Colorado Creative Districts

Program Summary

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

The Certified Creative District Strategic Fund Grant FY24 is now accepting applications from certified creative districts on our grants portal. Applications are due May 10, 2024 by 4 PM MST.

How to apply:

1. Read through the guidelines here

2. Submit an application in the grant portal

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.

CCI is not accepting new certification applications in FY23. Stay tuned for updates and deadlines by subscribing to the CCI newsletter. In preparation for future rounds of applications, previous certification guidelines can be found here.

Selection process

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.

Appeal process

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.

Annual Reporting Schedule  

Quarterly Report #1 (July-September) November 1, 2023 4:00pm
Quarterly Report #2 (October-December) February 1, 2024 4:00pm
Quarterly Report #3 (January-March) May 3, 2024 4:00pm
Final Report (July 1, 2023-June 30, 2024)  August 2, 2024 4:00pm

Reports are submitted on the CCI grant portal. Contact Emma Acheson for technical support by emailing emma.acheson@state.co.us.

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. 

After five years, districts need to apply for recertification. In 2023-2024, the following creative districts need to apply to recertify:
40 West Arts District
Downtown Colorado Springs
Durango Creative District
Greeley Creative District
Downtown Longmont
Downtown Loveland
Rino Art District
Sterling 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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