Council contemplates arts, sculpture centers for Basalt |

Council contemplates arts, sculpture centers for Basalt

Scott CondonThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO, Colorado

BASALT – A civic arts center and a sculpture center are being contemplated for the Willits Town Center property in Basalt.The Basalt Town Council gave its blessing Aug. 23 for a group called the Mid-Valley Arts Center Organizing Committee to pursue the idea of building the facilities on land owned by the town. No approval was granted by the council, just permission to develop the concept more fully with the town staff and report back regularly on negotiations.The facilities would be separate but integrated, according to a presentation by arts center committee members to the council. A major sculpture center is being considered for Anderson Ranch Arts Center, which is based in Snowmass Village but doesn’t have room on its campus for a first-rate facility dedicated to sculpture. An adjacent midvalley arts center is envisioned to be a “multipurpose facility for a broad range of community activities,” according to the committee’s material. Housing for artists might also be pursued.The arts center committee’s first step in the embryonic process was to make sure the town would consider providing the land, essentially for free. The proposal was for a 99-year lease at $1 per year. The lease would be contingent on the group making progress with fundraising efforts.Brief pitches were made by committee members Michael Lipkin, Julia Marshall, Anderson Ranch director Barbara Bloemink and Anderson Ranch board member Bruce Berger. They expressed confidence that a fundraising drive can produce the money needed for the sculpture and arts centers, but the plan hinges on eliminating land costs.The original developers of Willits Town Center, who included Lipkin, gave the town a 0.75-acre parcel specifically for an arts facility and an adjacent 2.7-acre “civic parcel” reserved for some type of community benefit. The arts center committee wants to use both parcels. The parcels are located on the southeast corner of the intersection of Willits Lane and Lewis Lane, where the Willits Town Center property starts blending in with the Willits residential subdivision.Basalt Town Manager Bill Kane told the council the concept “carries enormous promise and upside for the community.” He urged a green light to work with the committee on the idea.In a memo to the council, Kane wrote, “The concept of a year-round arts complex for Basalt and Willits is enormously exciting and could contribute to the diversity, fiscal health and sustainability of the community. Anderson Ranch brings with it a solid ‘brand’ in the arts community and would enjoy instant credibility for artists, students and the viewing public.”Councilman Glenn Rappaport said the group presented a good concept that he could support. “I just think bringing this kind of thing to the midvalley is important,” he said.”I think this is kind of what we dreamed about when we discussed (use of the arts parcel) in the ’90s,” said Mayor Leroy Duroux.The other council members also gave approval for the staff to enter negotiations with the arts backers.The arts center committee is also asking the town to commit $150,000 in planning funds over the next two years for the community arts facility. The funds would come from an existing real estate transfer tax in Willits that is dedicated to arts planning and

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