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We’re Open: The Art Base

Business name: The Art Base

Address: 99 Midland Spur, Basalt, CO 81621

Phone: 970-927-4123

Web: www.theartbase.org

Email: info@theartbase.org

Social media: @theartbase (Instagram), @theArtBaseBasalt (Facebook)

Aspen Times: How have you gotten creative during this time? What have you done to keep your customers engaged?

The Art Base: As a small organization, with 24 years of experience, TAB is able to be nimble and to respond quickly and effectively to the needs of the community. As the news unfolded and the seriousness of COVID-19 became clear, the Art Base acted early, providing art opportunities and positive community outreach since mid-March:

— We distributed 808 FREE Art Kits To-Go, including art supplies and bilingual art prompts to inspire creativity.

— Provided Art, Healing and Hope online classes for ages 15 to 65-plus, free of charge.

— Provided Middle School Art Funk online class for ages 10 to 14 through May 31, with plans to restart in the fall.

— Promoted local artists through virtual art talks and exhibits.

— Converted in-person classes to online classes for adults and youth.

— Developed art boxes (think summer camp in a box!) for youths ages 6 and up.

— Provided art kits to fellow nonprofits: Challenge Aspen, Valley Settlement Project, English In Action, and local schools.

We are dedicated to these initiatives for our community and encourage those who have not come by to pick up an Art Kit To-Go to do so.

AT: What’s the most important thing the community can do to support you?

TAB: Community has been at the heart of what the Art Base is all about for 24 years. We are honored and motivated by community support and participation. How can people engage with us? Visit us in person or online. Take a class. Purchase an ARTBox. Sponsor an event. Make a donation. Bid on art: the annual 10×10 Name Unseen Silent Auction takes place July 31 to Aug. 16.

AT: Where can we find your most current offerings and updates?

TAB: Online at www.theartbase.org, on Instagram @theartbase or on Facebook.

AT: What has been the best customer experience or comment you’ve had since the crisis started?

TAB: It’s so fun to watch kids come to our back porch to pick out a free art kit. We have received many messages of gratitude like this one: “THANK YOU for all you are doing. Your art kits have been so thoughtful. I hope you and your team are staying safe and healthy.”

AT: Is there anything else you’d like to add regarding your business during the pandemic?

TAB: Art is more important than ever during times of hardship. All of us at the Art Base are grateful to be in a valley community that values the arts and supports local business and nonprofits. This is a good place to be!

Two years after Lake Christine Fire, family reflects on decisive action to save their home

When the Lake Christine Fire swept across Basalt Mountain on the night of July 4, 2018, the Kim family refused to leave it to fate that their Dragonfly Ranch in Missouri Heights would survive unscathed.

Alex, Laura and their son Tai wrestled with hoses of their irrigation system throughout the night to keep their 40-acre meadow and surrounding property doused enough to prevent the spread of the fire to the adjacent subdivision. Their greenbelt also allowed firefighters to concentrate efforts on a different battlefront.

Looking back on the second anniversary of the wildfire this week, the Kims recounted how the wind-driven flames rolled toward their property and crested a small berm just a few yards from their house before they extinguished them.

“The fire was literally rolling,” Laura Kim said Monday. She remembered shaking and thinking, “I hope we made the right decision because it’s too late to evacuate now.”

Laura and Alex had a busy evening ahead with their catering business Fusion when they departed to prepare for a party in Aspen on Fourth of July afternoon two years ago. They weren’t overly concerned about the wildfire that had broken out the night before at the Basalt shooting range several miles away, so they left Tai, then entering his senior year at Basalt High School, to hold down the fort.

“I jokingly said to Tai, ‘If the fire comes over the ridge, call me, ha-ha,’” Alex recalled.

