Between the snow-covered mountains and the beckoning games at Invesco and the Pepsi Center, the dawn of winter is an easy time to overlook Colorado’s arts and culture scene. Thankfully, this month we have Denver’s fourth annual Arts Week—a string of gallery parties, red-carpet events, and freebie museum admissions—to remind us that the arts community has become a thriving part of the state’s economy.

The creative industry—including visual and performing arts, film, media, literature, publishing, and design—generates $1.7 billion for Denver annually in a good economy, more than double the impact it had 10 years ago. The arts and culture sector is now the fifth-largest employer in the state, almost as big as the high-powered IT/telecommunications industry and ahead of the defense/security biz. Colorado, in fact, is home to the fifth-highest concentration of artists in America, trailing only creative hotbeds such as New York, California, and Massachusetts.

The state’s growing arts reputation owes thanks to our fondness for trekking—the wildly successful First Friday Art Walks have boosted arts districts such as Santa Fe, Tennyson, and River North—and our votes, since we’ve supported cultural investments such as the recent renovations to the Ellie Caulkins Opera House and Denver Art Museum. The tricky part in a tough economy is continuing the investment. “Denver’s cultural sector has gelled into something that’s vital in terms of economic impact,” says Erin Trapp, director of the Denver Office of Cultural Affairs. “The worst thing you can do is take your foot off the pedal and undo everything you’ve done.”

So, as the snow begins to fall, we’re not going on a Nuggets and Broncos lockdown with our remotes. We’ll check out the games, of course, but we’ll also be hitting the events during Arts Week (Nov. 6-14), like First Friday Art Walk (Nov. 6) and Saturday Night at the Museums (Nov. 7), to revel in the creative talent for which our state is—finally—recognized.