What was not said
April 15, 2003
It is curious how painful the search has become for the answers to the future of Aspen. It seems that most of the effort is designed to get more tourist shoppers and more employees living and shopping in town.
It made me wonder what it is about Aspen that draws the kinds of people that will gladly spend their time and their money in this mountain paradise.
I happened to attend the luncheon at Jimmy’s a few weeks ago where almost all of the candidates, incumbent and new candidates, spoke about their platforms and visions. It was curious that the most important outcome of the meeting was what was not said.
In all of the presentations about reviving and maintaining a healthy economy here in Aspen, not one speaker addressed themselves to the contribution of the arts, sciences and intellectual programs that have proliferated in this valley over the last 50 years.
Not one candidate saw the opportunity to expand the attractiveness of Aspen through the support, expansion and growth of the arts. The Aspen Music Festival and School, Aspen/Santa Fe Ballet, Aspen Institute, Writers Workshop, Aspen Art Museum, Anderson Ranch, ACES, Theater in the Park, Physics Institute, Film Fest, Design Conference, Given Institute, Aspen Center for New Medicine, and many others, all make the Aspen experience unique.
It is not a single organization dedicated to the arts and learning that promotes the uniqueness of Aspen. It is the collective menu of activities and programs offered by all these organizations. In this case two plus two equals 100.
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Nothing wrong with skiing, biking and hiking, fishing, rock and roll, etc., but Aspen has no monopoly on these activities. What Aspen does have that no one else has is the combination of arts and intellectual activities that should leave people breathless, and for many, is the reason that they buy or rent homes here, shop here, fill the restaurants and pay the taxes to support the ever-growing budget.
The private community subsidizes these organizations to the tune of tens of millions of dollars each year, and thus subsidizes the economic health of this valley. Ignoring this huge contribution to the community will one day leave a legacy of a failed government and a community that couldn’t see the forest for the trees.
Not only is a threat to the health of the arts organizations a threat to the town itself, but the failure to capitalize on this great asset for future growth and viability of the valley will be the ultimate failure of the ability of the leaders to govern.