Sometime around 9 p.m., the fire exploded and made an unexpected run generally downslope and toward Missouri Heights. Mandatory evacuation was ordered for the part of Missouri Heights that includes their property on Valley Hi Drive. Tai called his dad and they agreed he would roll out hoses while Alex raced home. A critical step was setting in motion a call on their remaining water from Spring Park Reservoir and getting their upslope neighbor to turn on her irrigation system so the water would make it to their property. The reservoir is a couple of miles from their house so it took time to arrive.

Tai’s adrenaline spiked when the fire poked over a nearby ridge. He had an evacuation bag ready, just in case.

Alex arrived in record time, going against the mass exodus of traffic fleeing Missouri Heights and El Jebel. A Colorado State Patrol trooper told him to grab important personal belongings and abandon the ranch. Alex said he told the trooper he intended to defend it. The trooper gave him the grim advice to notify his next of kin.

At first, all Alex and Tai could do was stage their irrigation apparatus and, in the ultimate test of patience, wait for their water to arrive. They recalled watching trees 30 feet away from the fire burst into flames from the intense heat. Tai recalled flames climbing halfway up large wooden poles for electrical lines on a nearby ridge. Strong, gusty winds sent showers of embers their way. The air was thick with smoke.

“That night was just a roar,” Alex said.

The water finally arrived and allowed them to use a central pivot system to water down the meadow and aim the water guns where needed on the periphery.

Alex recalled talking to Basalt firefighter Cleve Williams early in the morning of July 5, just as the flames swept toward Williams’ family home just a short distance away. At about 1:30 a.m., the line of flames that consumed Williams’ home marched toward the Dragonfly Ranch.

Family photos show their house in silhouette against a background of red glow from the fire. They raced around, aiming the irrigation guns at hotspots on their property and the adjacent McLean property, where beehives burst into flames as intense as magnesium burning.

While the Kims’ house is made of concrete and metal and has cleared defensible space all around, the fire got uncomfortably close on one occasion when it came over a berm to the north. A few hundred yards away, across Upper Cattle Creek Road, scores of homes are mixed in with the pinyon and juniper brush.

“It could have been so different,” Alex said. “If it would have come across Upper Cattle Creek (Road), it would have been like California.”

That was a reference to the deadly fire that wiped out the town of Paradise.

The Kims stayed up all night watching the fire and battling hotspots. Their house was filled with smoke and soot but it didn’t burn and didn’t advance.

“It was like a miracle, honestly,” Laura said.

Roaring Fork Fire Rescue Chief Scott Thompson said the Kims’ irrigated meadow “made a huge difference” in the firefighting effort. The wet grass captured the embers and snuffed them out.

“We didn’t have to put anybody on there,” said Thompson, adding that fire crews were able to concentrate farther upslope in Missouri Heights.

The Kims said wildland firefighters they befriended in coming days told them their meadow and irrigation efforts likely saved the homes across the road. Laura has cards from neighbors that recognized the effort. She said they definitely made the right decision to defend their property.

“It was really important for us to stay here and do whatever we could,” she said.

The Kims’ efforts didn’t end that frightful night. They donated use of their land for a mobile plant where fire retardant was mixed and stored for 10 days starting July 23. Helitankers and Chinooks swooped down every 15 minutes and hauled off a load to dump on Basalt Mountain as the fire raged on.

The fire burned more than 12,500 acres of public and private land, destroyed three homes, forced the evacuation of hundreds more and put midvalley residents on edge.

Last year, the Kims were too busy catering to really think about the anniversary of the fire. This year, Laura noted there is similar stress due to the COVID-19 crisis and dry conditions reminiscent of July 2018.

Memories of the not-so-distant fire are once again hot on people’s minds.


Alleged Aspen burrito thief cusses out Pitkin County judge

A local transient awaiting punishment for allegedly stealing a burrito from Roxy’s Market was held in contempt of court Monday for cussing out and insulting a District Court judge.

Edgar Perea-Ortega broke into the virtual Pitkin County District Court proceedings Monday, repeatedly using the f-word and telling District Judge Chris Seldin he’d been waiting on the phone long enough and had to get back to work. He then called the judge a “motherf—er.”

