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"Monuments," by Craig Walsh. Photograph by Courtney Pederson / Courtesy of Breckenridge International Festival of Arts

Art At Elevation

How Breckenridge became the country's artsiest small town.

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There’s more to Breckenridge’s vibrancy than the plentiful aspens that will begin painting the landscape yellow later this month. In April, the Tenmile Range town beat out 937 other locales to earn the ranking of top small American city for arts vibrancy, according to Southern Methodist University’s National Center for Arts Research. Claiming the title didn’t happen by accident. In 2014, the city debuted Breckenridge Creative Arts, aka BreckCreate, a nonprofit designed to bolster cultural offerings—and also to differentiate Breck from nearby mountain towns. Since then, the organization has spent $25 million to make arts-related improvements, such as the Breckenridge Arts District, a one-acre campus of artists’ studios, galleries, and workshops. And it’s launched five new festivals, including the Breckenridge International Festival of Arts, which returns for the third year this month, brandishing its trademark blend of arts with the outdoors. For example, Australian digital artist Craig Walsh will host the domestic premiere of his Monuments exhibit (pictured), in which he projects the faces of community leaders onto trees. After all, sometimes even nature benefits from a little nurturing.

More: Read our first-timer’s guide to Breckenridge, Colorado.

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