Downtown Salida has an historic downtown nestled on the Arkansas River. In the 1980s, many artists relocated to Salida and tranformed a downtown in disrepair into a vibrant hub of creative activity, commerce and community.

This small city is recognized as a state leader in the arts due to a municipality committed to emphasizing an existing historic downtown as a center of commerce, and to a strong contingent of creative enterprises reusing this existing built environment to live, work and conduct business. Salida's unique growth during the recent economic downturn is due to a community comprised of numerous arts, cultural and non-profit organizations, and a city government that have transformed the neighborhood into a focal point for attracting visitors and celebrating and strengthening the town's unique identity.

Approximately 100 creative enterprises are located within the district and serve as its key organizing principle. There are 21 artists-owned studios and galleries. Many designers own firms in historic downtown buildings (e.g. architects, interior designers, carpenters, graphic designers, and filmmakers). Thirteen locally-owned restaurants host revolving exhibitions of local art. There are 13 performance venues. The District serves as an economic hub of activity, with a complementary mix of non-arts businesses within its boundaries, including a significant concentration of civic organizations and locally-owned restaurants, offices and retail shops. Innovative municipal building codes that encourage the adaptive reuse of historic downtown structures allowed for a recent influx of second floor residential space and boutique lodging opportunities.

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