Carbondale Corner: Carbondale Creative District fights for authenticity |

Carbondale Corner: Carbondale Creative District fights for authenticity

Amy Kimberly

It only takes me a visit somewhere else to quickly realize how lucky I am to live where I do. I love laying next to a deep, turquoise sea or a visit to a city as much as anybody, but I always feel a relief when I set sight of Mount Sopris.

Listening to the news, I hear a reality that does not match what I see outside my window. In Carbondale I feel safe and balanced, but is that true? Is Carbondale a safe haven in a raging storm?

Carbondale has an abundance of water. The wide-open pastures dotted with cows or yaks or even elk speak to a food system that could support an area. The mixture of active ages crosses demographics and forges a “Carbondale” culture that promotes collaboration, creativity, environmental stewardship and healthy living.

This culture exists throughout the valley, but Carbondale embodies it. This is the culture that the Carbondale Creative District embraces. That is also the very culture that is threatened by the cost of living, lack of housing and rising populations.

So what can we do about it? I don’t have one easy answer, these are complex issues that communities around the country are facing. What I do know is it takes collaboration. It takes thinking outside the box. It takes immense creativity to solve the problems facing us in the 21st century.

That is at the heart of the Carbondale Creative District. Not only do we embrace our creatives, which range from local food producers to performing artists, but we also fight to retain the authenticity that makes Carbondale the very place that everyone wants to live.

Housing is at a premium and the cost of building in this area is sky high. It is hard to create affordable housing, but collaboration and creativity will triumph.

The RINO (River North) Creative District in Denver is proactive in keeping it real. The district used to be an industrial wasteland but was revived as creatives found the cheap, large spaces perfect for their crafts. Co-working spaces, amazing restaurants, artist studios and innovative murals and business models quickly increased the cost of living. RINO did not give up. Folks there found enough collaborators to implement a large-scale affordable live/work project and have a homeless shelter of 11 tiny homes that will house up to 22 people who normally would be sleeping on the street.

We have the capacity to be innovative here in rural Colorado, as well. The Carbondale Creative District believes that our focus needs to be retaining our sense of place, keeping the mix of many ages and nationalities, inspiring those that work hard to be able to stay here through creative opportunity and interaction and fighting, yes fighting, to retain our authenticity.

I get to see the influence of our “Carbondale culture.” I see it as I work with our Latino community on the Rio Grande ARTway. One Latina stakeholder suggested that, “we use recycled materials to build on the trail because that is what Carbondale is about.”

We are connected in so many ways. That is what makes Carbondale so special. We do work together. We share our influences between cultures and work to achieve dreams. Stay tuned to the Carbondale Creative District and ways to implement creative placemaking in your community through

Amy Kimberly is executive director of Carbondale Arts.

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