Morrison Road in the Westwood neighborhood was recently named a Mexican Cultural District. Now the neighborhood has another title: creative district. This designation brings with it a cash award and marketing help to boost the neighborhood’s profile.
Colorado Creative Industries, a division of the state Office of Economic Development, recently announced that Westwood is now a certified creative district. Along with Steamboat Springs and Manitou Springs, Westwood joined 18 other existing Colorado Creative Districts. Westwood will have the creative district title for a five-year period.
“Creative districts are hubs of economic activity, enhancing the area as an appealing place to live, visit and conduct business, as well as generate new economic activity,” Christine Costello said. Costello is the program manager for Colorado Creative Industries.
The Colorado Creative Districts Program focuses on areas of the state that are contributing to Colorado’s economy through their art, creativity and culture. The program looks to help each creative district by attracting visitors, artists, creative entrepreneurs and by helping develop healthier communities.
“These districts increase quality of life, help with economic vitality of the area and attract people from all over Colorado and the country,” Gov. John Hickenlooper said in a press release.
In order to become a creative district, Westwood had to go through a “rigorous” application process. Following that, Westwood was evaluated by a review panel.
“Westwood submitted a competitive application, and an expert review panel felt the following areas were particularly strong: clear, unique and authentic sense of place, qualified paid staff, a clear vision for the neighborhood organized around the community and strong community participation and buy-in,” Costello said.
What does this mean for Westwood?
It means that Westwood will receive a cash award of $10,000. The neighborhood will also receive marketing from the Colorado Tourism Office that aims to give creative districts national attention. To help promote creative district neighborhoods, CDOT places signs on highways near creative districts.
“The goal of this program is to help Colorado Creative Districts achieve the administrative structure, funding streams, community engagement process and strategic plan that provides opportunities to grow the creative economy,” Margaret Hunt said in a press release. Hunt is the director for Colorado Creative Industries.
The Westwood neighborhood continues to move forward with its neighborhood plan. The art aspect of the plan garnered inspiration from Denver’s cultural plan, Imagine 2020. The Westwood Neighborhood Plan calls for promoting public art through murals, sculptures and kinetic artworks.
Westwood is already covered with murals and art that reflect the culture of the neighborhood. The neighborhood has had its issues with graffiti in the past, but being named a creative district might help combat the issue.
“It (graffiti) dropped when I painted a mural on my wall,” said Duane Austin, owner of Ernie’s Auto Service located on Morrison Road. “Before that they tagged me every night.”
“You look at the murals in our community, and they tell a story of how we’ve changed in a community,” Councilman Paul Lopez said.