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Basalt Public Arts Commission looks at next steps for 2020
Goal of Colorado Creative District certification part of Arts Master Plan
Sculptures in public places are just one part of the Basalt Public Arts Commission, which has many goals for the near future. - photo by Todd Hartley

The Basalt Town Council got an update on the doings of the Basalt Public Arts Commission at Tuesday night’s council meeting when commission chair Jeff Orsulak and town staff liaison Watkins Fulk-Gray presented BPAC’s 2020 work plan and budget. 

The presentation was short on the specifics of actual works of art, but it hinted at bigger things to come as BPAC, created in 2015, matures and finalizes an Arts Master Plan that includes investigating how Basalt can go about becoming a Colorado Creative District.

“I’m very enthusiastic to see us become recognized as a creative district because it supports our stated objective of promoting arts and culture in the Mid-Valley,” said council member Bill Infante. “It also, clearly, has implications for the chamber of commerce and for all of the institutions themselves, beginning with TACAW (The Arts Campus at Willits) and the Art Base, but also to include our incredible artists and independent galleries.”

Infante was the one who broached the subject of getting Basalt certified by the state at the council’s previous meeting, on Oct. 8, when two new BPAC members, Summers Moore and Karyn Andrade, were appointed to the commission. 

It’s hoped that by making BPAC more robust and helping it secure more funding for 2020, Basalt can lay claim to an honor that has helped give an economic shot in the arm to official creative districts like Carbondale and Paonia. 

According to the BPAC presentation, arts events nationwide contribute an average of $31.47 per audience member to local economies in the form of food, lodging, souvenirs, transportation and other expenditures. It’s money that would surely be welcome, but it’s almost secondary to the impact a certification would have on civic pride and a cementing of Basalt’s identity as a great place for creatives of all ages.

“We have to be in touch with what is going to encourage and excite people locally,” said Andrade, who helps run Lazure Custom Wall Designs with her husband, Charles, a painter and muralist. “We need art projects that are going to connect with the people who live here.”  

As one might expect, the certification, handed out by Colorado Creative Industries (a division of the state’s Office of Economic Development & International Trade), doesn’t come easy.

“There are a number of criteria that have to be fulfilled,” said Infante. “We meet some, and maybe all, but it’s going to take a little bit of work. Unsurprisingly, there is a fair amount of documentation that has to be submitted to the state. I asked Kris Mattera at the Basalt Chamber for a little help with this, and she came back with a long but plausible list of steps that the Town of Basalt will need to take in order to become a creative district.”

Certification would be an excellent first step, but Infante, in recognition of the thriving arts scene from Aspen to Glenwood Springs, has even grander goals in mind.

“The exciting bit of this, from my perspective, is that we’re increasingly looking to integrate art up and down the Valley,” he said. “We’re looking to coordinate and communicate much more actively on any realm of issues that communities are facing collectively, and this could include art. By working with Carbondale and other Up-Valley communities, notably Snowmass and Aspen, we could have a creative Valley.”

“That’s the kind of thing that gets me excited,” Infante continued. “It’s being able to do this in partnership with other communities to distinguish the entire Valley and do a watershed-wide initiative that would be meaningful.” 

It’s an admirable goal for the near future, but first it will be incumbent on BPAC to keep the creative ball rolling. Best known for bringing the large, metal Motio 2.0 statues to various locations around town, BPAC expanded its breadth a little earlier this month as a presenting sponsor, along with TACAW, of Pumpkin Jazz, a successful event that brought talented jazz musicians to various locations around downtown and Willits.

“I think it was great,” said Orsulak. “All the restaurants were really excited to see that little bump at a time of year when it’s a little bit quieter.”

Pumpkin Jazz was indicative of the sort of outside-the-frame arts happenings that will help give Basalt an identity beyond the visual arts to be found at the Art Base and in the town’s galleries, but as the performing arts can be somewhat fleeting, Andrade still sees the need for large-scale public works that will have a lasting presence, as well as events that will get the next generation of artists involved.

“In the spring, the Aspen schools have an art show at the Red Brick,” she said. “Why don’t we have something Mid-Valley for Basalt down to Glenwood? That’s an example of something that would be huge.”

Andrade also favored murals and possibly rotating sculpture pieces like the ones that pop up in Carbondale each year. Both are good ideas, and whether they help check off any state-level criteria or not, they’d both be big steps toward earning Basalt the recognition it deserves as a haven for artists of all stripes and different media, from watercolors to music to comedy.