Basalt appoints Public Arts Commission after initial hiccup

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times

The creation of Basalt’s first Public Arts Commission last week rankled some feathers within the town’s art community.

Members of the Wyly Arts Center board of directors were upset that their organization was excluded from a resident committee’s recommended appointees to the board.

The town government created a committee composed of members from its other resident boards to review applications from 20 people who want to serve on the Public Arts Commission. The committee recommended who should be appointed to serve in nine positions.

The committee recommended that only seven members be appointed initially.

“This would allow the Public Arts Commission and the council to organize and determine what needs the committee had for new members,” said a memo to the council from the staff.

The committee intentionally didn’t advise appointing any applicants from the Wyly or The Arts Center at Willits, a nonprofit group aiming to build a performing-arts center.

“All the candidates were worthy of appointments,” the staff’s memo to the council said. “Instead of appointing Wyly and The Arts Center at Willits staff or board members, the committee thought these applicants could best serve by being sources of input and recommendation to the Public Arts Commission.”

But that strategy didn’t sit well with the Wyly Art Center board of directors. President Jay Magidson wrote a letter on behalf of the board asking the town to “postpone these appointments until suitable members are gathered.”

Magidson complained that most of the nominees were from the commercial art sector and some didn’t have ties to Basalt. The Wyly’s staff and boards are composed of arts professionals with decades of experience, he wrote, and The Arts Center at Willits board also has “seasoned veterans.”

“To ignore these two great resources, who have donated thousands of volunteer hours to promoting the arts in Basalt, is not only disappointing, it is insulting,” Magidson wrote. “How seriously will the development of the arts in Basalt be treated if no public arts groups are represented on its public arts council?”

Basalt Town Manager Mike Scanlon scrambled to smooth the ruffled feathers when the council took up the issue June 9. He said the committee’s recommendations weren’t meant to be a slap in the face to the two public arts organizations.

“I don’t think that was intentionally done,” Scanlon said. “It was unintentional.”

“I apologize on behalf of the town over hurt feelings,” Scanlon added.

Councilman Bernie Grauer said that while the move was unintentional, it was still an “oversight” by the committee not to appoint someone from the Wyly.

“I really think the Wyly should have more representation than one member,” Grauer said. He recommended that they be allowed to appoint an alternate member to the Public Arts Commission, as well.

The council appointed the seven nominees recommended by the residents’ committee and also invited the Wyly and The Arts Center at Willits to submit one recommendation each to be appointed to the arts commission.

The seven people appointed thus far are Lynne Mace, three-year term; Nancy Lovendahl, three years; Nicole Levesque, two years; Missy Hagen, two years; Loren Wilder, two years; Julia Novy, one year; and Fiona Bergeron, one year.

The other two appointments will be made at a future meeting where the Public Arts Commission will launch its efforts to boost Basalt’s art scene.


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