Seldin immediately held Perea-Ortega in contempt and told him to stay on the line and wait his turn, just as he would have to do if the proceedings were held in the courtroom. Pitkin County criminal court has not been held in person since the coronavirus pandemic began in March.

Perea-Ortega instead hung up the phone, and an hour and a half later Seldin issued an arrest warrant for him, ordering that he be held in Pitkin County Jail in lieu of a $2,500 cash-only bond.

Perea-Ortega was arrested Feb. 28 for allegedly breaking into Roxy’s Market at the Aspen Business Center and stealing a burrito, prosecutor Don Nottingham said.

Theatre Aspen concession stand robber pleads guilty

A local man with ties to a notorious string of armed robberies in the Aspen area in 1999 admitted Monday to robbing the Theatre Aspen concession stand with a screwdriver a year ago.

Yuri Ognacevic, 39, pleaded guilty in Pitkin County District Court to aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon and two counts of possession of a weapon by a previous offender as part of a plea deal. He faces 270 days in the Pitkin County Jail and an undetermined length of probation when he’s sentenced Aug. 17.

In exchange for agreeing to the plea deal, the District Attorney’s Office dismissed three counts of theft that were filed against him at the same time as the robbery for allegedly snatching two purses hanging from the back of chairs at outdoor restaurant seating areas while riding a bicycle.

Ognacevic entered the Theatre Aspen tent July 9 wearing a hat, glasses and bandana over his face and approached a 19-year-old woman serving concessions during intermission of the troupe’s production of “Guys and Dolls.” He allegedly held a small knife blade in the woman’s face and demanded money in the cash register, police said at the time.

Ognacevic made off with $250, a Theatre Aspen official said later.

After Ognacevic was taken into custody soon after the robbery, police found an AR-15 rifle, a .22 caliber rifle, a bolt-action .30 caliber rifle and a 9mm handgun, as well as more than 100 rounds of ammunition, in his Snowmass Village condominium.

On Monday, when Ognacevic appeared by phone in court, he clarified that the weapon he used during the robbery was a small, flathead screwdriver that was part of Leatherman multi-tool.

“It wasn’t even a small knife,” he said.

Ognacevic would have faced between six and 18 years in prison if he’d have been found guilty of the three charges he pleaded to Monday. Because he was previously convicted of robbery, he is not allowed to possess firearms.

That previous conviction related to the 1999 robbery of Clark’s Market in Aspen at gunpoint, though he also admitted to being involved in the burglary of a video store and supplying an unloaded .22 caliber rifle for one of several other robberies tied to 12 local teenagers.

The group of teens were implicated in an eight-month string of armed robberies and burglaries in Aspen and Snowmass Village in 1999. Many of the dozen teens involved were members of longtime local families.

Ognacevic was 18 when he pleaded guilty to felony robbery for the Clark’s incident, and served less than a year in a minimum security prison in Canon City before finishing his sentence at a halfway house.


Fire hazard to increase this week in the Roaring Fork Valley

Critical fire weather conditions will occur Tuesday and Wednesday across much of western Colorado, including the Aspen and Roaring Fork Valley areas, the National Weather Service advised in an update Monday. 

A red flag warning has been issued for Tuesday and Wednesday, the NWS said in an update

Tuesday’s warning for 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. is for below 9,000 feet with winds 10 to 20 mph and gusting up to 35 mph, low relative humidity (8% to 13%) and dry fuels. Wednesday’s warning runs from noon to 9 p.m.

“Conditions will be favorable for the rapid ignition, growth and spread of fires,” the NWS said Monday. “Agricultural burning is strongly discourage. … A combination of strong winds, low relative humidity and warm temperatures can contribute to extreme fire behavior.”

Vail Valley’s Welcome Home second-home owners program making progress

Even after its launch in May, Jeremy Rietmann is a little surprised his late-night idea has caught on in the valley.

