash and in-kind revenue and expenses separately
  • a completed W-9 form for your district’s managing entity

A panel of experts in creative districts and community development will review applications and approve a list of finalists. The reviewers will evaluate and rank applications with these categories and weights:

  • Creative district information (30%)
    • a documented concentration of artists and creative sector workers
    • arts and cultural institutions located within the district
    • economic data provided such as sales tax, visitors, maps, other
    • budget including sustainable funding and staff resources
    • strength of strategic planning process, plan, and goals
    • strength of strategic plan and goals in addressing equity, diversity, and inclusion
  • District characteristics (40%)
    • character, authenticity, sense of place, “it” factor
    • an attractiveness of district for visitors
    • amenities including brand recognition, signs, community spaces, access to open space and outdoor amenities
    • schedule of activities, including authentic and unique offerings
    • livability, including support services and complimentary retail activity
    • walkability and alternative transportation, such as bike paths or public transportation
  • Community buy-in and leadership (30%)
    • board structure and community representation
    • consistent leadership on board and staff
    • strategic investments by district and local agencies
    • inclusion of district in community planning documents such as comprehensive plan, infrastructure, housing, zoning, economic development plans
    • local leadership and vision for how district will evolve in the future
    • broad participation and input from residents and people living within and adjacent to the district, including strong evidence of engagement of individuals and groups mirroring the demographics of the community.

You need to include a Colorado Creative Industries logo in all announcements and promotional materials and publicly credit Colorado Creative Industries at any public events related to your grant-funded program and activities.  Recipients may also use the current National Endowment for the Arts logo if desired.

You need to submit a final report about how you met your organizational and project goals and the community impact of the activities. Final reports need to include a financial report for the funded activity clearly showing how you spent the money, numbers of people and communities served, and numbers of artists and youth the project engaged. Grant recipients who do not submit final reports are ineligible for further Colorado Creative Industries funding.

As a condition of the grant, Colorado Creative Industries requires the recipient of public funds to comply with all state terms (PDF) and federal terms (PDF). All material submitted regarding application for grant funds becomes the property of the State of Colorado and is subject to the terms of Colorado Revised Statutes 24-72-201 through 24-72- 206, Public Open Records. The State of Colorado has the right to use any or all information/material presented in reply to the Announcement, subject to limitations for proprietary or confidential information. Disqualification or denial of the application does not eliminate this right. Any restrictions on the use or inspection of material contained within the proposal shall be clearly stated in the proposal itself. The contents of the application will become contractual obligations if the project is funded.

Colorado Creative Industries can withhold, reduce, or cancel awards if a grantee:

  • misses deadlines for reports
  • does not notify the Colorado Creative Industries of significant management changes or instances of fraud or embezzlement
  • fails to comply with the grant award requirements
  • demonstrates inadequate financial management and oversight
  • does not properly credit support from Colorado Creative Industries

Colorado Creative Industries requires recipients of public funds to comply with all state and federal laws and regulations, including but not limited to:

  • Fair Labor Standards – Meet requirements for minimum wage and working conditions.
  • Nondiscrimination – Statutes prohibite discrimination on the basis of age, race, sex, color, creed, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, ancestry or marital status.
  • Audit – All applications accepted for funding become official records of the State of Colorado and are subject to an audit. Colorado Creative Industries requires open access to accounting records for award funds spent for the purpose of audit examination, reference, or transcription.
  • Drug-Free Work Place – Comply to the extent applicable with the Drug-Free Work Place Act of 1988.
  • Fair Language – To comply with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, grant recipients need to take adequate steps to provide language assistance so people with limited English proficiency can meaningfully access programs, activities, and services.
  • Access for People with Disabilities – Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities. All events funded by Colorado Creative Industries need to be accessible to people with disabilities including visual, hearing, mobility, and learning impairments. If you have questions about the Americans with Disabilities Act, contact Access Gallery at 303-777-0797.

Grantee agrees to send a letter to their state legislators, informing them of the importance of state funding. 

Applicants may appeal the Colorado Creative Industries Council's decision on an application if there is evidence that the:

  • stated review process was not followed
  • Council's conflict of interest policy was violated

A written appeal, describing the grounds for appeal and the desired remedy, needs to be sent to the Chair of the Colorado Creative Industries Council no later than three weeks after you receive a denial notice. The Council will reconsider its decision at its next regularly scheduled meeting. Unhappiness with a denial is not grounds for an appeal.

After five years, districts need to apply for recertification. In 2021, these creative districts need to apply to recertify:

  • Breckenridge Arts District
  • Carbondale Creative District
  • Crested Butte Creative District
  • Fort Collins Creative District
  • Golden Triangle Creative District 
  • Mancos Creative District

Applications for recertification are the same as new applications and should be reviewed using the same criteria.

Community Partner

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Program Manager

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