Arts community shows off at Colorado Creative Industries Summit

Will Grandbois
Glenwood Springs Post Independent

CARBONDALE — Despite a late night of fiery festivities, hosts and visitors alike hit the ground running Friday morning for the second and final day of the Colorado Creative Industries Summit.

If any latecomers to the fifth annual event were expecting a run-of-the-mill conference, the notion was dispelled before the keynote breakfast even began thanks to Alya Howe’s “Vacuum.” The film, in which local personalities discuss their vacuuming habits to humorous effects, transitioned seamlessly into a live Dance Initiative performance.

Then it was down to business — at least for a moment.

Before splitting off for a series of workshops and talks, the early risers were treated to a panel focusing on a partnership between two local organizations: Corbeaux Clothing in Aspen and Whole Works in Rifle.

“There hasn’t been a challenge that hasn’t worked out yet,” Corbeaux’s Darcy Conover told the crowd. “It feels like more of a partnership than if we’d called up a factory in China. There’s so much pride put into the work.”

That’s what Kelly Alford likes to hear.

“We’re trying to revive American manufacturing,” she said. “That’s not something that can be done with one person. It really is an ecosystem.”

If it strikes you as an odd place for that mission, you’re not alone.

“You wouldn’t think of Rifle, Colorado, as being at the forefront of a new model,” moderator Chuck Sullivan said.

The summit is helping to dispel those stereotypes. Marc Russell of Align Multimedia, himself from Rifle, ran into an attendee from Greeley who got him rethinking his assumptions about that community.

“This is happening all over the place, and that’s encouraging,” he said. “We need to tell those stories.”

State Poet Laureate Joseph Hutchison echoed the sentiments.

“I think even in my own mind I had the idea that great art doesn’t come from Colorado,” he said. “But it’s coming and it’s here all around us.”

For Pueblo Public Arts Director Daniel Levinson, the event put faces on a lot of places, people and ideas that had been abstract before.

“This is my first time here and it’s been amazing,” he said. “So many people are open to cross pollination of ideas. There’s a solidarity among the creatives of Colorado that I wasn’t aware of.”

Colorado Creative Industries is part of the state Office of Economic Development and International Trade, which hosts the summit and in June will name new official creative districts, a designation Carbondale is seeking.

The summit gave the local arts community a chance to show off. In between workshops, Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts Director Christina Brusig was just one of several area figures helping to get the word out.

“It’s very inspiring to see what everyone’s doing and discover that we’re right at the forefront,” she said. “I think people are shocked at how much opportunity for arts there is in the valley.”

Even without that message, she found the event well worth attending.

“I’ve walked away with a lot of valuable information about programs and ways to create a better future for our community,” she added.

After all, art is not without its challenges.

Winter Ross made the trip from Crestone to catch a seminar on Space to Create Colorado, a Boettcher Foundation-backed initiative to bring affordable living and working spaces to artists.

“I’ve been a professional artist all my life, which means in my golden years I’m looking at subsidized housing,” Ross said. “I dread the idea of low-income housing in a community where I have nothing in common with the other residents. I want to be part of something and make it happen for myself.”

In part because of his role in the project, Boettcher president and CEO Tim Schultz received the Governor’s Award for arts in creative placemaking. Also recognized were Denver-area artist Maureen Hearty and local Francisco “Paco” Nevarez-Burgueno, director of Aspen Santa Fe Ballet’s Folklorico program.

“I love these kids and I love this program and I love what I do,” Nevarez-Burgueno told the crowd. “These kids are seeing it, these kids are doing it, these kids are feeling it.”

Those cultural resources are important, as Garfield County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky explained.

“It’s part of our economy and an important part of life in general,” he said.

By that metric, the Roaring Fork Valley has a lot to be proud of.

As one of the Breckenridge leaders selected to host the event next year observed, “Carbondale set the bar quite high.”