Creativity is Key in These Colorado Communities
The Grand Valley's vibrant arts and cultural amenities help improve quality of life and drive the local economies.
Grand Valley is a region that punches above its weight in cultural offerings. From a vibrant arts scene to unique venues to a diverse menu of restaurants to a stunning collection of wineries, the Grand Valley is a place where residents can enjoy life to the fullest.
The countless options for arts and entertainment in Grand Junction makes the city the cultural hub of the region as well as one of fewer than 30 Certified Colorado Creative Districts. This state-certified program attracts artists and creative entrepreneurs to a community, infusing new energy and innovation, which in turn enhances the economic and civic capital of the community.
Districts also serve as a focal point for celebrating and strengthening a community’s unique identity. They become a space to showcase cultural and artistic organizations and events, and contribute to the development of healthy communities.
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Arts Drive the Economy
The Grand Junction Commission on Arts and Culture has been working to support artistic resources and cultural activities since 1990.
“Our goal is to form strong, lasting and dynamic connections with artists, arts organizations, businesses, government and educational institutions throughout the city,” says Sarah Dishong, the commission’s chair.
Economic Impact of the Arts
According to data released in the Economic & Social Importance of the Arts in the Grand Valley report, arts and cultural activities generate around $30 million for the local economy.
Not only do the arts influence quality of life, but they’re also a major economic driver. Further, nonprofit arts and cultural organizations support about 140 full-time jobs at 18 different organizations or agencies. Nearly 200 people work at full-time or part-time jobs in the cultural industry.
Mesa County has about 255 for-profit, arts-related businesses that employ nearly 900 people. These include local “creative industries” spanning careers from artists, architects, designers, galleries and musicians to radio and TV, and audio/video/movie production.
On Display in the Grand Valley
One arts attraction is the Avalon Theatre, built in 1923, and the largest performance hall in Western Colorado. The downtown gem hosts everything from foreign and independent film series to dance and theatrical performances, plus lectures and variety shows.
Public art is a Grand Valley fixture. A signature attraction is Art on the Corner, a year-round outdoor sculpture exhibit displayed in downtown Grand Junction that was one of the first of its kind in the country. The display is free and includes more than 115 sculptures in a variety of media and styles.
Murals also brighten the landscape in Grand Junction. The city’s “aRT” program is designed to transform bleak underpasses along the Riverfront Trail into vibrant, artistic expressions that enhance the trail users’ experience.
“aRT is a fluid process, with murals changing, bringing new and fresh designs to the Riverfront Trail,” Dishong says. “Through aRT, we will expand our rich artistic community and provide spaces to nurture budding artists by creating a more vibrant environment.”
Grand Valley boasts renowned art museums. The Western Colorado Center for the Arts, often called The Art Center, has an extensive permanent collection and hosts more than 25 rotating art exhibitions.
The Art Center is in the midst of a $600,000 capital campaign to build the new Jac Kephart Gallery within its 13,000-square-foot campus in Grand Junction. The project will allow The Art Center to expand with a 1,700-square-foot gallery as well as provide upgrades to the existing building infrastructure. Additionally, it will provide a new space for education programs offered to the community, which are used by more than 3,000 children in Western Colorado annually.
The Colorado Mesa University Art Gallery, known as 437CO, features regular exhibitions by guest artists as well as students attending the university’s fine arts program.
On the Vine in Palisade
Nestled in the heart of Colorado Wine Country, Palisade is home to more than 30 wineries and vineyards that are popular destinations.
One of the more notable wineries in the region is Grande River Vineyards, the largest winery in Colorado with the largest grape crop in the state. The two-story, 9,000-square-foot building can accommodate many winery visitors but also crowds who come to the amphitheater for concerts on the lawn during the summer.
Grande River was acquired in June 2021 by husband and wife Richard and Jean Tally, who own the popular 80-room Wine Country Inn located next to Grande River.
The annual Colorado Mountain Winefest, named Best Wine Festival by USA Today, boasts dozens of local wineries, as well as artisan merchant vendors. Even the Colorado Association for Viticulture & Enology sponsors an art competition to create the commemorative poster each year.