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Resnick Center for Herbert Bayer Studies draws hundreds in first weeks

Center explores historic preservation, big-picture problem solving at Aspen Institute campus

Lissa Ballinger, the associate director of the Resnick Center for Herbert Bayer Studies, leads a guided tour at the center in Aspen on Thursday, July 14, 2022.
Kaya Williams/The Aspen Times

At the crux of the mid-20th century, designer Herbert Bayer master planned and executed a vision for the Aspen Meadows campus, a showcase of Bauhaus architecture where Walter and Elizabeth Paepke would foster the Aspen Idea and let mind, body and spirit flourish. 

Now, a center dedicated to Bayer’s own creative life is part of that campus: The Resnick Center for Herbert Bayer Studies officially opened to the public a month ago today, on June 26. And if the numbers are any indication, people here have a ravenous appetite to learn about the Austria-born artist and designer who helped shape Aspen’s physical and cultural landscape from 1946 to 1974. 

About 700 people came to the center in the first 14 days it was open to the public, and “every tour is full,” the center’s associate director Lissa Ballinger said in an interview on July 14 at the center. She had just finished leading a tour that drew a curious bunch of more than a dozen people who explored the 13 different galleries arranged chronologically at the compact center. 



“How I contextualize the tours is explaining why the Resnicks (Lynda and Stewart) gave this tremendous gift, why it’s here on this campus,” she said. “What is the context? It’s the whole question of why, so that people feel more connected, and it gives them pride in this place and in the beginnings of modern Aspen, and helps you understand how it was possible, and it’s because of our first — Aspen’s first incarnation as a mining town as well.”

Clearly, something’s resonating. Ballinger sees that. She said she doesn’t know what it is exactly that’s been such a magnetic pull for the center, but she supposed it might have something to do with the way the center can be a way to engage with the Aspen Institute campus. 




“People don’t always understand how to interact with the Aspen Institute, but they’re so curious about it, and suddenly they have something (in the Bayer Center that) they’re welcome to,” she said. 

Bayer’s work and life story becomes, by extension, a portal not only into the history of the Aspen Institute but also into the heart of Aspen’s past and present.

Some seven decades after Bayer set foot in Aspen — and some four decades after he died — his interest in preserving history while trying to solve modern problems still rings true. 

Bayer was an outdoorsman, a skier; he showed an “interest and deference to nature,” Ballinger said, as well as an interest in “integrating art into all aspects of life, and building this campus so deliberately to encourage discussion, in order to set the stage to try to solve the great problems of the world — the complex and great problems of the world.”

“Lofty,” sure, Ballinger acknowledged. But those aspirational ideals can be inspiring, too, she said. 

The Bayer Center aims to welcome people to the Aspen Institute campus and to Bayer’s life — and, then, to welcome them back again and again to engage with what’s currently on display and to check out new exhibits that debut in the future. Bernard Jazzar, the curator of the Lynda and Stewart Resnick Collection, is also the curator of the debut exhibition, “Herbert Bayer: An Introduction.” 

The center isn’t intended to be a “one and done,” “checked off the list” type of experience, Ballinger said. 

“This is our goal, is to be like, ‘We’re here, open, come visit us — come visit us frequently,” she said.

The Bayer Center is open seven days per week for the summer 2022 season. For more information, visit thebayercenter.org.


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