By Nicolette Toussaint
Sopris Sun Correspondent
On Jan. 27, two dozen Carbondale residents huddled around two oversized town plats, marking the town’s artistic and cultural resources. Stars and arrows quickly blossomed all over the maps, indicating music venues, theatres, gardens, architect offices, artists and crafts workers, galleries and restaurants.
The occasion was a creative-zone meeting entitled “Way-Finding and Connectivity,” sponsored by the Carbondale Council on Arts and Humanities (CCAH). As explained by CCAH Executive Director Amy Kimberly, the meeting was a “brainstorming session to map Carbondale’s creative resources,” and part of a process that will include applying for a grant from the state of Colorado in May.
Under state legislation passed in 2011, the Governor’s Office and the Office of Economic Development and International Trade are encouraging and certifying “creative districts (or zones)” that can be comprised of communities, neighborhoods or “contiguous geographic areas.” The program is “set up as incubator to assist creative districts with a variety of elements that will ensure success,” according to a handout from Monday night’s meeting.
One of those creative-zone elements is to map and showcase a community’s resources through signage and “improved communications.” Although Carbondale applied for but did not receive a creative-zone grant last year, the CCAH steering committee decided to go ahead with mapping and “way-finding” on its own as a kick-off to the larger grant application process.
Kimberly noted that while Monday’s meeting was facilitated by professionals from DHM landscape architects and Land+Shelter, the effort was “not supposed to be done just by design professionals, but by a grassroots effort.”
The 24 participants worked to define the town’s creative character — that blend of free-spirited, hippy, artsy, ranching, foodie, biking, rafting, skiing and mountaineering interests that contributes to the town’s “brand” and is uniquely Bonedalian. Monday night’s brainstorming session touched on types of signs that could be placed around town such as a well-designed standardized sign issued to various businesses, or a three-dimensional sign such as one that could be decorated individually by various artisans and creative businesses.
The participants also discussed the types of activity that should be included in the signage project. One participant, representing the Mount Sopris Historical Society, urged the group to “broaden the plan to include cultural aspects” such as the society’s museum. Several participants opined that solar industries and the training offered by Solar Energy International should be included. Others, having learned that Paonia’s creative zone focuses on food, urged inclusion of gardening projects and restaurants.
Kimberly told the group that the steering committee wanted to “dispel the notion of a district” and said that Carbondale was “not going to identify one street or area as a zone.” Because Carbondale has an “unbelievable” number of creative industries — dancers, artists, architects and events scattered around the town — the plan will include a contiguous geographic area and will create signage for “way-finding.”
Accordingly, participants mapped resources that included glass foundries, blacksmiths, jewelers, furniture makers, galleries, gardens, display and performance venues (ranging from SAW and PAC3 to the Carbondale Branch Library and Steve’s Guitars) and schools such as Solar Energy International and Crystal River Ballet. Events noted included: the 5 Point Film Festival, the Green is the New Black fashion show, Potato Day, Mardi Gras, CCAH’s plein air painting event, Mountain Fair and First Fridays, among others.
The meeting’s facilitators told the group that the Colorado Department of Transportation already has plans to install a large sign for Carbondale at the intersection of Highway 82 and 133. If the town and the steering committee move quickly, that sign could become part of Carbondale’s creative signage plan.
The current steering members are: Amy Kimberly (CCAH), Andrea Stewart (Carbondale Chamber of Commerce), Stacy Patch-Bernot (Carbondale mayor), Janet Buck (town of Carbondale planner), Lon Winston (actor/director of the Thunder River Theatre Company, Michael Lindsay (sculptor), Laura Stover (designer), Chris Erickson (artist), Felicia Trevor (artist), Sarah Wood (artist/5 Point Film Festival representative), Jill Oberman (Carbondale Clay Center director), Carol Bruna (Main Street business owner), Beth Maun (business owner), Terry Kirk (business owner), Randi Lowenthal (Roaring Fork Business Resource Center director), Laurie Bernhardt (non-profit consultant), Alejandra Rico (representing the Carbondale Library) and Tony Menendez (representative of Club Rotario).
The steering committee invites additional members to join the group. The creative zone planning process will continue in February when the steering committee presents its ideas about way-finding and related topics to the public for feedback.