Reitmann, Gypsum’s town manager, thought up an idea that became the valley’s Welcome Home program in a flash of late-night inspiration. The idea is to invite second-home owners to come to the Vail Valley for a season instead of a week or two, thereby helping reinvigorate the local economy. The owners, in turn, have a chance to get away from the cities where most live, and out into a more relaxed environment.

The Vail Valley Partnership and local real estate companies latched onto the idea and have been promoting it. More advertising and outreach is coming this summer.

So far, the results have been promising.

Flying in, staying longer

The Vail Valley Jet Center is the Eagle County Regional Airport’s hub for private jets.

There, general manager Paul Gordon said he’s seen business starting to come back. Like most valley businesses, April was a tough month at the Jet Center, with business down nearly 80% from the previous year. Through June, business is at about 80% of the normal rate, Gordon said.

Traffic may be down, but Gordon said much of that is due to people coming for longer stays.

As part of the effort to attract visitors, Gordon said the Jet Center has gone all-in on cleanliness. NetJets, one of the leading subscription services for private jets, has a program to ensure that aircraft are cleaned before and after every use.

On the ground in Gypsum, Gordon said the Jet Center has its own cleaning program. Pilots, passengers and employees are all required to wear masks in the facility.

This time of year, a number of second-home owners play a good bit of golf in the valley — a sport that’s easily adapted to social distancing.

At the Eagle Springs Golf Course, a private club just east of Wolcott, Mike Steiner said play at the course isn’t up from last year, but added the facility is more busy than expected.

Members are wearing masks and giving each other plenty of space, Steiner said. No large gatherings are being held, and everyone who crosses the covered bridge over the Eagle River into the club has to have his or her temperature checked.

Steiner added that he expects people to stay a little longer into the fall this year, perhaps due to longer stays in second homes.

No problem with capacity

While it appears that more people are staying a little longer on their visits, there’s plenty of room for everyone.

Vail Valley Partnership President and CEO Chris Romer said the community, especially in the resort areas, is built for its busiest time.

“We’re prepared for as many second-home owners who want to home here,” Romer said. “Our carrying capacity is much larger than our population.”

Romer said early feedback from the program is positive, and the effort’s “natural ambassadors,” including property managers, real estate agents, nonprofit groups and others, are enthusiastic about welcoming second-home owners to the valley.

The Welcome Home website has had more than 1,000 visits so far, fueled entirely by word of mouth.

In addition to reaching out to current owners — those who have already invested in the community — Slifer Smith & Frampton Real Estate President and employing broker John Pfeiffer said that company is seeing a lot of business from people who want to become part of the community.

“A lot of our owners are here now,” Pfeiffer said. “But we’re having near-record weeks for this time of year.

“People have realized they can work remotely,” Pfeiffer added. “What was once a two-week second-home local is becoming someone who’s here for months, or permanently.”

Pfeiffer added that people coming for a season, or more, “bring more sense of community.” More people enjoying the valley will add to that, he said.

And, with the loss of many of the valley’s traditional events, Pfeiffer said people are finding new, more socially distant, activities.

“People are having to learn a new valley,” Pfeiffer said. “There’s a lot more than just the normal events.”

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com.

Glenwood Springs Community Center closes temporarily after employee tests positive for COVID-19

The Glenwood Springs Community Center will be closed Monday after an employee tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday.

City Manager Debra Figueroa said Garfield County Public Health was notified Sunday and is conducting contact tracing to determine who might else have been exposed. The employee who tested positive checks people in for pool laps and had been off for a couple of days, but was tested Sunday at Valley View Hospital after becoming symptomatic. She said she did not believe the employee was symptomatic before taking time off.

“We did have a COVID-19 social distance plan in place that we followed,” she said. “I think we have to wait and work with public health tomorrow (to know more).”

In the meantime, other city employees who worked with the individual were being contacted by the city Sunday night. Any city employees in need of testing or time off to self-quarantine will be covered under city policy.

