Diedra Silbert, recently hired by the Town of Ridgway as its coordinator for community and economic development, visited the Ridgway area for over 20 years for hiking trips, before moving here last summer.
Photo by Bill Tiedje
By Bill Tiedje
Efforts to establish a Certified Colorado Creative District in Ridgway are now in full force with the formal application submitted, a new coordinator on board and monthly moon walks scheduled to highlight local artists and businesses.
On May 24 the formal application to become a certified Colorado Creative District was submitted to Colorado Creative Industries, an entity in the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. CCI administers the Boettcher Colorado Creative District Award on behalf of the Boettcher Foundation. Once certified, Creative Districts can receive matching funds of up to $25,000 over the next five years to support the creation of sustainable operations and successful ongoing programs.
Diedra Silbert will lead Ridgway's Creative District program, as well as the Colorado Main Street program, another state program focused on revitalization of traditional downtown districts within the context of historical preservation. Silbert was recently hired by the Town of Ridgway as a coordinator for community and economic development. During the planning commission meeting on May 28, Town Manager Jen Coates described Silbert as well suited to the position through her familiarity with volunteer efforts and government.
Ridgway earned Prospective Creative District status last year, coming in fourth out of 44 applications submitted statewide. Following legislation creating the program in 2011, CCI awarded two Certified Creative District designations, eight Prospective Creative Districts and five Emerging Creative Districts.
Originating as a goal outlined in the Ouray County 2011 Bottom Up Economic Development Plan, the application to become a Colorado Creative District is the culmination of years of work to start the pilot program. From an inventory of assets and differing ideas from many parties, a shared creative vision was formed that would mesh well with the Main Street program.
Two weeks ago, CCI representatives received a tour of Ridgway's creative assets in coordination with the application. Officials visited several of Ridgway's creative businesses, including stops at the Bennett Forgeworks, Weehawken Creative Arts, Sherbino Theater, Billings Artworks, Blue Corn Naturals and Firehouse Sculpture.
Town council approved the Ridgway Creative District Strategic Plan on May 8, and Ridgway Planning Commission has ratified it. Specific objectives outlined in the plan include: moon walks, starting on June 22 and each following full moon, highlighting an artist or business in a different area of town; the first annual fundraising event, likely to be held this fall; and, a new website with an improved interactive map. Coates described the Creative District Strategic Plan as a three year document and identified high cost as the main obstacle for developing an advanced art district. However, she indicated Ridgway's size and scale was a strength in many applications. The Ridgway Creative District Strategic Plan may be viewed by the public on the Town of Ridgway's website, www.town.ridgway.co.us/.
Having relocated to Ridgway from Flagstaff, Silbert recalled witnessing Imagination Day, an inaugural creative district event last summer, on her first day in town. Silbert saw Ridgway residents write ideas on large canvasses to form a word cloud; and, understanding what this level of community involvement meant, she was very excited about the process.
Silbert also is administrator of the Ouray County Regional Service Authority, manager of the Mountain Medical Center building. She served as a member of the Flagstaff Public Arts Commission and worked for Coconino County Juvenile Court Services for 22 years. Silbert has visited the Ridgway area for over 20 years, enjoys hiking and backpacking, and is excited to make Ridgway a long term home.