Does Aspen need a cultural arts commission? |

Does Aspen need a cultural arts commission?

Aspen City Council is contemplating whether to establish a task force that would focus on how to better support the community’s cultural arts and the economy around it.

Cultural arts and the nonprofits that are associated with them in the Roaring Fork Valley are a multimillion-dollar industry. City staff recognizes that and is proposing to council that it further investigate how to tap into that sector of the community. Elected officials will discuss the idea Tuesday in a work session.

The effort is estimated to cost upward of $45,000, according to a city memo prepared by Sarah Roy, executive director of the Red Brick Center for The Arts; Gena Buhler, executive director of the Wheeler Opera House; and Jeff Woods, manager of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.

They propose the taskforce host three panel discussions with speakers “who are well-informed and practiced in how communities can support, enhance and promote the cultural arts,” according to the memo.

The intent would be to learn how other communities approach their arts communities. Staff has researched other cities that have a strong cultural arts presence, such as Santa Fe, New Mexico; Santa Monica, California; and Austin, Texas. They all have arts commissions that oversee programming and initiatives.

Outside of the $45,000 cost for the panel discussions and a facilitator, staff believes additional money would be needed to pay for a consultant to develop an industry analysis and the role the cultural arts play in Aspen’s economy.

“Aspen is home to many robust and timeless cultural arts establishments that serve to enrich the lives of our community,” the memo reads. “Additionally, the cultural arts are a critical component of the local economy and create a diversity of jobs.”

City officials say they’ve reached out to leaders of organizations and businesses involved in the cultural arts. Based on those conversations, they are supportive of the effort and want specific goals coming out of it, according to the memo.

This concept was initially discussed with council and the Wheeler Opera House board last month. Council was supportive of the idea with the caveat that the citizen board remains focused on programming within the building.

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