Ideas abound for future use of Aspen museum space | AspenTimes.com
Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

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Ideas abound for future use of Aspen museum space

Janet Urquhart The Aspen Times

ASPEN – A home for the Aspen Science Center, a children’s museum, a performing arts venue, a banquet hall, a rugby clubhouse or an on-ice curling venue – there’s no shortage of ideas on how best to use the Aspen Art Museum building once the museum relocates to its new facility next year.

The city is seeking online input on the future of the historic building on North Mill Street, eliciting responses from Aspenites and other area residents. Clearly, supporters of the children’s museum and science center proposals have rallied for their causes, and many of the comments reflect those interests.

“I support the concept of having a children’s museum as the region is in need of one. What better use of this space than a children’s museum that inspires and grows the brains of the future?” wrote Ellen Mellody.

A museum geared toward kids could bring together nature, the arts, science, history and sports and “give local children of all ages a place to explore and learn year-round,” Amiee Beazley wrote.

Margaret DeWolf suggested the building provide a permanent home for the Aspen Science Center, which has been active in local schools and hosted an all-day science festival last summer. The center’s website indicates its interest in leasing the building once the art museum moves out.

Martin Block wrote, “I strongly support the idea of converting the art center into a hands-on science museum. As the founder of the Winter Physics Conference Series for the Aspen Center for Physics and initiator of the public lecture series, I strongly feel the need for the public understanding of the role of science in Aspen, and a hands-on museum would surely be perfect, here in Aspen.”

Alan Feldman suggested the space be devoted to GrassRoots TV, which has long been crammed into a tiny space at the city’s Red Brick Arts and Recreation Center, curtailing the local public-access station’s ability to grow.

Noah Crescimanno was among the respondents who urged use of the building as a community center – a place for wellness, art, music, a cafe, yoga and such.

“I’d like to see it turned into a dedicated ice curling hall,” Wendle Whiting wrote. “If I had to make a second choice, then I’d like to see it as a performance space.”

A performing arts center in the space could be a hub for artistic and intellectual endeavors in the community, suggested Kent Reed, founder of Theatre Aspen, the Hudson Reed Ensemble and the Shakespeare in the Park series in Aspen.

“Our community needs to support and nurture its own performing artists. Everyone agrees our town and valley is chockablock with performing talent yet there is no dedicated and consistent venue available to them in Aspen that provides on-going performance opportunities, rehearsal space and classes,” he wrote.

Ken Ryan, on the other hand, suggested the space could fill a niche as a banquet facility for weddings and social events.

Other suggestions included using the space as an adult rec center/coffee bar where adults who don’t want to head to a local bar could hang out and interact. A year-round home to a farmers/artisans market, a more centrally located senior center, incubator space for start-up businesses, new headquarters for the Aspen Police Department, a culinary-arts school and a new home for the Gonzo Museum (a downtown gallery) were also suggested.

Using part of the space for a clubhouse, museum and office for the Gentlemen of Aspen Rugby Club was also proposed.

The roughly 7,200-square-foot art-museum building was at one time a hydroelectric plant. It is expected to become available in fall 2014, when the art museum moves into a new structure now under construction at the corner of East Hyman Avenue and South Spring Street.

The city is seeking suggestions at its online Open City Hall forum.

“The sky is the limit. Please consider what use or facility the city may lack, what social, artistic or business opportunities may exist here. We want you to be as creative and open-minded with your ideas as possible,” the site advises.

Go to http://www.aspenpitkin.com/Departments/Community-Relations/Open-City-Hall/ to make a suggestion, read what others have proposed or chime in on the ideas that have emerged so far.

janet@aspentimes.com