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Salida Creative District: Art With an Adventurous Side

With the Arkansas River rushing along its northwestern boundary and the Collegiate Peaks rising just beyond, the foothill town of Salida, Colorado, has always embraced the natural bounty of its location.

Salida Creative District (Credit: Scott Peterson)
Salida Creative District (Credit: Scott Peterson)
Aerial view of Salida (Credit: Scott Peterson)
Aerial view of Salida (Credit: Scott Peterson)
Water activities on the Arkansas River (Credit: Scott Peterson)
Water activities on the Arkansas River (Credit: Scott Peterson)
Storefronts in Salida (Credit: Scott Peterson)
Storefronts in Salida (Credit: Scott Peterson)
Colorful buildings and murals (Credit: Scott Peterson)
Colorful buildings and murals (Credit: Scott Peterson)
Browsing art galleries (Credit: Scott Peterson)
Browsing art galleries (Credit: Scott Peterson)
Live music in Riverside Park (Credit: Scott Peterson)
Live music in Riverside Park (Credit: Scott Peterson)
Mountain biking outside of Salida (Credit: Scott Peterson)
Mountain biking outside of Salida (Credit: Scott Peterson)

Indeed, despite its misleading name (salida means “exit” in Spanish), the easygoing enclave has long served as an entryway for outdoor adventure. But as one of Colorado’s first Certified Creative Districts, Salida has a rich interior life as well; the town’s culture supports a colorful tapestry of culinary craftsmen, beverage innovators, visual artists and other talented makers, positioning itself as a can’t-miss stop along the Colorado Creative Corridor.

Meet Artists & Makers

For a town of its size (just over 5,000 year-round residents), Salida has a surprisingly robust art scene. Its downtown area is brimming with galleries and artists’ studios. At Gallery 150, browse original works from local and regional artists — including ceramics, pottery, fine furniture, painting, photography, sculpture, clothing and more. Cultureclash Gallery’s locally sourced mixed-media pieces, homewares and artisan jewelry are the perfect way to bring a bit of Salida’s unique vibe home with you. Brodeur Studio Gallery brings you into the whimsical world of Paulette Brodeur, whose eclectic background has spawned a wide range of colorful landscape, abstract and expressionist works.

Explore Four Winds Gallery’s abstract oil and mixed media paintings evoke a bright spectrum of landscapes, constellations and emotions — as well as handmade local jewelry and pottery. For handmade functional ceramics, stop by The Maverick Potter, where you can also make your own on Tuesday nights. The fun and funky collection of local treasures at Eye Candy features everything from turquoise-inlaid bristlecone pine vases to found-object sculptures. Meanwhile, The Bungled Jungle’s thoroughly irresistable “monsters” are sculpted from plastic, rubber, clay, metals and (according to the artist) foolishness. And the stunning, nationally sought-after tintype photographs from Tim Brown Photography bring a gorgeously grainy Old West sensibility to modern subjects.

Given that it’s equal parts artsy and adventurous, it’s no surprise that Salida is home to people who prefer to make their own outdoor gear by hand. Tuff River Stuff makes handcrafted, highly specialized gear serving Salida’s whitewater rafting community, including dry bags, boat cargo systems and large-group camp cookware. Three passionate global paddlers — two of which are raising their families on Salida’s waterways — founded Badfish to craft stand-up paddleboards, river surfboards and accessories. Need something cozy and functional? Look no further than J2 Softwear’s custom-built polar fleece clothing for virtually any size and shape, made with quality deadstock fabrics purchased from Patagonia, The North Face, Prana and Arcteryx.

Think Outside the Gallery

Salida’s creative culture can’t be contained by gallery walls. Art is virtually everywhere, from modern murals gracing buildings from the 1880s to the many public art installations that pepper Riverside Park. Perfect for a picnic and stroll, the park meanders along the river with musical sculptures crafted by local blacksmiths, an outdoor “living room” constructed of handmade tile and a charming pedestrian bridge that begs for photo ops. Don’t miss the galleries and sculpture garden at the SteamPlant Event Center, an abandoned power plant that’s been repurposed as venue to host everything from concerts to film screenings to receptions.

Celebrate Art

All of Colorado loves a festival, and Salida is no different (at least in this respect). Once a month, more than 20 local galleries host openings and receptions for Second Saturday Gallery Tours. Held every summer (June 12–24, 2018), the annual Salida Art Walk features works by local and regional artists as well as live music and theater, demonstrations and exclusive gallery previews. The Salida Fiber Festival (Sept. 8–9, 2018) celebrates fiber and textile art in all forms — artisan weavers, hand-painted silks and more — plus a variety of ancillary products like goat’s milk soap.

Sip & Savor

Creativity you can actually taste? Salida is a locavore’s paradise, with delicious small-batch snacks, sweets and sips around every corner. Craft some sustenance here at places like Wood’s High Mountain Distillery, where brothers P.T. and Lee Wood distill small-batch whiskey, gin and liqueur in an antique German pot named Ashley. Tour the facility, then sample the wares! Both Vino Salida Wine Cellars and Mountain Spirit Winery are worth a trip; Vino offers winemaking tours in addition to a tasting room and music series. Soulcraft Brewing, Salida’s hometown brewery, has more than 16 housemade beers on tap, with must-try brews like Chile Negro, Rad Berry Sour and Simm’A Down Mocha Oatmeal Stout. Herbal alchemist Shae Whitney of Dram Apothecary crafts cocktail bitters and syrups from herbs and plants grown on-site at the Historic Poor Farm, which also offers beautiful lodgings via Airbnb. And at The Biker & The Baker, pair Colorado beers and ciders with handcrafted treats like Whiskey and Honey Bacon Chocolate Cake and “charsusheri” — charcuterie meats rolled up like sushi.

Want More?

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

Download the Colorado Creative Corridor brochure and map

View a 5-day Colorado Creative Corridor itinerary