“There’s no question we have been successful,” says Ryan Honey, executive director of The Temporary performance space on Market Street in Willits and its nonprofit umbrella organization, The Art Campus At Willits (TACAW). “This has been an opportunity for us to shake off the success we’ve had here and move forward. The Temporary was not the goal. We called it that for a reason. It was always the goal to build something permanent down the street. And, now, we are laser focused on doing that.”
Mid-Valley residents were stunned on Feb. 12 when the TACAW board of directors, which has managed and curated The Temporary for the last two years, announced they are closing their doors this May. In 2017, TACAW signed a two-year “sweetheart deal” lease with Mariner (now Platform Ventures), the developer of Willits that terminated if the developer needed the space for a full-paying tenant. Now, they want the space, and TACAW has agreed to leave The Temporary location by mid-May, according to Honey.
“The reality is that there is no new space that makes sense for us to create another Temporary,” Honey says. “The developer doesn’t have any space. We looked at putting a tent or a cargo structure on vacant land. In any of these cases, you have infrastructure spending because there are costs to recreate The Temporary. We feel we need to be investing that money in our permanent home. It’s time to activate that land and activate that resource.”
“The Temporary proved itself as an important part of the performing arts scene in the Mid-Valley,” says Tim Belinski, representing Platform Ventures. “It provided instantaneous activity, exciting and thoughtful programming, and has been a community buzz since it opened. It was an especially welcomed spark for nightlife and evening events at Willits. They really touched a lot of the community in a short amount of time.”
Is there any wiggle room in allowing TACAW to stay beyond May?
“As long as we can, we’ll host The Temporary, yet the space was intended for a permanent use, not a pop-up,” Belinski says. “When the space is spoken for a long-term use, it’ll be turned over, which was always the arrangement.”
If there is no signed deal by May, could TACAW stay longer?
“We can’t address the business dealings on that space,” Belinski continues.
It’s also a business matter in which the Town of Basalt doesn’t feel it’s appropriate for them to intercede.
“The Town has had no discussion with the developer,” confirms Basalt Town Manager Ryan Mahoney. “We don’t step in on private transactions. It would be difficult for us to have a compelling argument.”
But one compelling argument may be the positive benefits The Temporary has provided to surrounding businesses in Willits. According to Honey, a recent study by the National Endowment on the Arts noted that, for every patron attending an arts event, there is roughly $27.50 in spillover spending in surrounding businesses before or after the event.
“We estimate here in Willits we’ve generated at least $400,000 in spill-over spending,” Honey says. “There is no question we have made an impact.”
Maja Ilic, the owner of the Wienerstube in Willits, certainly agrees.
“Any business that is going to be closed, it cannot be good,” Ilic says. “It happened very suddenly. Is it bad for us: definitely. For everybody around here.”
Mezzaluna owner Grant Sutherland seconds that opinion: “The Temporary has been a great draw for people to come to Willits. I think the closing will affect everybody here, and I’m sorry to see them go.”
Mahoney agrees with both Ilic and Sutherland, but looks for a possible positive to the early closing of The Temporary.
“People like hitting up the restaurants before and after the shows,” Mahoney says. “I think there will be some type of loss those neighboring businesses will feel, but perhaps this invigorates the end goal of trying to support the permanent building going in, so, hopefully, this gets the ball rolling. I think, now that people have an understanding of what they are trying to do, maybe they’ll get more support and decrease the timeline to open the Permanent.”
After 225 shows and 25,000 patrons in the last two years, The Temporary staff will turn its focus from presenting arts programming to raising money for the new building.
Honey formerly managed large fundraising events for the Center Theater Group in Los Angeles, the largest nonprofit theater in the country, according to Honey. With that experience in hand, Honey will lead TACAW's fundraising efforts on the new permanent building. He estimates that they will need to raise roughly “half of The Permanent's $4.5-5 million construction budget” in order to create the new performance space.
To help support a permanent home for the arts in Willits, the Town of Basalt has created a real estate transfer assessment fund. That fund currently holds between “$750,000 to 1 million,” according to Honey, and the organization can draw on those funds after hitting certain financial milestones in its fundraising.
