Breck’s master plan: Build up the arts
BRECKENRIDGE – When Breckenridge town planner Jenn Cram looks five years down the line at the town’s new Arts District, she envisions the Riverwalk Tent quaking with music, the Backstage Theatre crammed with people watching a Broadway play and in between, people milling about, watching artisans water paint, blow glass or teach classes in clay.”It’s a dream come true,” Cram said. “It’s really making art approachable for everybody. You don’t have to be trained in the arts to participate.”The Breckenridge Town Council took another step in formalizing this shared vision when it adopted on first reading the Arts District Master Plan at its last meeting of the year.The arts district is anchored on one end in the 100 block of South Ridge Street and includes the Breckenridge Theatre, the Robert Whyte House and the parking lot at Washington Avenue and Ridge Street.It runs down Washington Street, home of the new Barney Ford Museum and crosses Main Street to take in the Blue River Plaza and the seasonal music tent at the Riverwalk Center.Cram said the Arts District is an emphasis on culture aimed at both locals and visitors.
“It creates another layer of activity for our visitors and the community,” she said. “And it’s really exciting to have facilities where people can take workshops and to have resident artists where people can stop and see how people perfect their medium and to have the community of artists and the collaboration between all the arts organization.”While the master plan is still being ratified, activity is well under way.The first year’s programs were deemed highly successful, drawing people in from throughout the state to take part in workshops and classes.Arts District programming began in 2003 with the National Repertory Orchestra performing free lunchtime performances in July. Workshops included drawing, painting, fiber arts, bronze sculpture basics, stone carving, mosaics, silk dying and silk screening. The town also hopes to implement an administrative plan that will evolve as the Arts District grows and prospers.An 11-member committee outlined the general responsibilities the administration would have, including implementing the master plan, selecting tenants, maintaining a balanced budget, evolving into a self-sustaining program, marketing the district and its programs and providing updates and recommendations to the council as the district evolves.
It is even possible the district could become a nonprofit organization.”If someone comes out of a big house in the woods and says, ‘My grandchildren had such a good time drawing chalk on the sidewalk, I want to give a couple million so other grandchildren can do the same,’ I’d rush to the courthouse to set up a 501(c)3,” said Mayor Ernie Blake.The only changes the town planning staff made to the planning document since its July meeting addressed density, parking and phasing of construction. The buildings, as proposed by Harry Teague Architects of Aspen, would be integrated to create view and pedestrian corridors through the site and blend with the studio and workshop spaces. A mix of one- and two-story building would blend in with nearby historic buildings, and a north-south “spine” from the Breckenridge Theatre to Washington Avenue would allow pedestrians access to various courtyard areas.The town received a $10,000 grant from the State Historical Fund last spring to evaluate the stability of the Fuqua Livery Stable, and applied for a matching grant to restore it. It hopes restoration will be under way next year.
Building the structures, however, will result in the loss of 38 parking spots. Fifteen have already been replaced by making the 100 block of Washington Avenue a one-way street and lining the north side of the road with spaces.Cram said that to provide parking for existing needs plus anticipated needs of the arts district would require 59 more spaces. Another element addressed in the master plan is how the Riverwalk Center, Blue River Plaza, the Barney Ford Museum, the Bailey Building – now tentatively called the Breckenridge Discovery Center – and downtown areas could be integrated to provide a seamless experience for visitors.The Riverwalk plays an important part in the Arts District as the anchor on the west side of town and any improvements to the facility can only enhance the Riverwalk’s role, Teague wrote in the master plan.Many of those improvements are nothing new to those in the arts community. They could include replacing the worn tent or replacing the existing facility with either a new year-round tent or building. Each option comes with its advantages and disadvantages.Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or email@example.com.
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