The Temporary, already a cultural hub for the midvalley, celebrates ‘grand opening’ | AspenTimes.com

The Temporary, already a cultural hub for the midvalley, celebrates ‘grand opening’

When the long-running local rock band Jes Grew played its first show at The Temporary in Willits over Thanksgiving weekend, saxophone player Chris Harrison estimated he knew 90 percent of the people in the sold-out crowd.

"It was like you time-machined Aspen from 20 years ago and plopped it right in the midvalley," Harrison recalled. "It was awesome."

The audience, Harrison said, was filled with old friends and fans who have moved downvalley since the 1990s, started families and largely dropped out of the Aspen nightlife scene. He and his bandmates are among those who've made the move out of Aspen and helped make The Temporary the locus of a blooming cultural scene since it opened its doors for a test run late in the summer.

"This is a true gem for the local community here in the midvalley," said Harrison, whose band headlines the venue again Dec. 22.

This weekend marks The Temporary's grand opening, following a four-month "soft opening," during which the nonprofit Arts Campus at Willits has produced nearly 40 events. Denver gypsy jazz band Le Pompe Jazz and blues musician Otis Taylor will headline grand opening events today and Saturday.

The Temporary has hosted programming on most Friday and Saturday nights since mid-August, growing a scene around music, theater and comedy in the modest Market Street space. Over that time, they've worked out the kinks with elements like ticketing, bartending, sound and lighting.

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"We've just found our sea legs, in terms of the guest experience," executive director Ryan Honey said on a recent afternoon at the venue. "We feel like it's time to say we are officially open for business."

The Temporary is so named because it's the short-term home for the nonprofit Arts Campus, which is aiming to build a larger permanent venue two blocks away.

The lineup in the midvalley club has been diverse. Some of the most popular events were predictable, such as the Jes Grew sell-out and shows by prominent Denver comedians including Adam Cayton-Holland, but some were more unexpected. A children's film event drew more than 100 kids. Theater has been a big hit, including performances by Boulder's Playground Theatre and by local theater groups. A crowd of about 200 showed up for an "Immigrant Stories" storytelling event produced in partnership with English in Action.

"That was a really special night, because I love great entertainment, music and comedy, but we are a cultural institution and we're striving to be a cultural tastemaker," Honey said of the "Immigrant Stories" evening. "We want to be a place the community comes together and where people come to find their voice. That night showed me we're doing that."

The venue's first honky-tonk night, headlined by singer-songwriter Caleb Dean, drew 80-plus cowboys and cowgirls to The Temporary for line dancing and longneck Budweiser bottles. The cowboy populace in the valley hasn't had a place to dance since the Relay Station in Carbondale shuttered years ago.

"It was moving because it's a whole other culture of people that live in the midvalley that didn't have a place," artistic director Marc Breslin said.

They'll host their third honky-tonk night in January and continue trying to tap into under-served segments of the midvalley community.

"People like that they have ownership of a place that's in the midvalley and it's theirs," Breslin said.

Free movie screenings Tuesday nights failed to draw crowds, but otherwise flops have been rare so far at The Temporary.

The space can accommodate a standing-room crowd of 295; with theater seats, it holds 170. It's a malleable space — designed and painted by local artist and Arts Campus board member Richard Carter — that can transform night to night. The Temporary team makes subtle shifts to the setup — like adding hay bale decorations for the honky-tonk evenings, for instance — but the different crowds filling the space are what makes it come alive, Breslin and Honey said.

"The people change the shape of it," Honey said.

The rapid expansion of commercial and residential development in and near Willits has created a legitimate nightlife scene that on weekend nights sees crowds moving from bustling restaurants to The Temporary.

"You can have a complete night," Honey said. "You can go to dinner, come see a show here and then have a drink at Capitol Creek (Brewery, across the street). That's just not been here before."

Harrison, the Jes Grew member, also noted that he and his friends are grateful to have a place to go where shows start earlier — most at 8 p.m. — and getting there is easier for people with family obligations in the midvalley than trekking to Aspen.

As Honey put it, "It changes the math. If you're thinking, 'We've gotta go up to Aspen and it's an extra hour with the babysitter and one of us has to be the designated driver,' all those elements conspire against you going out."

Along with the appealing location for midvalley residents, The Temporary has aimed to keep the barrier to entry low by keeping ticket prices affordable (less than $20 for most events).

Looking ahead, The Temporary aims to expand theatrical offerings — upcoming productions include "Red Hot Patriot: The Kick Ass Wit of Molly Ivins" and a teen-friendly show by the Colorado Shakespeare Festival — and in the new year, the Temporary is aiming to steadily expand its bookings to more nights of the week based on what proves popular. They're also eyeing ideas for food and music festivals that could take over Market Street for a day or two in summertime.

Breslin and Honey are the only full-time staff for the nonprofit — they've picked up contractors for the office and bar needs — and tend to everything from mopping the floors to setting the walk-in music and taking out the trash.

The Temporary has offered a proof of concept for the permanent Arts Campus and a testing ground for programming, while also functioning as a fundraising tool that's gotten donors and corporate sponsors like Alpine Bank and Coldwell Banker Mason Morse on board.

"To have this as a test run, I think we'll be able to go over there pretty seamlessly," Honey said.

A 2015 feasibility on the Arts Campus at Willits concept and the permanent building that the nonprofit is aiming to build, at the time, appeared bullish on the audience for the venue — it predicted that events would draw from a pool of 10,000 residents likely to come out based on age, income and education. Audience response has out-paced those predictions thus far.

"It's beat our expectations," Breslin said. "I'm saying to myself, 'Wow, it's a bigger audience than I thought. The people are here and they're looking for culture down here.'"

atravers@aspentimes.com

IF YOU GO …

What: Grand Opening at The Temporary

Who: Le Pompe Jazz with Special Guest Jeremy Mohney

Where: The Temporary at Willits, El Jebel

When: Friday, Dec. 15, 8 p.m.

How much: $14-$16

Tickets: http://www.tacaw.org

More info: The grand opening weekend also includes a “Kid Flix” presentation of films from the New York International Children’s Film Festival (Saturday, 3 p.m., $7-$9) and a concert by bluesman Otis Taylor (Saturday, 8 p.m., free with reservations)

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