Downtown art spots keep growing thanks to creative district designation – The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

Posted in Tattoo Shop on Dec 08, 2019

A few months ago, Gigi McBurney seemed ready to close up her teaching studio for young artists and move onto the next chapter of her journey. But then she spoke to her friend, Carrie Kellerby.

Kellerby was forming a plan to open a new co-op artistic studio in downtown Grand Junction and wanted to provide diverse options ranging from fine art, visual art, music and creative writing, among others. She wanted McBurney to move her KiDoodles business over to the new Confluence Studios.

The art studio is still getting up and running at 634 Main St. and should officially open in January, but McBurney is already teaching her classes for children ages 4-13. Kellerby will also be leading some creative writing courses starting near the end of the month. Later there will be events for both members and the general public.

"There is good momentum," Kellerby said. "We just put it together."

Downtown Grand Junction has long been a haven for businesses like Confluence Studio and local artists in general. The sector received some validation last year when it was named a creative district by Colorado Creative Industries, which has led to a greater art presence in the downtown corridor.

It's that artistic vibe that attracted Kellerby and McBurney to create the newest art-related endeavor in downtown.

"Grand Junction is such a unique place, a spiritual place, a special place. It's rich in culture in many ways," Kellerby said. "We're just tapping into that and trying to make it accessible to all."

Colorado Creative Industries designated downtown Grand Junction as the 23rd creative district in September 2018. The title means the corridor ranging from the railroad tracks to Eighth Street and from Ouray Avenue south to Ute Avenue while also dipping down to Las Colonias Park is eligible for financial support, marketing assistance and a network of other districts from which to learn.

In the year-plus since becoming a creative district, the Downtown Grand Junction organization, which oversees the district, has hosted events spurred on by the designation such as a crosswalk painting in the late summer. It was also incorporated into the district's plan of development.

But leaders within the district have also felt the impact of the designation, even if downtown always felt like a creative district.

"The biggest benefit is not necessarily financial resources or grants, but it brings attention to arts and culture," Downtown Director Brandon Stam said. "I think it does create more awareness and legitimizes some creative endeavors we want to do."

Stam and Downtown Grand Junction Community Engagement Director Caitlyn Love both said they've always noticed a camaraderie between businesses, including non-artistic businesses supporting the arts, but it's ramped up since the designation.

"It really brings everyone together and gives everyone a space where they feel welcome and can contribute to their community," Love said.

Businesses like Confluence Studios entering the fray can be a common occurrence after the creative district designation, as can other businesses wanting to locate near art, according to Colorado Creative District Executive Director Margaret Hunt.

"It's fairly typical. Once a community achieves certification status, it becomes a magnet to draw some other creatives in the community," Hunt said. "Businesses want to be in places where their employees are happy."

Justin Nordine owns Raw Canvas tattoo studio and for a time ran an art gallery next to his store. While the gallery recently shuttered, he said the engagement around art appears to be at an all-time high among downtown businesses and feels the designation is part of that.

"It's kind of cool what is happening," he said. "It draws attention to what we do."

Nordine noted how eclectic the arts that are in the downtown core are, from visual arts to music to spoken word. He said tattoo shops are also starting to be recognized.

Kiln Coffee Bar is one of the businesses that has supported the arts in downtown, regularly hanging art from local artists in the shop. Co-owner David Foster said that effort has been successful and that the coffee shop is booked up through 2020 with art displays.

Since the designation, he said he's noticed changes in how some businesses embrace art.

"Being part of downtown and the art district increases the value. It creates a sense of place and purpose," he said. "I think it gives you the desire to embody that. It makes you want to be a part of it."

For Kellerby, being part of the art community downtown is exactly what drove her to Main Street. And she hopes to help build off what's been done.

"We want to keep that momentum going," she said.

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Downtown art spots keep growing thanks to creative district designation - The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

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