Three organizations vie for Carbondale library space |

Three organizations vie for Carbondale library space

John Colson
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Aspen, CO Colorado

CARBONDALE – Proponents of a museum dedicated to the artworks of sculptor James Surls promised to raise and spend $1 million to renovate and expand the old Gordon Cooper Library building and turn it into a facility that will put the town on the map in terms of the world of art.

“We see this benefiting the town that we all love,” said Jim Calaway, a Surls fan and well-known local philanthropist. “We’re an art community, an intellectual community.”

And if the museum becomes a reality, Calaway said, it will not only raise Carbondale’s status in the international art community because of Surls’ fame and popularity.

“We believe this museum can be used to raise the bar for some of our local artists,” Calaway added, noting that the plans call for a small gallery within the museum where local artists can have their work shown and sold.

He said the Surls family “will guarantee that this will be there at least 20 years. We hope it will be 60 years.”

Surls is a world-renowned sculptor who lives in the Missouri Heights region to the northeast of Carbondale.

He has offered one of his sculptural pieces to adorn a roundabout along Highway 133, and said of the museum, “If this turns into a shrine to me, there’s really no point.”

He said he merely wants to do something to help Carbondale gain recognition in the art world, and to help the town attract visitors and tourists who will bolster the local economy.

In addition to Calaway, proponents of two other proposed uses each spent at least half an hour apiece to convince town trustees that theirs would be the highest and best use of the old library building.

The town owns the property, which is being vacated later this year when the branch library staff and collection move into a new building at the corner of Third Street and Sopris Avenue.

Once the town takes possession, officials hope to lease the property out to a private, nonprofit organization that brings added vitality to the commercial core of the town.

The two other organizations that have made proposals are the Family Enrichment Center and the Carbondale Academy of Performing Arts (CAPA).

Peter Gilbert, who is heading up the CAPA proposal, said he has an undergraduate degree from Harvard, an MBA from Columbia University, and a long history of interest in the performing arts.

A 10-year resident of Carbondale, he said he has been involved in other start-up dance companies, and sees the library space as ideal for creation of something like the Third Street Center but for performing arts entirely.

“I’ve thought for many years that this area of the valley was missing some way to tie the performing arts together,” he told the trustees, explaining that CAPA would be the umbrella organization, in charge of managing the facility and paying the bills.

Right off, he said, CAPA would spend up to $200,000 renovating the building, creating several small studios and office spaces, following as closely as possible the existing building design to keep costs down.

Once it is up and running, he said, “There would be lots of activity downtown each day,” with kids and adults attending classes, events and performances sponsored by CAPA and other activities.

“It would draw people’s attention who might want to come here and live in this community,” he declared.

He said he has lined up four area theater and dance groups interested in moving into the old library and using it as their studio/rehearsal/office facilities.

Those groups – SOL Theater Company, Crystal River Ballet, Dance Lab and CoMotion (Carbondale’s newly formed dance company) all are on board with his plan to install a “sprung dance floor” for use in rehearsals and other practice sessions.

The Family Enrichment Center was represented by a quartet of women – Francis Lewis, Kathryn Camp, Heidi Cox and Patricia “CP” Kanipe – each of which said they have had plenty of experience caring for or educating small children.

The group expects to spend about $100,000 to renovate the building, and to pay more than $33,000 annually in rent, which is equal to 10 percent of the total revenue projected for the first year of operations.

The programs would include infant and toddler care, a pre-school, and after-school programs for children up to 10 years old.

The organization also plans to offer educational and support programs for parents, to further generate an atmosphere similar to home for kids and families alike.

The facility also would include a “wellness office” in one corner of the building, where a health practitioner would be available to minister to the needs of staff, children and families.

Mayor Stacey Bernot thanked each of the organizations for their interest in the old library building, and promised that the issue will be back before the trustees at a public hearing on May 14.

She urged those hoping to make an official comment about the proposals, on the record, to get them into Town Clerk Cathy Derby no later than May 9 in order that they can be included in the trustees’ meeting packet.

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