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Boulder’s Unofficial (But Awesome) Art Scene

Why our neighbor to the north isn’t a certified creative district.

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As we researched May’s “Creative Pursuits” feature, we couldn’t help but wonder: Why doesn’t Boulder have a certified creative district?

It’s a valid question when you consider Boulder’s fertile arts scene. You’ve got the envelope-pushing Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, the Dairy Arts Center’s gallery and performance spaces(including the art house Boedecker Theater), and roughly 30 galleries. Taken together with all of the other creative businesses (food, design, tech, etc.) that underpin this foothills community, the People’s Republic practically screams “creative district.” Which is maybe why it doesn’t need to actually scream that it’s a certified one.

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“What Boulder has in spades is resources in the cultural community—a lot of artists, a lot of national-level cultural leadership. We have more cultural organizations—137—than we know what to do with in Boulder,” says Matt Chasansky, manager of the City of Boulder’s Office of Arts and Culture. “For us, being a part of the state system of creative districts is interesting, but it’s not primarily what drives any district, so it’s not top of our mind.”

What is top of mind is how to effectively spend the city’s new million-dollar arts budget. (Boulder might have had a lot of cultural resources, but until the city overhauled its cultural plan in 2014, it lacked actual resources; before that, Boulder had some of the lowest arts funding per capita in the state.) One of the main focuses, currently, is on the grassroots-grown community known as the NoBo Art District, a mix of food, design, and, fine art artisans scattered throughout north Boulder. Over the next few years, Chasansky and his team hope to see the city and the neighborhood collaborate to create shared programming, public art, city maps, and perhaps even special signage in the area. In the meantime, you’ll just have to find your way around this micro-hood on your own. Fortunately, resourceful locals have already put together a website to help you.

—Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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