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Hotchkiss joins North Fork Creative Coalition

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The Town of Hotchkiss recently became the first North Fork municipality to join the North Fork Creative Coalition.

"I am very grateful Hotchkiss would see the value in this and vote their support," said newly-elected trustee Mary Hockenbery. Hockenbery, an artist and proprietor of the Church of Art, is often referred to as "The Art Lady." At the meeting she briefly removed her trustee hat and stepped to the opposite side of the head table to make the request. In the past the council has supported the coalition and provided letters of support, she told the DCI. But becoming a paying member validates their support. The town will include NFCC monthly meeting minutes in trustee packets.

Hockenbery also replaces trustee Dustyn Foster in representing the town at monthly coalition meetings. Mayor Pro Tem Larry Jakubiak will represent the town when Hockenbery can't.

The state recognizes creative industries as the fifth-largest economic driver in the state, said Hockenbery. Colorado Creative Industries (CCI), a division of the Governor's Office of Economic Development & International Trade, identified the North Fork Valley as an Emerging Creative District in 2012, and in 2014 granted the area full creative district status.

The town's timing is good, said Hockenbery, since NFCC is up for recertification in 2017.

"I believe it's in the best interest of the town to have someone involved and to represent the town," said Mayor Wendell Koontz. While the town has been involved with the NFCC from the start, Koontz said that when it first formed he was not entirely convinced the town should get involved.

Hockenbery and trustee Tom Wills also serve on the Downtown Improvement Committee, a joint effort of the Hotchkiss Area Chamber of Commerce, the town and downtown businesses. Their volunteer efforts can be seen in the flower boxes and colorful hand-made flowers that line Bridge Street. The committee also created the alley park located between Pat's Bar and Grill and The Rose consignment store.

Koontz said he hears from the public that their work is appreciated. He also cited the recent reopening of the Creamery Arts Center on Bridge Street as a sign that the arts add value to the community. "It's a treasure for us," said Koontz. "As others build upon that, we will see it as part of the economy."

In June, Hockenbery, coalition board members Mary George and Sharon Bailey, and artist/entrepreneurs Susie Kaldis Lowe and Karen Good attended the Colorado Creative Summit in Carbondale. Hockenbery also graduated from CCI's Change Leader institute and was designated as a Change Leader by Governor John Hickenlooper.

The NFCC's newly-elected board, which includes new members George, Bailey, Rita Clagett and Jen Sanborn and seasoned members Dave Mitchell, Joanne Tullis and Kelly Hepler, is working to bring all three communities together. "That's a big challenge," said Hockenbery.

The NFCC is also involved in the first Farm to Fiddle celebration and is coordinating the premier Farm to Fiddle Fine Arts Show Aug. 5-26 at The Creamery. On Aug. 29, NFCC will host the second Celebrate the Fork Farm to Table Dinner fundraiser at Heritage Hall in Hotchkiss, showcasing local food, art, music and drink.

Hockenbery hopes the actions by the Hotchkiss board encourage other municipalities to be more involved in the coalition, which hosts monthly meetings at the Coal Train.

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