Silverthorne Art Board moving forward with potential art co-op in town core
Some council members unsure if it’s the best use for a hot spot in town
Silverthorne’s Art Board eagerly wants to turn the town’s old firehouse into an art hub in the heart of the downtown core. The group compiled research and budgetary information, as well as feedback from local artists and community members.
The board sent out two surveys to gauge local interest, one for artists and one for community members. At the Town Council’s Wednesday, Jan. 26, work session, Arts and Culture Manager Sydney Schwab said the surveys received a total of 430 unique responses, a high response rate. Schwab said 90% of those who took the survey said they would use the space.
Schwab noted 50 of the artists that responded said they would be interested in teaching classes in the space, which is one of the concepts presented to council to sustain the project. Additionally, 105 community members said they would like to see youth art programs in the space, and most said they’d pay to use the space and for classes.
“If you did have a chance to read the results or the comments, you’ll see that a lot of them are really positive, and there’s a lot of great encouragement in those, as well,” Schwab said.
Council member Amy Manka said she’s heard lots of great feedback on the possibility of an art co-op from fellow parents of young kids.
“After school stuff is so important to this community, and it’s such an area that’s lacking,” Manka said. “I mean we have the rec center, and my kids are there right now, but they fill up. You have to be online at the moment it’s offered, or you miss out.”
This feedback guided the preliminary operating budget. Arts and Culture Director Joanna Cook said there are three parts to the financial commitment this project will require.
First, they estimated it would cost about $350,000 to get the doors open and make it usable for the public. Next is the equipment, supplies and furnishings that would make art programming doable. Cook estimated the town could spend about $50,000 on used art equipment.
Lastly, Cook said some educated guessing led the team to estimate the center would bring in about $87,000 in revenue yearly and cost about $127,000 in annual operational expenses.
Silverthorne Mayor Ann-Marie Sandquist noted that some of the costs would be necessary, regardless of what the town decides to do with the space.
“It’s not like the things that we’re doing to this building make this building only usable for this one use if down the road there is a different use,” Sandquist said. “I want this to be phenomenally successful. … But if it ends up not being (successful), it’s not like we have just completely changed this building where it can’t be switched to something else.”
Council member Mike Spry said he isn’t ready to dedicate town dollars to any program other than child care until that can be fully fleshed out. He said this needs to be the top priority, and, since it requires significant funding, the town needs to make difficult decisions about what it has to say no to in order to move a child care facility forward.
Cook said she has already connected with Sustainable Strategies DC, a firm helping the town to look for a variety of grants, to see what opportunities could benefit the co-op project. There is a community revitalization grant that Cook said is encouraging. The grant will fully fund anything up to $100,000, and the program asks for a 50% match for anything more than that, up to $5 million. The grants are awarded on a rolling basis.
Town Manager Ryan Hyland said he thinks the town can safely move forward with the project’s expenses with the funding it has, and it can see more budgetary details in February when the town’s finance director is able to be at a work session.
If given the green light to move forward from Town Council, Cook said she and the Art Board would work to get the doors open in about a year.
Not everyone on council was fully convinced this could be the best use for one of the more valuable pieces of real estate in town, but enough were on board to give them the OK to move forward. Assistant Town Manager Mark Leidal noted that there was key interest in the property before the town bought it, which he said is exactly why they bought it.
Art Board member Lisa Hueneke, who previously ran a community arts center in Wyoming, said she thinks activating this space in the way the Art Board wants to will work well with the developing downtown area.
“I think it’s exciting to see the town kind of seize this opportunity with both the location and the development of the downtown,” Hueneke said. “And (the town has) a group of individuals who are passionate and dedicated to dig in and do the work to help make it happen.”
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