Snowmass Town Council approves new arts policies | AspenTimes.com

Snowmass Town Council approves new arts policies

Britta Gustafson
Special to the Snowmass Sun

The recent installation of the sculpture at the upper-village roundabout sparked community wide conversations in Snowmass regarding the Town's public-art policies.

During the Oct. 16 council meeting, Snowmass Town Council members invoked those discussions before approving both the arts strategic plan and the art acquisition policy put forth by the Snowmass Arts Advisory Board.

"There was a lot of frustration about the lack of a process during the discussions this year surrounding the offer to donate a significant piece of public art," Town councilman Bob Sirkus said. "Due to the timing of the offer, the (Snowmass Arts Advisory Board) had to do their best to understand the donor's needs, research the artist, listen to the public and make a recommendation without the benefit of a formal process."

According to assistant to the Town Manager Travis Elliot, the roundabout sculpture was the first time the town was approached with an unsolicited offer for public art.

"While we understand there will probably never be consensus on what is considered good art, we now have a process in place should we find ourselves in that same fortunate position again," Elliot said Oct. 16.

With the approval of the strategic plan, the town has documented procedures that will be used in the future to evaluate all types of public art.

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"Equally important," Sirkus added, "is that the council has agreed to provide consistent funding to the arts board."

Sirkus also reminded the council that the conversation surrounding the roundabout art installation were proof that the inventiveness of public art should be more about "engaging insightful conversations," he said, referencing the statement from the town of Breckenridge's strategic arts plan.

"At the very least, I would like to incorporate some of that language into our own (arts) vision statement."

The council has been reviewing the Breckenridge arts plan, giving credence to the fact that their robust arts scene and status as a Colorado Creative District, could be considered a model for how a mountain-resort government might approach public art.

"Breckenridge's program is a lot more mature," said Julie Ann Woods, the Community Development Director and advisory board liaison for the town. "(The Snowmass Arts Advisory Board) aspire to be where they are."

Woods recommended the council adopt the board's updated three-part strategic plan, while acknowledging that it will remain a working document.

"Let's get something approved," Snowmass Mayor Markey Butler said after reviewing the proposed plan. "Strategic plans are always fluid, and we have had multiple start-stops for 10 years now. We need to dedicate ourselves to funding public art. That's where I have finally landed on this."

Butler said she would like to see Snowmass develop a sustainable program that would not need to continually rely on town funding to consistently support public art, particularly when economic downturns are experienced.

"A 501(c)3 will take some time as we evolve our arts program," she explained, recognizing that the town will continue to support (the Snowmass Arts Advisory Board) in the interim as it takes the steps needed to initiate Snowmass Village public arts, including performing-arts programs.

Elliot echoed those sentiments, explaining that "the first steps include finding resources to finance art moving forward, and solidifying an arts program that can facilitate artwork installations, activities and partnerships for generations to come."

Town councilman Tom Goode agreed, comparing the board's request for $25,000 to Breckenridge's $2.5 million budget.

"They are having a lot of fun in that town," he said. "Time for us to move forward."

While considering other communities with prosperous public-arts environments, the council continued brainstorming ways to enhance Snowmass Village's performing-arts scene as part of the approved plan. The council agreed that the Fanny Hill summer stage is underutilized, to which Rose Abello, tourism director, responded that "tourism manages the stage," explaining that there is a large cost associated with "turning on the lights to take advantage of the stage."

"But it is a town asset," she pointed out.

The discussion also involved approving the art acquisition policy, which according to Woods, was a timely approval as a new piece of art related to the ski resort's 50th anniversary celebration is slated for upcoming review.

"The artist proposing the piece is Chris Erickson from Carbondale. He has done some of our colorful trash cans around town," Woods said.

Erickson fashioned a pair of working oversized earphones on display in Carbondale, and is proposing oversized goggles that would reflect back the Snowmass ski area. The board will consider the piece at their meeting Oct. 26.

After the unanimous approvals of both the Snowmass Arts Advisory Board's arts strategic plan and its art acquisition policy, Butler added, "I am truly excited for all of the things that (the Snowmass Arts Advisory Board) have coming up."

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