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Durango’s Creative Economy Commission to sunset in June

State-certified creative district to take over most responsibilities
A decorative “Serpent Motif” by Maddie Sanders at the Main Avenue, 14th Street and Camino del Rio intersection was aided by lodgers tax arts and culture funding awarded to Sanders. The Durango Creative Economy that oversaw the project will be handing over most responsibilities to the nonprofit Durango Creative District in June, but it will continue to review funding requests as its sole task. (Christian Burney/Durango Herald file)

The Durango Creative Economy Commission, which has empowered creative people to design art now displayed around town, is scheduled to sunset this June.

The nonprofit Durango Creative District, the city’s state-certified creative district, will be picking up most of the CEC’s responsibilities.

The CEC has funded nearly 100 projects through its lodgers tax arts and culture funding program. The commission issued calls to artists, reviewed applications and issued grants.

Durango Economic Opportunity Manager Tommy Crosby said the commission has “primed the arts and culture community for a golden age.”

He said all seven current volunteer commissioners will be extended an invitation to sit on a revised CEC board that will meet on an ad hoc basis twice annually starting in 2025 strictly to review lodgers tax arts and culture funding requests.

The city is still determining how the new CEC will be structured, as it may or may not require a chairperson. Councilors may or may not approve appointments to the commission. Other such nuances will need to be thought out.

After the June CEC meeting, currently slated for June 25, the commission will no longer meet on a monthly basis and will become the ad hoc group Crosby described.

The Durango Creative District will become Durango’s go-to umbrella arts and culture organization, Crosby said.

Currently, it’s hard to explain the differences between the CDC and DCD to people. The commission and the nonprofit work very closely together and Crosby said he suspects most community members don’t realize they are separate entities.

“Through this sunsetting process, we’ll be able to really establish the Durango Creative District as the go-to arts and culture org that’s representing Durango as a certified creative district and alleviate some of perceived confusion,” he said.

The transition of responsibilities has already begun.

People walk near “Mother Earth,” a May 2023 art installation in the Durango Botanic Garden’s Literary Garden at the Durango Public Library. The fusion of glass and metal was created by Mancos artist David Mallin, who collaborated with Steve Williams, Roger Dale and Nicole Parker. The sculpture is funded by the arts and culture fund of the city of Durango’s Lodger Tax. (Durango Herald file)

The CEC’s Durango Creates! Grant program, which funds placemaking arts and culture projects up to $5,000 per project and has funded 33 projects since its creation in 2018, was passed to the DCD this year. The creative district just launched its first round of the program.

The DCD will also assume responsibility for promotions and issuing calls to artists for projects such as the Animas River Trail and Santa Rita Water Reclamation Facility art projects, Crosby said.

The creative district will also lead the way in updating the city’s public art master plan in tandem with its own cultural plan update over the next couple of years.

“Even after the Creative Economy Commission formally sunsets there’s still going to be a very, very strong partnership between the Durango Creative District and the city of Durango,” Crosby said.

In addition to keeping the lodgers tax arts and culture fund under the CEC’s review, the city will maintain ownership and maintenance responsibilities of its public art collection.

Highlights and accomplishments

Crosby said the CEC’s greatest accomplishment is likely the lodgers tax arts and culture funding program. Beginning in 2021, the program has since funded 94 projects worth $1.275 million.

“To have an infusion of that amount of funding directly to the arts and culture community in Durango is truly phenomenal,” he said.

In 2020, before the lodgers tax arts and culture funding program, the city’s spending per capita for arts and culture was $3. In the last three years, spending per capita has increased to $29.

“If you imagine a line graph of the state of Colorado, plotted with all of the cities across the state of how much they’re spending on arts and culture, Durango was firmly, solidly at the bottom of the barrel,” he said. “ … And we are (now) firmly in the middle to upper middle of the pack as far as Colorado cities and how much we’re investing in arts and culture per capita.”

Crosby said the CEC has been very staunch about keeping money local, working with Durango artists to purchase equipment and supplies locally instead of outsourcing to the internet or businesses outside the area.

In the second year of the lodgers tax arts and culture funding program, the CEC hired a creative business consultant to help funding recipients make the most of their awarded funds.

The CEC has also done work to implement public art into capital improvement projects overseen by various city departments such as Durango Parks and Recreation, Crosby said.

Looking forward

Despite the CEC’s accomplishments, the DCD will be a good fit for the city’s arts and culture programs, Crosby said.

The advantage to being a state-certified creative district is various funding opportunities will be available, and the DCD might be more “approachable” than the city from an arts and culture standpoint.

The city has responsibilities branching out in all directions, but the DCD is all about arts and culture.

“They’re able to really have a finger on the pulse of the arts and culture community in Durango that just might not translate the same way that the creative economy commission is able to support the arts in Durango,” he said. “And I think both have done an absolutely phenomenal job.”


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