The Permanent will be located on a block-sized lot on Market Street alongside Willits Lane. In 2017, TACAW signed a $1-per-year 99-year lease with the Town of Basalt to build the Permanent in Willits. TACAW has submitted site plans to the Town of Basalt, and they have been approved, but building plans for the new Permanent have yet to be submitted. They have two years from last July to pull a building permit.
To accelerate the new construction, TACAW has tweaked its overall building plans for the new space and will now build in phases.
“We hope to break ground on the new space in the fall,” Honey says. “We’re calling it the Contemporary. It’s a performance space the size of The Temporary (3,200 square feet), but optimized for performance. We’ll have a new performance space, offices, a lobby, kitchen and a community room for education programming.”
Honey estimates the new building to take roughly one year in construction time.
To maintain the positive momentum within the community TACAW plans to do pop-up shows and programming in private homes, and, potentially, at businesses and restaurants in Willits.
“We know we can do people's homes,” Honey says. “In the past, we have curated different snippets of what we do at some of our donors’ homes. Poets, jazz, comedy, other music. The shift will be that we will now open these events to the public in homes, stores, bars and restaurants. We pride ourselves on quality, and we do not want to be background noise, so we’ll partner with places that honor the artist.”
According to Belinski, there will be a music series in Willits next summer that he hopes will draw the community to local businesses, and TACAW will play a leading role in that series.
What does Honey envision for the future permanent performance space?
He points to the upcoming Joan Osborne show at The Temporary as an example of how they hope to raise the caliber of performing artists and bring arts programming to the Mid-Valley that, up to this point, local patrons could only see in Aspen.
In 2015 and 2017, the Town of Basalt did feasibility studies to gauge whether there was a sufficient audience in the Mid-Valley to support arts programming in a performance space. The overwhelming positive success of The Temporary has shown there is an audience, and that the team at TACAW —Honey, artistic director Mark Breslin and the board of directors — are the right people to make The Temporary into The Permanent.
Ryan Honey’s top five reasons to make The Temporary permanent:
5. Economic impact: In 2018, guests to the Temporary spent an estimated $400,000 at other local businesses before and after performances. We are an economic engine that can spark a “creative economy” in the Mid-Valley.
4: Local showcases: Local storytellers, comedians, poets, actors and musicians have boldly taken the stage to entertain and inspire audiences. Some of our most talented locals have opened for national touring acts at The Temporary. We are a hub for creative expression, and our community deserves to have such a hub.
3: Partnerships: TACAW has partnered with 37 nonprofits to date using culture to highlight the missions of our partners, and bringing that diversity to the Mid-Valley.
2: Access: Access to the arts is proven to improve civic engagement, community well-being, student performance and more. Basalt will reap the rewards that come from having performing arts integrated into their community.
1: Kids Kulture!: To date, more than 2,000 children and their families have enjoyed live theater, independent cinema, puppetry, poetry and more as part of our Kids Kulture! program. We are building the next generation of artists and audiences in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Ryan’s top five shows at the Temporary
1: Ben Roy: the funniest stand-up comedian I’ve ever seen. He’s coming back for one more stint on April 5.
2: Immigrant Voices: a partnership with English In Action. An incredible night of stories from immigrants who bravely shared themselves with their new community.
3: New Year’s Eve with Dirty Revival: great band, great party and a great celebration of our community ... plus fireworks!
4: Basalt Choir Coffeehouse: a fundraiser for Basalt’s choir, showcasing the amazing talent of our local kids. It was inspiring, and it raised much-needed money for the choir.
5: Colorado Shakespeare Festival Julius Caesar: This abridged version of the show introduced kids to Shakespeare and, using lessons from the show, gave students tools to avoid violence in schools. Part of CSF’s Shakespeare in Violence Prevention Program, this show was presented 10 days after the Parkland shooting.
Bonus Show!!: Totally Rad ’80s Prom with the Davenports: This fundraiser for the Waldorf School made me realize that our entire community has an ’80s costume in the closet, just in case.