“We have a policy where sick time will be covered for quarantine,” Figueroa said. “We have to work through the process to figure out who needs to be tested.”

This isn’t the first such positive result which required a facility to close or partially close since Glenwood Springs began to reopen in late May. Last week, the Sopris Cafe at Iron Mountain Hot Springs closed temporarily after two employees tested positive. Figueroa said that the potential for similar incidences will likely exist for the near-future — and serve as a reminder of the importance of social distancing, wearing a face covering and generally limiting one’s exposure.

“We can all try to be as safe as we can but we all have to realize that COVID-19 is still out in the community and we need to be careful to protect our loved ones,” she said.

Figueroa said more information should be available Monday, but that anyone with questions in the meantime should contact Garfield County Public Health at 970-945-6614.


Have you started investing for your future?

Financial Advisor Brian Thomas, of Edward Jones in Aspen.
Financial Advisor Brian Thomas, of Edward Jones in Aspen.

About 42 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 don’t have a retirement savings account, and research shows that nearly 40% of Americans couldn’t come up with $500 in cash without selling assets or taking out a loan.

Financial Advisor Brian Thomas, of Edward Jones in Aspen, wants to help young professionals and business owners in the Roaring Fork Valley buck these trends. 

Thomas grew up visiting Aspen with his family on ski trips. After he finished graduate school and picked up a master’s degree in finance from The Ohio State University, he knew this was where he wanted to end up. But his goals are much greater than just living here to enjoy the lifestyle. 

“This job gives me an opportunity to become a member of my community by helping individuals and businesses plan for their future,” he said. “I want to partner with clients throughout their life stages to achieve their goals — building these lifelong relationships with my clients is really important to me.”

Here are the three types of clients in the Roaring Fork Valley that Thomas is particularly excited about helping. 

Young professionals

Young people in Aspen and throughout the valley often make sacrifices in order to live here. Those who work jobs in the hospitality and service industries also face drastic seasonal shifts in earning potential.

“Unfortunately in this valley, there are a lot of hurdles to being able to live and work here sustainably. You have to create a budget for yourself and understand your long-term goals,” Thomas said. “A lot of people don’t budget, and that’s a great place to start.”

The first step when Thomas meets with young clients is understanding what their long-term goals are. Too many people don’t think about where they’d like to be in 10, 20 or 30 years, he said. 

Once those goals are identified, it’s time to create a more rigid budget to help clients understand what they can spend on discretionary items and what they could be saving. 

“You want to be able to spend the money you earn and have fun, but it’s so much more advantageous to save small amounts when you’re young rather than play catch-up when you’re 40,” he said. “It might not be fun to put $100 a month into a Roth IRA when you’re in your 20s, but you’ll thank yourself and the power of compound interest 30 years from now.”

Are you ready for an investing strategy?

Brain Thomas, Financial Advisor at Edward Jones, wants to help Roaring Fork Valley individuals and businesses develop customized savings strategies. If you’re not sure where to begin, Thomas can help. 

Email brian.thomas@edwardjones.com for more information or visit www.edwardjones.com/brian-thomas.

Parents who want save for children’s education

Student loan debt is a major hurdle for young people in America. Instead of contributing to a 401K or a Roth IRA, many people are spending $500 to $1,000 a month on their student loan payments with no money leftover for savings. 

“It can really affect individuals for quite a long time post-graduation,” Thomas said. “One of the greatest gifts you can give to your children is financial freedom after college.”

He believes strongly in 529 plans, which are tax-advantaged savings plans for future education costs. The money in the account grows tax-free and there are no penalties as long as the funds are used for qualified education expenses. 

“I love to work with young families and bring value to their lives,” Thomas said. “I want to understand what’s important to my clients and create customized strategies for them, and 529 plans are a really great option for parents.”

Business owners

The strong core of small businesses in Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley are major drivers of the local economy. Thomas wants to help those people create sustainable, long-term businesses that don’t just help the business owners, but also their employees. 

