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First Friday Shuttle bus sparks Creative Corridor initiative 

click to enlarge Goodbye, parking woes; hello, easy transit. - ALYSSA KARPA
  • Alyssa Karpa
  • Goodbye, parking woes; hello, easy transit.
For four months in spring and summer of 2017, the First Friday ArtWalk shuttle bus — a pilot program of the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region — drove a fare-free route on First Fridays between Old Colorado City and downtown Colorado Springs, with resident artists on each shuttle to provide an artist perspective on the region and occasionally serenade their riders. The easy transit encouraged more participation in First Fridays, building on community excitement around monthly art openings.

About 500 people used the shuttle last season, and 400 of those did so in the final two months of its operation. “We want to build on that momentum,” says Jonathan Toman, COPPeR’s Peak Radar manager and coordinator of the shuttle bus, 2.0. (Disclosure: Toman also contributes to the Indy’s culture blog on behalf of COPPeR).

In 2018, COPPeR has expanded not only the shuttle’s dates of operation (every First Friday from April through December), but also its route. Galleries in Manitou Springs — which has previously celebrated art openings on Third Fridays — have made the switch to First Fridays (barring a few who will celebrate both First and Third for the time being). A route has been added from Old Colorado City to Manitou Springs.

Visitors to all three communities will at the very least benefit from the lack of a parking-induced headache. But this expansion also speaks to greater opportunities ahead. A Manitou Springs route has encouraged a new level of collaboration.

On March 27, Colorado Springs City Council passed a resolution to establish Manitou Springs, Old Colorado City and Downtown Colorado Springs as a creative corridor. The Manitou Springs Council is prepared to do the same on April 3.

COPPeR executive director Andy Vick hopes the cities’ resolutions will formalize the notion of a Creative Corridor, giving them more leverage to apply for grants. Already, they have their sights set on a $25,000 matching grant from the Colorado Tourism Office, for which COPPeR will apply in September.

Vick also hopes that Creative Corridor branding will allow the communities to increase publicity and encourage regional arts tourism. “We really see this as being a tourism initiative, as well as a local initiative,” he says.
All three communities seem to be excited about the possibility of collaboration. “A Creative Corridor is a no-brainer,” says Natalie Johnson, executive director of the Manitou Springs Creative District. “The connection and creativity that exist between our three communities along Colorado [and] Manitou Avenue are worth celebrating and promoting.”

According to Claire Swinford, urban engagement manager of the Downtown Partnership, “we’re already blessed with a constellation of outstandingly collaborative creative communities. That being the case, the main benefit of the Creative Corridor project will be to harness the collective strength of Downtown, Manitou and Old Colorado City to fuel new programs and services for those communities.” She cites the shuttle bus as a perfect example.

Though Karen Cullen, executive director of Old Colorado City Associates, claims that there are more than 400 artists represented in Old Colorado City, and more than 15 galleries, OCC remains the only one of the three communities that has not been certified as a creative district by the state, though they have yet to apply.

Cullen hopes that the city resolutions and the shuttle bus connection may help OCC make that leap into full certification through building credibility, sharing their knowledge and resources.

“Because it really does encourage business development and job development,” Cullen says, “bringing more artists to the community and building on more cultural experiences.”

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