Colorado Creative Industry – Six Years Later

The Review July 2016
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(Editors Note: A big thank you to Christy Costello. Program Manager at Colorado Creative Industries for her assistance in preparing this feature.)

On July 1, 2010, Colorado established a new Creative Industry Division in the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. In a bill passed by the state legislators, the Colorado Council on the Arts, The Colorado Office of Film, Television & Media and the Colorado’s Art in Public Places offices will be combined to pool resources and promote the creative industry in Colorado.

The June/July issue of Advertising & Marketing Review, now The Review, featured the new Colorado Creative Industry (CCI) Division, then under the direction of Executive Director Elaine Mariner. The creation of the CCI came about after a study by the Colorado Council on the Arts titled “Colorado: State-of-the- Art, Key Findings from The State of Colorado’s Creative Economy” which showed that 186,251 jobs in the state were associated with creative enterprises and creative occupations. The creative enterprises alone employed over 122,000 individuals in 8,000 establishments. This accounted for 3.9% of the state’s estimated 3.2 million jobs, making it Colorado’s 5th largest employment sector, almost as large as biotechnology/biomedical, IT & telecommunications, and larger than defense. Security and agribusiness, food processing & technology. Employee earnings in these jobs, including employee benefits, were about $5 billion. Another 64,000 individuals worked in creative occupations in non-creative enterprises.

“This research clearly demonstrates that the creative sector is a large and important sector of Colorado’s economy,” said then Colorado Lt. Governor, Barbara O’Brien. “Our next step is to more fully understand the challenges in each industry sub-group and identify areas of opportunity.”

The study showed Colorado was a magnet for creative talent, ranking 5th among all states for concentration of creative occupations. Only New York, California, Massachusetts and Vermont have a higher concentration of creative talent. Colorado ranked 2nd in concentration of architects, 7th in concentration of writers, designers, entertainers and performers, and 8th in concentration of photographers.

Defining the creative community.

To better understand the nature of the creative economy in Colorado, enterprises in the creative economy were categorized within the six sub-groups that are described below.

• Design is product and environmental design sectors that apply artistic content to commercial products, services, and the environment whose markets depend on that artistic input. The artistic content of architectural drawings, landscapes, advertising, websites, office and home interiors, and some (but by no means all) manufactured products influences customers and determines commercial success.

• Film and media cover the technical and distributive elements of Colorado’s entertainment sectors, including firms that provide the technical production support systems, such as sound, lighting, digital art, animation, and sets and studios, broadcasting, and distribution channels via motion picture, video, and music production companies, radio, cable, and Internet, and motion picture theatres.

• Heritage includes Colorado’s historical sites, museums, and botanical gardens.

• Literary and publishing includes at its core the state’s authors, poets, and writers. Also the editors, publishers, and printers that reproduce the text, and the libraries, bookstores, and newsstands that makes them available to the public.

• Performing arts is composed of actors, musicians, promoters, producers, and directors and the venues at which they perform.

• Visual arts and crafts is the group most closely associated with the creative economy, the sketchers, painters, photographers, sculptors, potters, glassblowers, metal artists, jewelers, paper artists, carvers, and other artisans who create products as well as the shops and galleries that show and sell them.

What progress has been made in six years?

A major step forward to revitalize the film and video industry in Colorado occurred when the office of Film, Television and Media, along with the help of Governor John Hickenlooper, convinced the state legislators to created a film incentive program to draw film projects to the state. Since that time, there have been many projects brought into the state that have created jobs and an economic impact in the millions.

Following are some of the other programs that have been instituted:

Grant Programs

Colorado Creates is Colorado Creative Industries’ largest grant program. This award provides financial support to help nonprofit cultural organizations and communities produce arts and cultural activities, bringing jobs to their communities and enhancing the quality of life. In the last grant competition, we awarded 168 grants totaling just over $1,100,000 across the state.

Artist programs

Colorado’s Art in Public Places Program creates an environment of distinction, enjoyment, and pride for all Coloradans. All applications for public art projects will be accepted through

• Creative Capitol brings permanent and rotating art exhibitions to the state capitol building, celebrating Colorado’s rich creative economy and sharing it with Coloradans.

• There are over 40 public art programs throughout the state of Colorado. They vary in size and programs, but they all make a difference in their specific communities

Community Programs

• This program supports Colorado Creative Industries (CCI) goals to better equip arts and cultural leaders to deal with environmental and organizational change, and to create a statewide mentoring network in the arts and creative community. The Change Leader Institute is a three-day leadership development opportunity that builds and sustains an active network of graduates who become leaders in their communities, and supports the work of local creatives.

CCI across the state.

• Colorado Creative Districts – In 2011, the Colorado legislature passed and Governor Hickenlooper signed into law HB11-1031 encouraging the formation of Creative Districts in communities, neighborhoods or contiguous geographic areas.

• Music Resources – Colorado Creative Industries supports the music industry by offering various resources.

Cultural Heritage – Colorado Creative Industries defines cultural heritage as the folk or traditional arts (music, dance, craft, verbal arts) practiced by groups of people who share a common ethnic heritage, language, religion, occupation, geographic region, or way of life.

• Creative Leadership Awards – Each spring, during the Creative Industries Summit, Creative Leadership Awards are presented to community members that have demonstrated a significant commitment to Colorado’s creative landscape through civic leadership and volunteerism including advocacy, vision, collaboration, or innovation.


• Research – Information about Colorado arts education and help in developing a strong program for your school or district can be found in this section.

• Creative Youth Development – The Alliance for Creative Youth Development a community of youth arts organizations collaborating with and sharing best practices.

• Creative Summit – The annual Creative Industries Summit is a two-day conference that targets creative entrepreneurs, emerging creatives, municipal and non-profit cultural workers, and creative district leaders.

Public Art

• Creative Capitol – Colorado Creative Industries’ program of art exhibitions at the Colorado State Capitol brings rotating art exhibitions to the State Capitol to celebrate Colorado’s creative economy and share it with Coloradans and visitors.

Community Public At Programs – There are over 40 public art programs throughout the state of Colorado.

What does the Colorado Creative Industries plan for the future?
Space to Create – Space to Create Colorado is the first state driven initiative for affordable housing for artists in the nation. The purpose is to develop affordable housing and work space for artists and arts organizations and to position Colorado as the nation’s leader in artist-led community transformation in rural communities. Space to Create will facilitate the development of nine projects in Colorado over the course of eight years. You can see the roll out schedule here: 

They are currently working on a demonstration project in Trinidad that is in the design phase. We are in the selection phase for the Southwest region and will roll out the South Central region in early July.

Colorado Music Strategy: This program includes pilot projects like: the Colorado Music licensing project, connecting local musicians with licensing opportunities. Detour, a statewide program creating a model of music touring as a community-based, sustainable and creatively rewarding practice. We are planning a big announcement of the Colorado Music Strategy in August

Detour: See a video recap here


They will announce new project grants in July, focusing on non-arts organizations and community impact.


There is not doubt that the Colorado Creative Industry is an important factor in Colorado’s economy. More and more creative individuals are moving into the state because of the opportunities and the life style. As the industry grows in Colorado, those benefiting need to contribute some time and effort back to the industry by mentoring, educating and leading into the future. Other ways to help include providing small grants for specific creative projects and providing marketing support for the 18 Creative Districts

To contact the CCI, visit, call 303-892-3840 or visit them at 1625 Broadway, Suite 2700.

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