Letter: Basalt as a cultural mecca

To take advantage of the unique opportunities offered in Basalt with its river project, you need to think big! Not big in size but big in ideas.

For example, look at the Operahaus and Festspiele in Erl Tirol, Bregenz, Austria, or closer, Santa Fe, New Mexico. They all transformed a small town in a very positive way. In comparison, Basalt is way ahead; it has all the ingredients to create a gourmet meal. Maybe one of Aspen’s billionaires would want to put his name in lights on an internationally recognized Operahaus and performing-arts center and thus into immortality with the added attraction of a sculpture garden along the river.

With the help and cooperation of the Juilliard School of Music, the search to find a gifted music director to head the festival would be so much easier.

The biggest challenge to all the architects is how to compete with God’s creation, the river! Build and design something not against the river but with it, and thus enhance the experience of the river for all visitors.

On the way to the performance or on any other day, one would wander along the river through a sculpture garden like the one in the Kroeller-Mueller museum in Holland. That walk, guided by the work of international and local artists, would prepare one emotionally and visually for the opera or ballet or any other performance you are about to experience.

The parking could be built underground at Clark’s Market, with shops, ticket boxes or offices above for the festival staff. If that is too much to stomach, there is plenty of parking across Highway 82, and exotic rickshaws, driven by high school students, could take you to the festival house.

Because of the proximity to Aspen — and its cultural events, its donors, Juilliard, the international friends of opera and music and its infrastructure — everything is in place. All Basalt has to do is dip into this existing pool and consequently offer everybody — hotels, restaurants and shops — new life with an internationally recognized performing-arts center, with the added incentive that the opera season is in the winter when Basalt needs additional tourism.

Basalt would not have to sell out to some investors or developers to put life into its economy. Aspen would come to Basalt, and not only for the occasional dinner at a local restaurant.

The schools and their students in the valley would profit with awareness for the performing arts. They could study art and the artist in the sculpture garden. It would enrich the quality of their lives. That alone is worth the investment.

Please do not let this gift of the river project go to waste and the chance to transform Basalt into something unique for today and for generations to come.

Michael Teschner

Punta del Estes, Uruguay, and Basalt