City of Aspen’s grant process gets an overhaul

City is seeking 15 volunteers to serve on new committees to dole out money to nonprofits, arts and culture organizations and health and human service agencies

As the city of Aspen overhauls its process on how to dole out $1.5 million in grants to nonprofits, health and human service agencies and arts and culture organizations, the municipal government is recruiting volunteers to serve on committees to review applications and allocate money.

The city is looking to fill five positions on three different committees — one focuses on arts and culture, another on community programs and the third, health and human services.

For decades the city has relied on a four-person committee to review as many as 90 applications from organizations in the valley and award grants based on high level criteria.

Aspen City Council a couple of years ago directed staff to evaluate the grants program in an effort to bring consistency, transparency and equity to the programs, as well as strengthen the process.

“After a thorough review of the past grant processes, this year’s new committees structure will be strategically focused and more specialized,” said Alissa Farrell, the city’s administrative services director. “We are working on an equitable, fair and far reaching process.”

In 2021, roughly $1.2 million was awarded to 88 programs, excluding the funds distributed to the Red Brick Center for the Arts and the amounts dedicated to intergovernmental agreements for health and human services.

Arts and culture grants are paid from the Wheeler fund, which are typically funded by a combination of $100,000 from real estate transfer tax revenue and from other income generated by the leased spaces within the opera house, currently home to Aspen Public House and Valley Fine Art, according to Farrell.

Funding community nonprofits and health human services comes from the city’s general fund, she said.

Separately, intergovernmental agreements for mental health that include the city, Pitkin County and Snowmass Village are adjusted based on the proportionate share agreed upon by those entities.

As the transition to a more formal process occurs, a grants steering committee has been formed and includes Farrell; Ann Mullins, former Aspen council member; Teraissa McGovern, previous grants committee member; Lisa Rigsby Peterson, Wheeler executive director; and Nathaniel Ross, the city’s management analyst.

The steering committee is developing a framework and charter for each grant committee and its members, including their purpose, position descriptions, term starting dates and limits.

Farrell said the steering committee also is working on what the criteria is for grants to be awarded.

“We need to define that in the very near future,” she said.

The steering committee will serve as the main strategic arm that works with the city on logistics, with City Council to set strategic priorities and as a liaison with the grants review committees.

Applications to serve on a grant committee are available online at

The arts and culture committee will consider organizations that support artistic endeavors that strive for excellence in contributing to the cultural vibrancy of the community, according to Farrell.

The community programs committee will focus on organizations that support and deliver high-impact community programming.

The health and human services committee will look at organizations that strive to create and maintain a healthy and resilient community by offering services that address mental and physical health, human services and community resources.

Committee members will review all applications in their designated area and make recommendations to City Council on what organizations to fund and what amounts to grant.

Grant applications for those seeking funding will be accepted starting in November.

Committee members will be reviewing those grants applications in early 2022, with monetary distributions occurring in the same year.