Welcome to West Slope Startup Week! We’re celebrating our 5th year and gathering in Durango, CO, August 21–25, 2023.

Every session, meetup, workshop, lecture, discussion, and celebration is in-person, radically inclusive, and totally FREE!
Back To Schedule
Friday, August 25 • 9:30am - 10:30am
Rural Renaissance: The Catalytic Role of Creative Industries in Rural Startup Communities

Sign up or log in to save this to your schedule, view media, leave feedback and see who's attending!

The creative industries —including art, crafts, design, film, and music— employ over 90,000 Coloradoans and generate over $12 billion in industry earnings annually.*

In rural Colorado, there is a high concentration of creative businesses and experiences, which drive job creation and economic growth and play a critical role in community revitalization and cultural preservation.

Creative professionals play a crucial role in the startup community by providing fresh ideas, perspectives, "design thinking" modalities, and problem-solving in industrial, social, and civic contexts.

In this interactive panel discussion, local creatives and community leaders will share insights on fostering a dynamic interface between creativity, culture, economics, and technology. You will learn how to partner and collaborate with businesses and organizations in the creative industry.

Panelists include:
  • John Clark, Mayor of Ridgway and founding member of its Creative District, who advocates for the arts, public lands, and economic development while overseeing cultural events and working as a glass artist and technologist.
  • Nathan Schmidt, musician, illustrator, and board member of Mancos Creative District, a rural arts organization driving the creative economy in Mancos through collaborative events.
  • TJ Smith, founder of Stray Wild, offering product design and creative services for earth-conscious nonprofits & brands. Owner, The Wilder Gallery, merging love for the outdoors with artistic works. Muralist, celebrating the animals, waters, blue skies, tall trees, and land we call home.

Moderated by:
  • Celeste Herron, Program Lead for WSSW 2023, evangelist for rural economic development, brand storyteller, multidisciplinary designer, and creative director.

*data by Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT)

avatar for Celeste Herron

Celeste Herron

Founder, Northern Crown Media
Celeste Herron is a strategist, brand storyteller, multidisciplinary designer, and creative director who helps startups, small businesses, and service agencies rapidly design, develop, and scale their product and service offerings. She is also the Programming Lead for WSSW 2023, an... Read More →

avatar for TJ Smith

TJ Smith

Founder, Stray Wild
TJ Smith was born between the trees of Pennsylvania. With a move westward, he has built a lifestyle of adventurous play and hard work. At a quick overview he is a multidisciplinary creative focusing on design, art, murals and gallery curation. Led by his love of nature he services... Read More →
avatar for Nathan Schmidt

Nathan Schmidt

Writer, singer-songwriter, artist, Nathan Schmidt Creative | Mancos Creative District Board of Directors
Nathan Schmidt serves on the board of directors for Mancos Creative District, a Colorado Creative Industries-certified creative district that supports local creatives through collaborative events and artistic opportunities, driving the creative economy and future of Mancos, Colo.He... Read More →
avatar for John Clark

John Clark

Mayor, Town of Ridgway
Mayor Clark is a native Coloradan and has lived in Ridgway since 1982. After making his living as a glass artist for a quarter century, John made the rather unconventional switch to Apple-specific computer consultant. “I enjoy helping people get along with technology, instead of... Read More →

Friday August 25, 2023 9:30am - 10:30am MDT
EsoTerra Ciderworks