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Viva Aspen Art Museum!

Dear Editor:

The Aspen tradition has always embraced the arts as a core element of both its cultural identity and its community vitality. The vision of a new, relocated art museum carries that tradition forward to a new “high ground,” strengthening and reinforcing our community as an international destination of broad-based cultural exposure and individual growth. I strongly endorse the proposed new location because it will bring the experience of art into the pedestrian heart of downtown Aspen where it belongs.

One of the founding principles of the first Aspen Art Museum was to bring art, on a world-class basis, to our citizenry and visitors alike. Not different than other cultural beginnings that were high minded and under-funded, we were overjoyed with the opportunity to renovate and occupy the current building, a former Holy Cross Electric generation plant. The founding board of directors, however, always wanted to bring “art to the streets,” opening it to the pedestrian experience of downtown in a friendly, inviting manner, defusing any elitist tint to the appreciation and enriching qualities of art.



Doing exactly that, the proposed new Art Museum location will re-engage art and art education into the mainstream of our civic life and individual opportunity. Moreover, in both a symbolic and activated urban design context, the museum will “anchor” both the composition and the vitality of downtown Aspen. With a world-class ski mountain at one end, a renowned art center at the other and a unique tapestry of shopping and restaurants connecting the two, an enhanced vitality of our unique community will surely result.

Community vitality is not a static quality; it is a continuum that, in terms of physical character, must respect and balance both past and the future in order to maintain traction versus stagnation. While we value (and regulate) contextual reference to the scale and architectural character of our historic past we much less frequently consider context making a historic responsibility and expression of our own time and its values. For that reason contemporary architecture such as the Art Museum represents has had both place and value in the evolution of Aspen’s cityscape. Its proposed location in an urban “pocket” near the historic Pitkin County Courthouse is an amazing opportunity to respectfully contrast past and future and in that respect clarify the remarkable and independent character of each.




While the Art Museum has made commendable effort to be publicly transparent with their intentions, it is important to remember that this is not a “beauty contest” issue, simply a vote to go to the next step, which will engage the terms of relocation. Following that, there will be ample opportunity for community input ” give it the chance to move forward!

Larry Yaw

founding board member, Aspen Art Museum