Aspen government takes control of Red Brick Center for the Arts

The city of Aspen is taking over management of the Red Brick Center for the Arts in response to its operational group’s former executive director being fired and under criminal investigation for allegedly embezzling roughly $150,000.

In a 5-0 decision Monday, Aspen City Council agreed to a 90-day suspension of the management contract between the city and the Red Brick Center for the Arts, which is overseen by the Red Brick Council for the Arts.

Sarah Roy, who has been the interim director for the Red Brick since September, will continue to run the nonprofit for the next 90 days (effective Nov. 1), but under the employ of the city.

The changes come as the result of the June firing of Angela Callen, who is suspected of engaging in employee theft during a portion of her stint as the executive director of the Red Brick Council for the Arts, which had managed the city-owned Red Brick Centers. Criminal charges related to the alleged Red Brick theft have yet to be filed against Callen, who worked for the Red Brick from 2013 to 2017.

After Callen was fired, the city seized control of the Red Brick’s operating and reserve accounts.

Meanwhile, Roy will work report directly to the Parks and Recreation Department, which is taking the reins of the Red Brick’s rent collections, maintenance, lease reviews and other aspects of the organization, whose tenants include artists and such nonprofit organizations as Aspen Public Radio and Jazz Aspen Snowmass.

The Red Brick previously paid the city 15 percent of the rental revenue that it received from its tenants.

“We have this 90 days to do an operational assessment — how we can look at this building, what the costs are, is there a better model for running the building,” said Jeff Woods, head of Parks and Recreation.

Woods said part of the review process will be analyzing the operations of other city-owned properties such as the Yellow Brick School Building and the Wheeler Opera House.

“We’re really setting up the long-term health of the organization,” Woods said.

The council also agreed to renew the leases of 13 Red Brick tenants that were up for renewal as of Oct. 1. All told, the Red Brick has 24 tenants, and all of their leases will be up for renewal at the end of September 2018.

“I think there’s a lot of angst going on there, and it’s really not the tenants’ fault,” Woods said.