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Discover Crested Butte’s Off-the-Slopes Art Scene

Crested Butte has acquired quite a few nicknames over the years: the last great Colorado ski town, mountain bike capital of Colorado and wildflower capital of Colorado — and it’s easy to see why.

A plein air painter in Crested Butte (Credit: Lydia Stern/LStern Media)
A plein air painter in Crested Butte (Credit: Lydia Stern/LStern Media)
Crested Butte in the fall (Credit: Lydia Stern/LStern Media)
Crested Butte in the fall (Credit: Lydia Stern/LStern Media)
 Community Collaborative Iron Pour (Credit: Lydia Stern/LStern Media)
Community Collaborative Iron Pour (Credit: Lydia Stern/LStern Media)
Montanya Rum
Montanya Rum
Crested Butte Film Festival (Credit: Lydia Stern/LStern Media)
Crested Butte Film Festival (Credit: Lydia Stern/LStern Media)
Crested Butte Arts Festival (Credit: Lydia Stern/LStern Media)
Crested Butte Arts Festival (Credit: Lydia Stern/LStern Media)
An aerial dance performance at the Crested Butte Arts Festival (Credit: Lydia Stern/LStern Media)
An aerial dance performance at the Crested Butte Arts Festival (Credit: Lydia Stern/LStern Media)

Nestled in a valley surrounded by the Gunnison National Forest, this picturesque mountain town boasts panoramic views of dramatic peaks from its quaint downtown area, where Victorian homes, independently owned eateries and colorful boutiques in mining-era storefronts line the main stretch of Elk Avenue, which has been designated a U.S. National Historic Landmark District.

During winter, heavy snowfall translates to powdery runs down Mount Crested Butte, while summertime brings a blaze of glorious wildflowers. In the fall, golden aspen trees run down the hillsides, perfect for a scenic mountain bike ride or hike. If you can tear yourself away from the natural beauty long enough, you’ll discover even more visual splendor in the official Crested Butte Creative District, where a flourishing arts and culture scene can be found in artist studios, galleries and at festivals throughout the year. Crested Butte is also part of the Colorado Creative Corridor, a 331-mile route connecting five Certified Creative Districts. 

Meet Artists & Makers

Stroll along Elk Avenue and stop into the many galleries along the way, starting at RedLine Gallery, a multi-faceted art gallery inside a rough-hewn log building that was a former fur-trading post. Here you’ll find stunning landscape photography, mixed media paintings and striking glass fusion pieces by local artists. Just down the street, Midnight Gallery showcases the work of numerous local artists, with a focus on landscape photography and pottery inspired by nature, while Oh Be Joyful Gallery focuses on the work of internationally acclaimed fine-art plein air painters. Paragon Gallery is a co-op art space with 14 members, as well as two guest artist spots that change out with fresh artwork. For colorful fiber arts made from yarn, silk and more, shop the handmade wares at The Design Collective. Nearby, the Crested Butte Center for the Arts is home to a collection of artist-owned studios and galleries, multiple performance venues, hands-on art classes and special art events. 

For locally crafted goods, browse one of the many boutiques featuring handmade wares by Colorado makers. Stock up on artisanal body care and spa products at Rooted Apothecary, or treat yourself to small-batch soaps, serums and scrubs infused with wild plants at Colorado Real Soap Company. Before hitting the slopes, pick out a pair of custom skis designed with colorful graphics at Romp Skis, or stop by Paradise Ski Chairs to see how old skis are upcycled into quirky outdoor furniture. Meanwhile, Montanya Distillers is a must-try locale for libation lovers. Pull up a chair for a free rum tasting, take a tour of this high-mountain rum distillery (which was named Outstanding Distiller in the 2018 Colorado Manufacturing Awards) and then order a round of creative cocktails.

Think Outside the Gallery

Beyond the gallery walls, creativity comes to life in public spaces throughout Crested Butte. Enjoy art installations such as the license plate-covered house at 4th Street and Elk Avenue, as well as the light-catching Dragon and Knight sculptures at 7th Street and Red Lady Avenue, designed by Sean Guerrero out of recycled chrome. For lively performing arts, watch everything from comedies and dramas to musicals and parodies at Crested Butte Mountain Theatre, one of Colorado’s longest continuously running community theaters. 

Celebrate Art

Throughout the year vibrant festivals and annual music events transform public green spaces and streets into bustling celebrations of visual and performing arts. Explore open galleries, studio tours and live music during the monthly ArtWalks. Every Monday night from June through August, watch free live music during the Alpenglow Summer Concert Series at the Crested Butte Center for the Arts’ outdoor stage. Also during the summer, watch symphony performances, opera, jazz and more during the Crested Butte Music Festival. The Crested Butte Arts Festival kicks off the first weekend in August every summer with an art auction and pop-up tents displaying a vast array of artwork, as well as crafts demonstrations. In the fall, the Crested Butte Film Festival showcases more than 100 documentary, narrative and short films from storytellers from across the globe.

Sip & Savor

Crested Butte’s creativity also extends to its food and beverage scene, where works of art occur on the plate and in the glass. Kick off your morning at Camp 4 Coffee, Crested Butte’s original local coffee roaster, for specialty coffee drinks and freshly baked pastries. At The Secret Stash, savor gourmet pizzas touting some of the most creative toppings around (like the Notorious F.I.G., loaded with three cheeses, prosciutto, dried figs and truffle oil). Sip on craft beers made onsite at The Eldo Brewery & Taproom, or find a pint of craft brew from Irwin Brewing Company at the Public House, which both feature live music throughout the year. If you’re staying at Purple Mountain Bed & Breakfast, you don’t even have to venture far for freshly brewed beer — they make their own house beer for guests. For a true farm-to-table experience, indulge in the creative dishes on the constantly changing menu at Sunflower, which sources its ingredients from local farms and orchards.

Want More?

Read up on the four other towns of the Creative Corridor: Carbondale, Ridgway, Paonia and Salida

Download the Colorado Creative Corridor brochure and map

View a 5-day Colorado Creative Corridor itinerary