Natalie Johnson, executive director of the Manitou Art Center, was instrumental in obtaining a Creative District designation for the city.

Manitou starts path toward becoming Creative District

by Larry Ferguson
Pikes Peak Bulletin, July 3, 2014

“Manitou has always been known as being crazy and creative,” said Natalie Johnson, executive director of the Manitou Art Center, “but we haven’t had the organization to say, ‘We’re making it, we’re successful and proud of it!'” Now, thanks in large part to Johnson’s efforts, Manitou Springs ¬∑ will have that opportunity. The city this week was selected to participate in a state program designed to enhance the economic impact of the arts in the community. As one of seven cities selected to be candidates in the two-year Creative Districts incubation program, Manitou will be eligible for direct funding and state-sponsored professional training programs geared toward attracting artists and creative entrepreneurs.
Manitou Springs Arts Council

“This isn’t funding to increase the amount of art around our community, necessarily,” Johnson said. “It is more about being able to talk about, support and develop the business community’s and city government’s ability to use the arts to their advantage and bring it to the forefront when needed.”

The Creative Districts program is offered through the Colorado Creative Industries of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. If Manitou completes the program’s requirements during the next two years, it will shed the candidate title and become¬∑ an official Creative District.

The Manitou Springs Arts Council will be the fiscal sponsor and governing board during the two~ year incubation program. Johnson will be the director of the district, and a steering committee comprised of residents will be created.

Manitou was selected from 11 finalists to participate in the program. The final selection came after a visit from program officials this spring.

“They were really impressed with the level of community interest in art,” Johnson said. “When they left at the end of the day, they said Manitou just made also encompasses locations on Canon and Ruxton avenues and nearby streets, including the U.S. Post Office, Miramont Castle and Manitou Springs Elementary SchooL

Johnson said the Manitou Creative District will soon receive an initial startup matching grant of $5,000. “After that, it’s sort of a wait and see situation,” she said. Among the program’s stated goals:

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