In 2020, the Creative District saw not only new leadership, we also saw new opportunities to lead the community’s economic recovery efforts. We announced a new executive director in May with Becca Sickbert and added three new board members: Laura Neumann, a local mobility advocate and community leader behind projects like City for Champions and Joye Cook-Levy, Director of Arts and Community Wellness & Connect 14 Coordinator with MSSD-14, as well as Leslie Lewis, Executive Director of the Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce, Visitors Bureau & Office of Economic Development.

The Creative District sought to balance public and economic health in partnership with its creative industry leaders, business community, local government, and regional partners. In response to needs identified by business and resident surveys, we coordinated the “Love the Town You’re In” campaign with CARES-Act funded street banners, sidewalk decals, and social media graphics reminding visitors and residents to follow public health guidelines while remembering that “It’s a Big Deal to Shop Small.”

Despite COVID restrictions, we found socially distanced ways to celebrate our community’s creative identity. For example, the Creative District led the MOU and website development process behind the Creative Circuit with its first project showcasing Black artists of the Pikes Peak region at In partnership with the Manitou Springs Arts Council, we launched a baby dinosaur naming contest during August, promoted plein air painting with Manitou Paints! In September, and expanded October’s Skeleton Craze to include businesses east of Highway 24.

Enhancing economic vitality through gallery owners, entrepreneurs, and artists is central to the Creative District’s mission. In 2020, we championed the marketplace featuring products, artwork, services and experiences found only in Manitou Springs. The project launched the week before Thanksgiving to showcase makers and merchants in the region leading up to Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Artists Sunday, and Cyber Monday.