Museum of little use | AspenTimes.com

Museum of little use

Dear Editor:

Anyone assessing the value of the Wheeler Opera House versus the Aspen Art Museum can easily determine that an extension of the Wheeler has far more value to the community than an expanded art museum. I would go so far as to say I bet three out of four Aspenites don’t even know where the art museum is ” much less have ever visited it. It’s hard to find a local who has visited the art museum.

Everyone I know is distressed with last week’s announcement that the Aspen Art Museum has hired an architect to design a new 30,000-square-foot building. The current (unused) art museum plans to be part of a gargantuan project that’s far from a citizen vote, so I’m confused on what basis the art museum can justify their premature conduct. As a citizen and voter in Aspen, I protest because the Aspen Art Museum provides negligible value to this town.

However, the Wheeler Opera House offers benefit to the community on so many levels I hardly know where to begin ” directors, producers, actors, interns, playwrights, musicians, opera performers, comedians, film devotees, etc. The Wheeler offers a huge benefit to Aspen; the art museum does not.

At last week’s council work session, Councilman Jack Johnson asked Wheeler Executive Director Gram Slaton to “fill the room with supporters from the Aspen arts community.” Apparently council doesn’t remember the Wheeler board did just that last October when more than 20 supporters from the Aspen arts community gave their time to attend the council meeting and speak in support of the Wheeler’s plans to expand. It’s ludicrous council is too tired to remember their request has already been fulfilled.

The Wheeler has been working on their expansion plan for three years, and the benefits of the Wheeler to the community far outweigh the art museum. If the council delays the Wheeler’s expansion plans, the cost of the expansion will increase exponentially. The Wheeler was not asking for any money, and they weren’t asking for permission to start digging; they were simply asking for approval to continue with their planning process. It’s ludicrous for council to ask the Wheeler board to bring in arts supporters and do another “song-and-dance routine” which they already did last October.

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The Wheeler Opera House is Aspen’s most important entertainment venue downtown, and nothing should impede its plans for expansion.

Stop the art museum from assuming approval from the voters it doesn’t have.

Endorse the Wheeler’s plans to expand performing arts facilities that serve Aspen cultural activities far beyond the limited value of the art museum.

Susan O’Neal

Aspen

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