Silverthorne Art Board moving forward with potential downtown art co-op

The old Silverthorne Fire Station is pictured on Sunday 21st November. The Silverthorne Art Board has expressed interest in potentially turning the building into a community arts center.
Lindsey Toomer / Daily Summit News

Silverthorne Art Council is keen to transform the town’s former fire station into an arts center in the heart of the town centre. The group compiled research and budget information, as well as feedback from local artists and community members.

The council sent out two surveys to gauge local interest, one for artists and one for community members. At City Council of Wednesday, January 26, working session, director of arts and culture, Sydney Schwab, said the surveys received a total of 430 unique responses, a high response rate. Schwab said 90% of those who responded to the survey said they would use the space.

Schwab noted that 50 of the artists who responded said they would be interested in teaching classes in space, which is one of the concepts presented to the board to support the project. Additionally, 105 community members said they would like to see youth art programs in space, and most said they would pay to use the space and for the classes.

“If you’ve had 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 encouragement in those as well,” Schwab said.

Board member Amy Manka said she has heard many positive comments about the possibility of an arts co-op from parents of young children.

“After-school activities are so important to this community, and it’s an area that’s missing,” Manka said. “I mean we have the recreation center, and my kids are there right now, but they are filling up. You need to be online when it’s offered or you miss out.

This feedback guided the preliminary operating budget. Arts and Culture Director Joanna Cook said the financial commitment this project will require is threefold.

First, they estimated it would cost around $350,000 to open the doors and make them usable by the public. Next is the equipment, supplies, and furniture that would make artistic programming feasible. Cook estimated the city could spend around $50,000 on second-hand art equipment.

Finally, Cook said some educated guesses led the team to estimate that the center would bring in about $87,000 in revenue per year and cost about $127,000 in annual operating expenses.

Silverthorne Mayor Ann-Marie Sandquist noted that some of the costs would be necessary no matter what the city decides to do with the space.

“It’s not like the things we do to this building only make it usable for this one use if down the road there is a different use,” Sandquist said. “I want it to be a phenomenal success. … But if it ends up not being (successful), it’s not like we just completely changed this building where it can’t be replaced with something else.

Councilman Mike Spry said he’s not ready to spend the city’s money on anything other than child care until it’s fully fleshed out. He said it has to be the top priority, and because it requires significant funding, the city has to make tough decisions about what to say no to in order to move a child care center forward.

Cook said she was already in contact with Sustainable Strategies DC, a company that helps the city seek out a variety of grants, to see what opportunities could benefit the cooperative project. There is a community revitalization grant which Cook says is encouraging. The grant will fully fund anything up to $100,000, and the program asks for a 50% match for anything above that, up to $5 million. Grants are awarded on an ongoing basis.

City Manager Ryan Hyland said he believes the city can safely move forward with spending on the project with the funding it has, and may see more budget details in February when the city’s chief financial officer the city will be able to attend a working session.

If the city council gives the go-ahead to move forward, Cook said she and the arts council will work to open the doors in about a year.

Not all council members were entirely convinced this could be the best use for one of the city’s most valuable real estate assets, but there was enough to give them the green light to move forward. . Deputy City Manager Mark Leidal noted there was key interest in the property before the city bought it, which he says 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 the way the Art Board wants would work well with the development of the downtown.

“I think it’s exciting to see the city seize this opportunity with both the location and the downtown development,” Hueneke said. “And (the city has) a passionate and dedicated group of people digging in and doing the work to help make it happen.”


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