Grants available for creative communities

RBC I The Colorado legislature passed HB11-1031 in 2011. In brief, the bill encourages the formation of creative districts in communities, neighborhoods, or contiguous geographic areas, for the purposes of attracting creative entrepreneurs and artists to a community, infusing new energy and innovation which in turn will enhance the economic and civic capital of the community; creating hubs of economic activity, thereby enhancing the area as an appealing place to live, visit and conduct business, as well as create new economic activity; attracting visitors; revitalizing and beautifying communities; providing a focal point for celebrating and strengthening a community’s unique identity; and showcasing cultural and artistic organizations, events, and amenities.
The legislation is written broadly enough to ensure that the Creative District concept is relevant to places large and small, urban and rural, well-established and new.  Still, they will have things in common: Creative Districts are defined areas that include a mix of uses within their boundaries, and they are typically small enough to be walkable. All include arts/cultural assets and non-profit as well as for-profit creative businesses. Most will incorporate complementary non-arts businesses such as restaurants, offices, retail stores and housing.  Districts may offer events like art walks and arts festivals. Often they will include community gathering places such as a plaza or park.
Two Creative Districts will be certified in 2012. Each will receive a $15,000 grant and a technical assistance package to enhance their districts. Five applicants will be identified as “prospective” districts and each will receive $8,000 and a customized package of technical assistance to enhance the likelihood that they will be certified in the future. Eight applicants will be identified as “emerging” and each will receive $2,000 and technical assistance to further their district planning.
Communities must apply for district certification to be eligible for any of the levels of grants and technical assistance.
The certification process in other states suggests that certified Creative Districts are able to use their status to leverage other funding, in addition to attaining the obvious benefits of attracting new businesses and visitors, enhancing pedestrian traffic, and even stimulating tax incentives or tax relief from local and state government.  To know whether Creative District certification makes sense for your community, consider the following questions:
n Who and where are your artists, creative entrepreneurs, small creative businesses, venues, museums, performing groups? Is there an area of town where they are already co-located? Do you have any anchor cultural institutions? An anchor cultural event?
n What is your real estate inventory? Do you have any large vacant properties that can be sub-divided into smaller spaces, or multiple adjacent small buildings that together can define a district? What are your zoning rules? What is the access — by foot, car, public transport? Would consumers be attracted, feel safe?
n What tools do you have in place that can help creatives thrive as businesses?
n How does your current population interact with current cultural programs in your community? If you build it, will they come?
Visit www.creativecoloradoindustries.org for application guidelines. Click the “To Apply” button to begin filling out the online application. Only online applications will be accepted and must be submitted by 4 p.m. on Jan. 30, 2012.
Those planning to apply must contact Maryo Ewell, maryo@gard-sibley.org, prior to Jan. 15 to discuss the application proposal. Ewell is also the contact person for more information.