Center for the Arts a step closer to new facility
Written by Mark Reaman   
Wednesday, 03 July 2013
Art partners line up to make the case

Before a packed house, the Crested Butte Town Council members agreed with the Center for the Arts board and gave them their blessing to consider replacing the current facility with a whole new structure.


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The official motion made it clear that the council was not authorizing the actual demolition of the facility, “which will be contingent on BOZAR’s approval of a new facility and the demolition of the existing facility during a public process, as well as approval of plans and agreements relative to site planning, fiscal feasibility and financial responsibilities.”
Mayor Aaron Huckstep told the crowd in the council chambers that he had received comments on other aspects of the conceptual plan to expand the Center but the council was simply dealing with the question of “Is it okay to consider alternatives that might include demolition of the building? We aren’t considering size or parking or location tonight.”
Center executive director Jenny Birnie told the council she asked several partners of the organization to briefly speak to the town representatives. The partners gave quick pleas to have the council allow the Center board to look at an entirely new facility.
“We are truly trying to create a community art center and we can’t do it in the space that is there,” Birnie said, “We know it’s a beloved building with a lot of history but we need some changes.”
Bobbie Reinhardt of the Crested Butte School of Dance told the council that she loved the Center, “but I’d be in favor of starting anew with a brand new building. We need more dance space.”
KT Folz of the Crested Butte Dance Collective agreed. “The Center has served us well but we are growing and can’t keep up with the growth,” she said. “The facility can’t meet the demand. We are in favor of expanding the Center and starting new.”
The facility’s technical gurus, Two Stars Scott and Mattie Brown, were ready to tear the building down that night. “The town is growing and the limitations of that facility are huge,” Brown said. “It’s time to grow and do something new. If we expand it will definitely be used.”
“The artists who come to Crested Butte deserve a great space,” added Two Stars. “It is easier to start fresh. Consider the go-ahead to demolish the current building and then talk about what we can build there that will work a whole lot better.”
Jennifer Brody of the Crested Butte Film Festival said it was hard for those sitting in the upper rows at the Center to comfortably watch films. The rafters block the view. “The new building would help a lot and offer the chance for new equipment. A new building would serve the maximum number of people in the arts community.”
Artist Donna Rozman made the case it would be better to have the visual arts space next to the performance arts space. Currently a visual arts annex is located on Elk Avenue. “We can keep the memories of that space but not the building,” she said. “Do what’s best for the community in the future.”
Trailhead Children’s Museum director Martha Clarkson said a bigger building with space for the museum could help provide more opportunity for after-school programs. “We have great dreams. Bringing it all to one space with all these artists and programs would be wonderful.”
Center board member Jennifer Hartman reminded the council of all the town approvals the Center had received from town councils in the recent past. She said at this point in the expansion plan, the board needed a clear direction of whether or not they could consider demolition of the building.
Board president Melissa Belkin said that all the up-to-date concepts of the board’s expansion proposal are on the Center website. “We are being very transparent,” she said. “All of our board members are reaching out to members of the community. Almost all of the issues that have come up in our discussion concern the other issues like parking and size and the parks. Those issues will be addressed at the next phase. We are asking you for the option to explore the replacement of the building, depending on a number of contingencies.”
Councilperson Jim Schmidt asked how, with the potential of a Mt. Crested Butte Performing Arts Center (MCBPAC) in the development pipeline, two art centers could thrive.
MCBPAC co-president Tom Seymour took the question. “These two facilities do not compete,” he emphasized. “They are complementary. We are planning a 500-seat performance space that will help bring in conventions and bigger acts. That seems to be the break point.
“The MCBPAC is totally different,” he continued. “Both organizations have consistently supported a two-facility concept for the valley. But they have to know if what they are proposing is possible. They won’t be able to raise $10 if they don’t have a clear direction from you. You can’t raise funds with your arms and legs tied behind you.”
No one spoke for keeping the current building, although Schmidt said he had heard from people that keeping the front entrance façade would be a good move. The council agreed with the audience and voted unanimously 6-0 (councilperson John Wirsing was not at the meeting) to allow the Center board to look at the demolition possibility.
Huckstep pointed out a number of Mt. Crested Butte residents and MCBPAC supporters in the audience and said he was heartened by the collaboration.