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It helps that the definition of “creative industries” has expanded in recent years.A 2015 National Endowment for the Arts study showed .9 billion in revenue from Colorado’s creative industries, ranging from performing arts and publishing to film, media, design, custom fabrication and “heritage” sites.With 96,000 workers and 9 million in nonprofit cultural revenue statewide, there’s plenty of evidence that arts and culture are thriving in towns and cities outside the Front Range, officials say.

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“But we’ve laid the groundwork with incentives and commercial construction.” The trick, they say, is to preserve the city’s character and history while experimenting with arts and culture that attracts new residents and fosters sustainable, progressive industries. “Trinidad has its architecture and its eclectic personality,” Creative Industries’ Hunt said. 160 near Mesa Verde National Park in southwestern Colorado, known best for its outdoor recreation and history of the Ancient Pueblo people.

“We’ve done a better job of educating communities at the municipal level in recent years that arts and culture is a real development strategy,” she said.

“But to be successful, they’ve really got to have a community fabric of people who are involved and support it, and who see it as an important part of their identity.

But if the tourists who pull off Interstate 25 to buy legal marijuana in this border town look closer, they’ll see a sign advertising the future site of Space to Create Trinidad — a million live/work project slated to break ground in May.

From Trinidad to Mancos, Ridgway to Salida, a growing number of communities far outside the Front Range are putting arts and culture at the center of their economic development strategies, joining other rural, mountain and border towns that have tapped into state-level resources to end the boom-and-bust cycle of failed natural-resource industries that has decimated their populations.