Trinidad: Where Creativity is Fueling Community Renaissance

Photo Courtesy of Mike Tranter

Nestled in the heart of Southeastern Colorado, Trinidad stands as a beacon of transformation, drawing artists, visionaries, and cultural enthusiasts. The catalyst – Space to Create Colorado – has helped spark a movement among creatives who have several things in common: love of place combined with ingenuity and an indomitable spirit. 

Photo courtesy of Boettcher Foundation

Marggie Ferrendelli, fueled by an indomitable spirit, encountered a challenge within the realm of the work rental spaces at Space to Create – some of the spaces lacked windows, leaving them feeling vacant and cold, literally and figuratively. In true Trinidad fashion, local artist Emilie Odell and her partner Ken Chapin found an inventive solution. 

Together, the artists curated a unique ‘Goodnight Moon’ exhibit using an astonishing 152 miles of yarn. This captivating display drew more than 700 area students for field trips and Ken and Emilie generously donated thousands of knitted dolls and books, ensuring each child took home a heartwarming piece of artistry. 

Their collaborative innovation not only transformed these spaces but also exemplified the artistic synergy propelling Trinidad’s inspiring evolution.

Artist, Lora Nava | Photo courtesy of Mike Tranter

Trinidad’s trajectory showcases the impact of community collaboration and visionary leadership. The town’s more recent transformation began with the Space to Create project, an endeavor aimed at repurposing historic buildings and stimulating economic diversification by attracting a wave of new artists to the region. 

In a span of six years, despite facing hurdles that included pandemic-related delays, zoning complexities, and the need for community support, the initiative has blossomed into a success.

The restored historic buildings now house co-working spaces, workshops, meeting rooms, kitchens, and retail spaces along with 41 affordable residential units. The space itself has enhanced the community’s infrastructure while providing dynamic venues for events and gatherings. 

In the last year alone, Trinidad has averaged 12 new businesses a quarter. 

Marggie Ferrendelli, who helps run this robust space as director of the Creative Main District, says her unconventional entrance into this landscape – farmer turned preservationist – epitomizes Trinidad’s spirit of innovation and adaptability. 

“Prior to my role, it’s all been run by volunteers. So, the fact that Space to Create was even evolving by volunteer support for 10 years is amazing.”  

Reflecting on her experiences navigating uncharted territories, she said, “My city was really helpful in the fact that they didn’t give me any guidelines. I’ve had people come to me and say, ‘Hey, what about this?’ and we figure it out together.” Marggie’s initiative transformed the ground floor known as “The Commons”, into a vibrant space for gatherings, business meetings, and training.

With pride in her voice, Marty Hackett, Trinidad’s Tourism & Community Relations Manager, notes the grit and community spirit that has always been present as key to Trinidad’s evolution.

“This once sleepy little town always managed to keep its head above water when the economy experienced dips and dives,” Marty reflects. She recalls the town’s historical ties to the coal industry, a significant economic driver that sustained Trinidad for over a century. 

With most of the area coal mines closing in the 1990s, the decade marked a pivotal era in the city’s history. A shifting economic landscape created change and challenge.

Marggie (left) and Marty (right) inside Space to Create | Photo courtesy of Mike Tranter

“The legalization of cannabis gave way to an unlikely industry resurrecting the economy over the past 10 years,” Marty emphasizes. Another driving force for change was the purchase of Fishers Peak State Park, and the subsequent discovery of the outdoors in Trinidad through the imposition of the pandemic brought recreationists to the area.

Amid the economic ebb and flow experienced over decades, Trinidad recognized the need for diversified economic drivers. As the cannabis industry provided a foundation, the town strategically broadened its horizons, capitalizing on art, outdoor recreation, and tourism as enduring and complementary economic pillars.

Space to Create Colorado emerged in 2015 as a state-driven symphony, harmonizing public and private forces such as the Creative District, Corazón de Trinidad. Department of Local Affairs, History Colorado, and the Boettcher Foundation. The state now has 30 certified Creative Districts including Carbondale, Grand Junction, Grand Lake, and Salida and Ridgeway.

Trinidad’s journey serves as an inspirational narrative — a testament to the potential of collaborative efforts in revitalizing communities and embracing cultural diversity to thrive in a changing world.

That’s the spirit of Boettcher

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