‘An artist’s dream:’ Silverthorne Art Board interested in creating community art hub in old firehouse
The Silverthorne Town Council met with the town’s Art Board on Nov. 10 to discuss the possibility of creating an art hub as part of the revitalized downtown area, and board members expressed a keen interest in the town’s old firehouse.
Recreation & Culture Director Joanna Cook said as the town looks to expand the presence of art downtown, the community members on the Silverthorne Art Board have stepped up to help make sure it happens.
“This group is so excited about the potential and the opportunity of the downtown, and we know that the only way arts will be authentic is if we do it from the ground up with people that live here,” Cook said.
As Fourth Street Crossing and conversations around Fourth North continue, the fate of the old firehouse on the corner of Blue River Parkway and Fourth Street remains in question, and the Art Board is interested.
Art Board member Cody Mendoza said many of the artists living in Silverthorne struggle find their own creative spaces and that a collective, community art space can make artists feel welcome.
“We have a thriving community, but finding actual space to display and create? That is kind of lacking,” Mendoza said.
When she lived in Wyoming, Art Board member Lisa Hueneke used to run an art center just like the one the board is hoping to create in Silverthorne, and she has gone through the process of finding a new space before.
“This space that we’re looking for is really a catalyst for so many other things to bring artists together, to create space … to bring our community to that downtown area that’s being developed,” Hueneke said.
Cook said she’s toured other art hubs throughout the state, and most have some kind of anchor retail or restaurant business to help pay some bills along with co-op spaces for artists to rent. But she said there are many ways a space like this can operate.
Hueneke said the Art Board is also interested in earning a Colorado Creative Arts District designation in Silverthorne, and an arts hub is an essential part of being able to do that. She also said the location of a space like this is important, and the firehouse being in the middle of all the new business development would provide more opportunities for artists.
Town Manager Ryan Hyland noted that there will be new retail spaces with the Fourth North development and asked if the firehouse building is what interests the Art Board most or if it’s the location.
Art Board member Pamela Churman said she thought the firehouse was magical, describing it as “an artist’s dream.” She also said there isn’t much that would need to be done to the building to turn it into a functioning art hub.
Art Board member Nina Waters said the weird 70s architecture and exposed brick presents an opportunity for artists to make the space their own as opposed to going into a “brand new, sterile” environment that doesn’t inspire artistically.
“You give artists a space of their own, and they’re going to take it to the moon,” Waters said. “… You give them something old that they get to choose and repurpose in whatever way — that’s a win in my book.”
Cook reiterated the town’s motivation to save other old aspects of the town — as it did with the Old Dillon Inn and The Mint in Fourth Street Crossing — and said the Art Board is also interested in the aesthetic of the new downtown.
“When you talk about authenticity and breathing life into an old downtown, it’s not always razing everything and building new, but what does have life left in it and what can be made special?” Cook said. “And when we did walk through (the firehouse), it was pretty clear it looks like just every other art co-op you go to in every other town. … They take old buildings and repurpose them.”
Council member Mike Spry noted that the town bought the building because it wanted a say in what is a key component of the town’s core.
Waters said a retail space of some sort would help energize the downtown, but educational classes and other community programming would allow the space to thrive day and night. She also emphasized that the town would have control over the terms for artists using the space and could require them to teach a certain number of classes or work gallery openings, for example.
Council members were all excited to see the Art Board’s enthusiasm and asked members to come back to council with concrete plans about how they see the concept working. They also asked about other towns in Colorado that have these hubs in place so they could go visit them.
“With ideas we already have, this space could really be something special,” Hueneke said.
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