The Ignacio Creative District is up and running after two months of delays because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Ignacio was accepted into two state community development programs in August 2019. The programs will help Ignacio expand its economy and define its image through community partnerships. Creative District volunteers were just starting the process when Colorado issued closures, restrictions and public health guidelines in response to the virus.
“We have to work with what we have. Imagine, we’re trying to move a giant wheel. You start pushing the wheel to get it moving. With the pandemic, the wheel stopped,” said Kasey Correia, president of the Creative District board. “Now, we have to get it going again, and eventually the wheel will spin on its own.”
The two community development programs are part of the 2020 Rural Technical Assistance Program, offered by the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. Both programs were scheduled to end in June, but they were extended until October because of the pandemic.
In the fall, the town started a creative economy development program, a partnership with the Creativity Lab of Colorado and other partners. Arts and culture industries add $14.4 billion to the Colorado economy, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. That’s 4.4% of the state’s gross domestic product – more than transportation, mining and agriculture individually.
The program will help Ignacio tap into that market. By the end of the 12-step award process, the town will have a plan to market its unique identity, grow its creative economy and support its wider economy.
The town is almost halfway through the process. The Creative District committee has created mission statements, identified 12 months of programming, established a leadership structure, nonprofit status and a preliminary budget.
The next step is to create a plan to engage with the community – a challenge when social distancing, staying at home and masks are the new norm.
“The challenge is, how do we make a connection through a Zoom meeting if that’s how we’re going to do this?” Correia said.
Through the other program, called Community Placemaking, Ignacio will receive guidance and support to define a marketable community identity. The organizers just held their first meeting and plan to organize a community gathering. Residents will contribute ideas for how Ignacio should define itself to other communities in the region and beyond.