Giving Thought: Building community through the arts
A thriving arts scene is part of the Roaring Fork Valley’s magic, and Amy Kimberly is the chief steward of the arts and humanities in the creative hotbed of Carbondale. Wearing a variety of art-related hats for the past 16 years, Kimberly has worked for KDNK, Carbondale Mountain Fair and the Carbondale Council for the Arts and Humanities (CCAH), which recently changed its name to Carbondale Arts. She is now the executive director.
Aspen Community Foundation: Please tell us about the history and mission of Carbondale Arts.
Amy Kimberly: Carbondale Mountain Fair started first in 1972, and it became so successful that a nonprofit, CCAH, was formed to run it. We have been deeply involved in the community for many years, and I think that’s a big reason why Carbondale is the way it is. But always our job has been to fulfill needs. Back in the day, that might have been bringing live music to Carbondale, but we’re always shifting. When the schools need arts education help, we’re there. Right now we’re focusing on deep community issues, such as affordable housing, arts education and economic development through the Carbondale Creative District. We’ve taken some money and created signs to help people find their way. We’re also working on the Rio Grande Trail where we’re turning the 1-mile section that comes through town into a linear park called the ARTway.
Our mission is to build community through art. We changed our name to Carbondale Arts because we became a certified creative district in 2016. Also, CCAH was just a lot of words and we wanted something simpler. The creative district comes with some money, and it helps us support Carbondale’s identity as a place that fosters creativity. The Creative District is really all-encompassing, so we include local food production, the culinary arts, health and well being as part of who we are.
ACF: Readers may know more about your events than the organization itself. Can you hit some of the highlights?
AK: We’re incredibly proud that Carbondale Mountain Fair is our signature event, because it has a lot to do with this town’s personality, and its spirit of volunteerism. We have second- and third-generation volunteers who do things like pie and cake baking. Mountain Fair is just incredible.
But we also have the Green is the New Black fashion extravaganza, which happens in March. It’s getting more known and sells out every year. That’s kind of the creative outlet for our staff, that’s our love. We’re also known for First Fridays and our gallery openings, which draw hundreds of people from throughout the valley.
Now we’ve just introduced RosyBelle, the mobile maker space. She’s a beautiful, refurbished school bus and she’s only been on the road for a few weeks, but the response has been overwhelming. Right now her focus is schools in the 81623 region, along with New Castle, Rifle and Silt, because those kids don’t have school on Fridays. This all came out of the Aspen Community Foundation’s Cradle to Career Initiative.
ACF: What keeps you up at night and what brings you to work in the morning?
AK: It’s actually excitement that keeps me up at night. We’re working on amazing things, and we see so many people from the community and integrate so many people into our work. I get so many ideas — that’s almost the problem. We have to try hard not to spread ourselves too thin.
I guess that’s kind of the same thing that brings me into work every morning. I love my staff. I get to work with an incredible team on incredible things. The Launchpad, our office and gallery space, is just booming. We have aerial silk classes, dance classes, couple dancing and performance, thanks to our partner, the Dance Initiative. I never know what I’m going to see when I arrive in the morning.
ACF: What lies ahead for Carbondale Arts?
AK: We’re getting less into events and more into those deeper community issues. Through the Creative District, we’re tackling issues like affordable housing. Gov. (John) Hickenlooper created this initiative last year to build nine affordable-housing projects over the next 10 years in rural Colorado for creative people. Carbondale is now vying for one of those projects. So we’re in the process. We also have the Rio Grande ARTway and RosyBelle — those are our big focuses for quite a while, but you never know. We could be tackling climate change next. Creativity is part of every challenge we face these days, so you never know where you might be called upon.
Tamara Tormohlen is executive director of the Aspen Community Foundation.
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