Aspen Art Museum to host summertime jazz and classical concerts
The Aspen Art Museum is emerging as the town’s newest music venue, as the building is set to host jazz and classical concerts 12 nights this summer.
The shows will be the first public performances hosted in the museum since the concerts and “silent disco” DJ set during its 24-hour opening festivities August. Opening up its rooftop space for concerts, said Museum Director and CEO Heidi Zuckerman, is part of the vision for the museum as a community gathering place and a partner with diverse, local arts groups.
“Museums are cultural centers of any community, so the idea was always to have a broad-based offering of art and music and education and outreach,” Zuckerman said.
While something other than visual art may bring people into the space for events such as this summer’s concerts, presented separately by Jazz Aspen Snowmass and the Aspen Music Festival, the visits may inspire a new audience to discover the museum’s art exhibitions.
“I’m hoping that, as the community visits for a variety of reasons, that they realize art is at the forefront of what we do,” Zuckerman said.
Jazz Aspen Snowmass is staging three of its summer JAS Cafe artists — previously housed exclusively downstairs at the Little Nell — in four-show, two-night runs on the museum’s roof. The Music Festival is launching a new weekly free series there, dubbed “Music With a View,” running Tuesdays from July 7 to Aug. 18.
Six total artists will play JAS Cafe shows this summer — three of them at the museum and three more in shows back at the Nell.
The hot-jazz outfit, Django Reinhardt NY Festival, will be the first to play in the new museum setup June 30 and July 1. After three July shows in the Nell, the summer Cafe season closes with vocalist Lizz Wright (Aug. 7 to 8) and Latin big band Pacific Mambo Orchestra (Aug. 13 to 14) on the museum’s roof.
“As anybody can see, it’s a beautiful spot,” said Jazz Aspen President and CEO Jim Horowitz. “And public roof space pretty much doesn’t exist in Aspen. That caught my eye — its sheer beauty.”
Staging twilit shows on the roof with its expansive mountain views is the “polar opposite” of the hip, city-style indoor shows downstairs at the Nell, Horowitz noted. But that was part of the attraction of the museum as a venue for Jazz Aspen, which aimed to launch some unique events to celebrate its 25th anniversary season this summer.
“In our 25th year, we’re looking for opportunities to stretch a little bit,” he said. “And not just with the artists; we wanted to find some things that are a little different.”
Artists are expected to set up in the covered portion of the rooftop cafe, on the corner of the Hyman Avenue and Spring Street side of the space, with an audience facing them and fanning back toward the open-air sculpture garden portion of the roof.
The museum space also allowed for more food options for the JAS Cafe. At the Nell, a bar menu of snacks is available. At the museum, Jazz Aspen is working with Epicure Catering for a three-course pre-show dinner option (prepared in the caterer’s kitchen nearby).
For the winter of 2015-16, the Cafe will move back to the Nell full time, but the museum may remain in the mix of its venues during future summer seasons.
The Aspen Music Festival series will showcase student ensembles and artist-faculty in a similar rooftop setup during 6 p.m. shows.
Whether it’s a concert, a cup of coffee in the museum cafe or a bathroom stop, Zuckerman said the museum aims to expose new eyes to contemporary art by welcoming visitors for a variety of reasons. One of the motivations for including sculptures in the commons area along Hyman Avenue and Spring Street and showcasing a ground-floor gallery with a large street-level window was to entice passersby. Even a museum policy of allowing people who stop in to use the restroom, Zuckerman said, is aimed at capturing the imaginations of new visitors.
“I’m happy for people to come, whether it’s to use the bathroom or hear jazz,” Zuckerman said. “You have that moment to spark curiosity or surprise; to capture their attention. This is all part of our overall philosophy.”
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