Downtown Fort Collins Creative District would bring tourism, arts to Old Town

Erik Petrovich

Public murals, vibrant pianos placed around town and multiple museums are just part of the City of Fort Collins’ increasing encouragement of the arts. The city plans to designate a state-certified creative district downtown, bringing with it the ability to make Old Town an artistic destination for tourists and locals alike.

Chemical and biological engineering Junior, Eric Ferguson, plays the piano outside the Lory Student Center. This piano, like others in Fort Collins, was painted by an artist and sits outside for people to play and for others to enjoy. (Photo Credit: Megan Fischer)
Chemical and biological engineering junior Eric Ferguson plays the piano outside the Lory Student Center. This piano, like others in Fort Collins, was painted by an artist and sits outside for people to play and for others to enjoy. (Photo Credit: Megan Fischer)

Colorado began the Creative District Program in 2011 to help encourage art in areas with an artistic community or history. The program helps to provide microloans to local businesses, advertising and state recognition of a creative area within a city. The state will also provide signage on roads and highways to point people toward the Downtown Creative District — which would further help to bring tourism to the area.

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Fort Collins wants to establish Old Town as a Creative District, but there is not a concrete area plan yet. The city applied last year to start developing plans for the Creative District, and is one year into the program.

Current Creative Districts in Colorado include the Art District on Santa Fe in Denver, the Pueblo Creative Corridor and the Telluride Arts District.

According to Jill Stilwell, city director of cultural development, more than 60 stakeholders have been working with the city to provide direction for the district. After all the plans have been laid out, the city will apply for official state recognition in early spring 2016 so the district will be established by summer.

“Downtown boasts vibrancy and critical creative mass,” Stilwell said. “The Creative District will focus on celebrating, retaining and growing our creative sector.”

The downtown area is perfect for a Creative District, said Downtown Business Association Director Jason Dennison, as Old Town serves both as business and creative hubs. The city is working with the State Tourism Board and the Colorado Economic Office to develop plans for the district, as the program helps to link together creative efforts and local businesses.

“The Creative District will be an effective platform to showcase artists and creative entrepreneurs within our downtown district,” Dennison said. “The creative district will be a significant resource for artists and creative entrepreneurs and help them thrive in our community.”

The program will help Fort Collins establish its own creative aesthetic, said Peggy Lyle, coordinator for the Downtown Fort Collins Creative District. When tourists enter the district, she said, the goal is to make them know they are in an artistic city.

“We think the creative community will be excited to take our artistic history and culture to the next level,” Lyle said.

Collegian City Beat Reporter Erik Petrovich can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @EAPetrovich.