© 2024 Aspen Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

The new director of Colorado Creative Industries talks the state of the arts

Josh Blanchard, the new director of Colorado Creative Industries, at a bar in Telluride
Gavin McGough
Josh Blanchard, the new director of Colorado Creative Industries, at a bar in Telluride

Telluride’s Art District is one of 30 Creative Districts across Colorado. They’re sprinkled from Sterling to Grand Junction, Fort Collins to Ridgway. Last fall when Josh Blanchard was named the new director of Colorado Creative Industries — our state agency for the arts — he embarked on a tour of those districts, and he spoke to Gavin McGough in Telluride.

Gavin McGough: You come from a background as county commissioner. Do you have a specific arts background? 

Josh Blanchard: I do have an arts background. I started in arts education — performing arts education. Both my undergrad and graduate degrees are in interdisciplinary performance and humanities. And so I do come from a broad arts background and then specifically have a background in performing arts and in theater. I was the Executive Director of a non-profit theater organization in Summit County for a little over a decade. 

McGough: What was it like to bring your art background to local government?

Blanchard: Artists tend to be resourceful, be efficient, know how to get things done in a tight timeframe or with limited resources. Artists also are often at the pulse of what's happening within communities. I took office in January of 2021, and so we were in the midst of the pandemic. And so I think it served me well.

McGough: What's it been like to come on this new job at the state level? 

Blanchard: It's been exciting for me to be able to be in service to the entire state, all 64 counties, all of our communities.

We have an amazing state. It's beautiful. So many resources. So many folks want to be here. And so I feel it's a great honor and opportunity, but there's a lot of work that needs to be done to support the role that the creative sector plays throughout the state. 

McGough: One of your signature programs is collaborating with different Creative Districts in Colorado. Tell me about those. 

Blanchard: There are 30 state-certified Creative Districts in Colorado. Certified districts really serve their communities in different ways, but are meant to be a toolbox so communities have the resources and the infrastructure to support artists, art nonprofits, and the creative sector. Telluride is one of the designated districts. So we have the ability, of course, to work with the great folks here. 

McGough: Your visit to Telluride right now, is that part of a broader tour of the different arts districts? Have you visited others and what's that been like?

Blanchard: I have! Coming into this role in September one of my goals was to visit the different creative districts and art districts across the state to get a sense of the great stuff that's happening. One of the things that I've really been excited about is to see how each community is different.  The creative districts really come from within communities themselves.

When we talk about Telluride, Breckenridge, Salida — it's the integration of outdoor recreation and the arts [which makes them unique]. When I think about rural communities, Eastern Plain communities, we see the arts and service in similar ways.

They allow communities to come together, for artistic experiences — for a concert or for an activity. And then, of course, when we look at art districts in more metro or urban settings — Santa Fe Arts District, RINO in Denver —  these are really exciting districts that are very much defined geographically within a part of those larger metro areas. Certainly, they have broader reach, but really [they show] how those communities come together, defining arts and culture, industry, and the economic impacts that the arts can have.

McGough: Well, Josh, thank you so much for joining us. Do you have any closing thoughts on the state of the arts in Colorado? 

Blanchard: In Colorado we value the arts. Study after study shows that Coloradans participate at some of the highest levels in making art and attending art. And it's a part of our DNA. It's a part of who we are. It's a part of what makes this state so great. And Telluride is doing an excellent job. So it's exciting to be here and look at the work that's going on and I'll definitely be back. 

Copyright 2024 KOTO. To see more, visit KOTO.

This story was shared via Rocky Mountain Community Radio, a network of public media stations in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico including Aspen Public Radio.

Gavin McGough is a reporter at KOTO in Telluride.