Guest commentary: Red Brick Center provides a critical community need | AspenTimes.com

Guest commentary: Red Brick Center provides a critical community need

Jackie Kasabach
Red Brick Council

Since 1992, the Red Brick Center for the Arts has served as a home for local artists and art-based nonprofits and has created opportunities for community members to be involved in the arts. Along with its sister building, the Red Brick Rec Center, they embody "The Aspen Idea," a place where community members develop their mind, body and spirit.

In 25 years of operation, the Aspen Red Brick has become a beloved public asset, and a cornerstone for ideas and activities important to our community.

I want to assure the Aspen community that our board and staff have been cooperating fully with the district attorney in its investigation of the alleged embezzlement. When these allegations came to light last summer, we immediately tightened our policies in response to this situation. As president of the board, I personally apologize for any hardship this situation may have caused our tenants, artists and the city. We do not want this unfortunate event to undermine the integrity and value of the services provided at the Red Brick.

The Red Brick Council for the Arts plans and oversees the art programming at the Center. We are very committed to the long-established mission of this arts entity and managing the programming as a community asset.

Under a management agreement with the city — the owner of the Red Brick Center for the Arts and Recreation — the Council has overseen maintenance and leasing of the building, as well as programming for the arts. We have taken these operational and fiscal responsibilities very seriously.

Programming is supported by grants and individual contributions along with a 15 percent management fee from the city, which has come from tenant rents. Those rent monies have been the sole source of support for regular maintenance, necessary upgrades and capital improvements. It is important to remember that these rental rates are far below the retail rental rates in Aspen, and yet they have been able to provide the Council with a critically important source of funding for programming.

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The Center is home to 14 resident artists and 10 nonprofit organizations. From Aspen Film and Jazz Aspen Snowmass, to the Buddy Program and Theater Aspen, these community-serving organizations probably would not still have a home in Aspen, without the opportunity provided by the Red Brick.

Artists from painters and jewelry makers to sculptors and ceramists have a place to create and share their work. Michael Bonds, a resident ceramist, says, "This environment allows us to push each other to expand our repertoire of techniques, so it's helped us all to grow. The public feedback also helps us move forward as artists."

These artists are asked to teach one free public workshop per year and to have open studios during gallery receptions.

The Council curates eight to 12 exhibits annually in our gallery, each featuring eight to 10 local artists. These opening receptions fill the halls with locals and tourists interacting with the artists and each other. In the past, we've had a January fundraiser of locally donated art, and every other year a juried art show of Western Slope artists.

The Red Brick also provides an attractive conference room, furnished with audio visual capabilities, and a dance studio, available at no charge to tenants. Citizens may rent these facilities at $25/hour.

Throughout the year, the Council hosts adult and children's art classes at affordable rates, which provide an outlet for budding artists, no matter their age, to express their creativity. These include a weekly art class for parents and preschool children at no charge, a regularly scheduled Masterpiece Mine class, which allows neophyte artists to create their own masterpieces, and Fired Up, a ceramic painting class for adults and children. We have after-school classes every Wednesday and art camps on select Fridays.

Kids and adults also utilize the studio and conference room for meetings and classes provided by outside vendors. These include tap, jazz, tango and modern dance classes, Taekwondo, recovery groups, fencing, meditation classes and meetings for the Aspen Writer's Group, Aspen Science Center, various city departments, Independence Pass Foundation, Theater Masters and more.

0In addition, summers bring weekly kids' camps, and a Plein Air Festival where 18 to 20 local and Colorado artists come to Aspen for a week of outdoor painting and exhibiting.

The organization is healthy and vibrant, and we look forward to carrying out our mission to build and strengthen community by creating a comfortable and inspiring home for local organizations and resident artists. We are proud to be an organization that was created by, is comprised of, and serves its community.

Jackie Kasabach is president of the board of the Red Brick Council for the Arts.

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