There was a smaller than usual but still impressive array of classic automobiles lining Midland Avenue last Saturday evening for Basalt’s annual Motors on Midland event, but what may have been more intriguing than the cars was the beer purveyor. In its first public outing since The Temporary closed its doors earlier this month, The Arts Campus at Willits (TACAW) answered a request from the event organizer, Amy Groom of Basalt-based The Hello Co., to use its liquor license to sell alcoholic beverages at the event.
“They came to us and said they needed someone to do the liquor,” said TACAW Executive Director Ryan Honey. “We said, ‘Of course.’ We were thrilled to help out with Motors on Midland. We’re always trying to find ways to be engaged with the community, and that was a unique opportunity to do so.”
It was a baby step, to be sure, and the money raised was little more than an afterthought, but just the organization’s presence served as reassurance that TACAW is not going away and, in fact, has a busy summer schedule lined up.
“Looking forward, we’re really excited about the Basalt summer concert series,” said Honey. “We’ve been the ones booking the entertainment, and it’s been really fun to book more stuff for our community after our run at The Temporary.”
That run, which lasted roughly 20 months until TACAW’s lease wasn’t renewed by IND Ventures, the developer of Willits, was enough to show local residents the kind of great programming they can expect when TACAW moves into its permanent home in a couple of years. And while the decision by IND disheartened many valley folk, they’ll be glad to know that TACAW has weathered the storm well and seen a surge of support from the community in the last few weeks.
“Donations toward the new building are up dramatically,” said Honey. “We have a long way to go, obviously, but we feel really confident that the community is rallying behind us, and donors are sensing the urgency and the opportunity.”
“I really believe we will break ground in mid-October,” added Marc Breslin, TACAW’s artistic director.
The first phase of the building process will be to erect a venue called The Contemporary, which TACAW’s website refers to as “a reimagining of The Temporary as a 21st-century performance space.… The building will include a community room, a highly activated lobby/work space, an outdoor amphitheater, a catering/teaching kitchen and production infrastructure, as well as offices and necessary support spaces.”
The Contemporary (as well as The Permanent, an adjoining venue that will come afterward) will be built on a plot in Willits that was ceded to the town of Basalt specifically for a performing-arts venue; TACAW holds a 99-year lease on the space. In the meantime, however, Honey and Breslin needed new offices to operate out of, and, once again, the community stepped up to the plate.
“We’re in our new office on the third floor of the building The Temporary was in, sharing a space with The Romero Group,” said Honey. “They’ve been super-generous, and they’re giving us the office as an in-kind donation. It overlooks our parcel, so we can monitor construction. It’s kind of ideal.”
The new office will serve as a base as Honey and Breslin arrange their upcoming events, which will kick off June 8 at the Crown Mountain Balloon Festival when TACAW presents Texas-based country band Jackson Taylor & The Sinners. After that come the Basalt summer concerts in Lions Park downtown and Triangle Park in Willits and a salsa dance party slated for downtown Basalt on July 20. There will also be salons in private homes, and in October – hopefully right around the time ground is broken on The Contemporary – TACAW has designs on a sort of town-wide jazz festival.
“We’ll do maybe eight venues – four in Basalt and four in Willits – going on simultaneously,” said Breslin. “And then for the next year we’ll do pop-up events as much as we can in the Mid-Valley.”
Ironically enough, TACAW might currently lack the permanence of The Temporary, but that doesn’t mean the quality programming it’s brought to the valley in its short lifespan is going away, a fact that Honey wanted to make sure everyone knows.
“Come enjoy the free programming this summer and help us get ready to break ground in the fall,” he said.
Fewer motors but the same enthusiasm
Now in its eighth year, Motors on Midland came a little earlier than usual this summer, a shift that, combined with the inclement weather, kept participation down somewhat. Typically, the popular event has fallen on the second Saturday of June, but when Crown Mountain Park unexpectedly moved its annual Balloon Festival to that date, Groom and the town were forced to reschedule the car show. As a result, about 20 vintage autos lined the street instead of the usual 45-50, but the decreased numbers did little to dampen the crowd’s enthusiasm.
“We had a really great turnout,” said Groom. “The Art Base was successful with their chalk art contest. There were a lot of families. It’s still everyone’s favorite event in downtown Basalt. Everyone looks forward to it every year.”
Groom previously owned the Midland Avenue stationery shop Express Yourself with her sister, Erin Jones, but when the store closed in 2016, the siblings morphed their business into The Hello Co., which does logo design, branding, writing and social media strategizing. They also own The Scout Guide Aspen, a resource that highlights premier independent businesses in Aspen and showcases ways to “have a great lifestyle whether you live here or you’re visiting,” according to Groom.
The sisters, much like TACAW, have handled the loss of their old venue expertly and now find themselves with clients throughout Colorado and across the country. But it’s their hometown car show – whether it’s in May or June and regardless of who’s selling the beer – that has been their signature event and a way to give back to the community for the last eight years.
“Typically, it’s been a really successful event,” said Groom, “and we always have a nonprofit do the beer garden. This year we selected TACAW because I thought they could really benefit from it with The Temporary closing. Plus, they have some new, exciting stuff coming up.”