Business owners who offer some sort of retirement savings plan have greater employee retention and satisfaction, Thomas said. And that leads to greater economic good for the community and better quality of life. 

“It can be tough to get retirement solutions through smaller businesses, but I can help set those up,” Thomas said. “I want to help businesses help their employees save for retirement.”

What’s the Big Deal: Snowmass ranch sells for $7.2 million

“What’s the Big Deal?” runs Mondays and is based on the week’s most expensive property transaction recorded in the Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder’s Office.

Price: $7.2 million

Date recorded: July 2

Address: 7850 and 7848 Snowmass Creek Rd.

Subdivision: Perry Christensen

Buyer: CH4 Aspen Ranch LLC

Seller: Henry Ranch I LLC/Henry Ranch III LLC

Property type: Single-family residential

Year built: 2000, actual; 2000, effective

Total heated area: 2,504 square feet

Lot size: 46.6 acres

Assessor’s office actual value: $2.9 million

Assessor’s office assessed value: $207,350

Business briefs: July 6, 2020

Aspen Meadows goes 100% clean energy

Aspen Meadows Resort is switching to 100% clean electricity, which means a 59% reduction in carbon emissions from the campus’s electricity usage, officials announced recently.

The Aspen Institute’s Energy and Environment Program and its Green Team already have implemented a recycling program and adhere to the principles of the slow food movement with a focus on sustainable and local ingredients. In addition, the hotel’s main conference facility was designed and built with the environment in mind and is LEED Gold certified.

“Now, we’re broadening those strokes and lowering our carbon footprint as a whole by switching to using 100 percent clean electricity for our resort campus,” vice president for Aspen campus facilities and operations Richard Stettner said. “We know that the climate crisis will not wait for a more convenient time, so it’s imperative that we move forward in making changes that will benefit our employees, guests, community, and planet by reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.”

The resort worked with Holy Cross Energy to purchase 100% clean electricity including wind, solar, and hydro generated in Colorado.

Poss Architecture celebrates 44 years in Aspen

Poss Architecture + Planning and Interior Design is celebrating its 44th anniversary this month, coming off a number of honors in the past year.

Poss received the 2019 Business of the Year Award from Aspen Chamber Resort Association and was voted the first runner-up for best architecture firm in Colorado by ColoradoBiz magazine. Other notable awards include the 2019 Best Architecture and Interior Design Firm in Aspen by The Aspen Times’ Reader’s Choice magazine and the 2019 Legacy Award by Mountain Living magazine.

Founded in 1976 by Bill Poss, the Aspen-based firm has become an award-winning, nationally recognized firm that specializes in mountain-modern, high-end residences, luxury resorts, hospitality properties and mixed-use architecture.

“Great businesses are carefully nurtured by incorporating the vision of talented employees, the challenge of complex projects and a supportive environment for individuals to put their unique abilities to work,” states Bill Poss, Founder of Poss Architecture + Planning and Interior Design. “This organization is not just an Aspen design firm I started in 1976, it is a culture of collaboration and a dedicated team I like to call family. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to provide service and employment for the Roaring Fork Valley.”

Poss has led more than 350 projects in its history and currently employs 31 people between offices in Aspen and Carbondale.

Alpine Area Agency on Aging reveals new name, brand

The Alpine Area Agency on Aging, which provides services to older Coloradans in the mountains, is changing its name to Vintage, the organization announced last week.

Vintage serves Pitkin, Eagle, Grand, Jackson and Summit counties and helps with transportation, dental and vision assistance, options counseling, nutrition programs, caregiver support, respite services, evidence-based health programs, volunteerism and educational programs.

“Our brand at its core is still the same,” Vintage director Erin Fisher said in a news release. “We are excited to continue to serve older adults throughout this time and be able to share a brand that reflects our commitment to older adults in mountain communities. This is a time of rebirth for the world, and this is our time of rebirth as well.”

For more information and their services for older adults, go to yourvintage.org.