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Art the priority at Aspen’s Red Brick?

Joel Stonington
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO, Colorado

ASPEN ” Space concerns at the Red Brick Arts and Recreation Center have created a controversy over what organizations should have priority at the building.

The board that manages the Red Brick says the focus of the building should be on the arts, a mission it calls historical that appears to be at odds with the original ballot language by which the city of Aspen approved purchase of the building in 1992.

The Red Brick building, which houses arts and civic nonprofits with low rent compared to free market prices in Aspen, is owned by the city of Aspen but managed by the Red Brick Council for the Arts.



Pat Fallin, the president of the Red Brick Council for the Arts, said the mission always has been to support arts organizations and the only reason groups such as the Aspen Community Foundation, Aspen Youth Experience and The Buddy Program ever were given space in the building is because there were not enough arts organizations to fill it.

The language of the 1992 ballot question that passed by three votes, however, asked voters to approve the purchase of the building for “arts, nonprofit and other community uses.”




Fallin said no organization is under fire, nor should any organization in the building worry about being forced out. Rather, there might be difficulty if a non-arts oriented group wants to grow, as the board is focused on art.

Many of the organizations in the building, such as The Buddy Program and GrassRoots TV, have long been asking to expand if space becomes available. When a space recently was vacated by the Aspen Art Museum adjacent to The Buddy Program, however, The Buddy Program was told it already had been filled.

“We had been asking for available space for years,” said Catherine Anne Provine, executive director of The Buddy Program. “We were very disheartened to find that when the space next to us became available it would not be available to us. They were looking to support their original mission, which was for artists. We were unaware of that original mission.”

The Buddy Program has eight employees in an office of 567 square feet. Provine said the counselors at the organization often have to make phone calls of a delicate nature and need more privacy.

After the museum moved out of the space next to The Buddy Program, the Red Brick Council for the Arts decided to move two artist studios into the space. That way, Fallin explained, all of the studios border on the main hallway. Plus, the space is well-suited for studios with a sink and better light than where they previously were situated.

Once the decision was made to move the studios, the council opened an application process for the space vacated by the studios and eventually granted it to GrassRoots TV, another organization that had been requesting space for years.

“We have some space in the back that was once a garage,” Fallin said. “They were not really good art studios. The light isn’t that great out there. When the art museum moved out, the board decided to make what had been the art museum space into studios because it has a sink, everything an art studio needs. We decided because of the sinks and the light, that its best use would be as a studio. There was another, smaller space available that was given to The Buddy Program.”

The smaller space Fallin spoke of was roughly 4 by 6 feet. Though the space is small, Provine said it does help to have somewhere for counselors to make private phone calls.

To some degree, the demand for space is an indicator of how successful many of the nonprofits in the building have become. The Buddy Program now has hundreds of child-mentor pairs and annual revenue of more than $1 million according to tax documents. They pay rent of $1,500, including utilities and parking.

Similarly, GrassRoots TV has grown into nearly $500,000 in annual revenue and an executive director salary of $92,721, according to tax documents. In 2006, the Aspen Community Foundation had $28 million in assets and single-year revenue of $8.8 million.

“There are many needs and little space,” said Jack Johnson, an Aspen councilman who acts as a council representative on the board of the Red Brick Council for the Arts. “The Red Brick has a mission and the Red Brick board has to be true to its mission.”

jstonington@aspentimes.com

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