Arts on Fire: Could Avon Fire Station become a home for artists?
Public meeting about the future of Avon properties
June 8, 5:30 p.m., Avon town hall
The public meeting will focus on prioritization and real-time polling to better collect community sentiment. The polling at the public meeting, coupled with survey results, will help shape the final land use plans for eventual consideration by the Planning and Zoning Commission and Town Council.
A good arts district is like Kevin Costner’s “Field of Dreams” — if you build it, then they will come.
Currently in Avon, the town council and staff are preparing to play the role of Costner, and the people they are expecting to come to town to see the arts district are, of course, tourists.
This year, Avon listed pursuing a Colorado Creative Arts District designation as a top priority in their strategic plan and earlier this month, several town officials attended the annual Colorado Creative Industries summit to help with the brainstorming. It’s an event Avon sends representatives to every year in an effort to spur creative thinking in town. Council members Jake Wolf and Jennie Fancher have attended in years past. This year, council member Amy Phillips was joined by staff members Casey Willis, Louise Duncan and Matt Pielsticker at the summit.
Following the summit, the group from Avon, along with Virginia Egger, town manager, met to develop key steps in earning the Colorado Creative Arts District designation. Among those steps is one Wolf has already undertaken after attending a few other arts summits — survey other creative districts in other mountain resort communities.
“In looking at this a couple years ago I hit the road and went to every creative arts district in the state,” Wolf said. “One of the main things I learned is these art districts have both the power to attract and repel.”
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Wolf used the town of Salida as an example.
“Once their arts district got going full on, the town began to attract so many people that rent went up, the cost of living went up, and the same artists who created this great arts district could no longer afford to live there, giving them a whole new problem to address,” Wolf said. “If you start building it, they will come, sure, but then they might drive up rent prices for the people who are building it.”
After trying to invigorate the town on the idea, Wolf said he all but gave up, and hoped by not attending this year’s summit, others would see new possibilities.
“When I was working on this in 2014 and 2015, it just seemed like the timing wasn’t right for us,” he said. “We had too much other stuff happening. But that now may be changing.”
Last week in Avon, the council discussed the effort to pursue a Colorado Creative Arts District designation once again, and now it seems the timing may be better.
“We probably have the talent and resources to start pushing this forward,” Phillips said. “We’re just going to look to really start that implementation and planning in the fall.”
The town is expecting to receive the Avon Fire Station from the Eagle River Fire and Protection District by January, as the district moves into their new location on Buck Creek Road. That will provide a big opportunity for something Wolf has been saying for years needs to happen in Avon — an artist in residence program.
“The fire station, in its current iteration, probably can be re-purposed,” Phillips said.
In looking at the fire station, town staff had an “ah-ha moment,” Egger said.
“I expected to see a big bunk room and some shower rooms, that’s not what it is at all,” Egger said. “These are separate bedrooms. It sleeps, I’m told, upwards of 17 people … it has a lot of potential as an art space, but most of all, it has housing.”
The arts district would be located in the area now known as Main Street Mall, located between the season’s building and Lettuce Shed Lane. The area currently has bronze statues, climbing boulders and a larger than life Carrie Fell mural which was erected in conjunction with the 2015 World Alpine Ski Championships.
During that event, Wolf helped bring to town a sample of large, weatherproof instruments which were placed near the mall between the Avon Recreation Center and the Avon Library. Rekindling the instruments idea, the town is planning on setting up a public piano in that area this week, an idea Fancher and Wolf had after attending a Colorado Creative Industries summit in Fort Collins a few years ago.
Last week, the town placed a Little Free Library — a small, front-yard book exchange — on the eastern side of Possibilities Plaza along the Main Street Mall. The Little Free Library joins the more than 36,000 like it around the world, from Iceland to Tasmania to Pakistan. Avon’s Little Free Library contains more than twenty books, in both English and Spanish, for readers of all ages.
Avon is currently in the process of seeking public input on the future Main Street Mall, the arts district, the fire station and all other town-owned properties. A public meeting is scheduled for June 8 to discuss ideas, all are welcome and encouraged to bring any ideas and attend. Anyone who can’t make it can comment online at http://avon.org/1027/Town-Initiatives.
“The biggest takeaway I had from the conference we went to was how many of the other arts districts discussed how important community involvement is,” Phillips said. “We need to get our community engaged.”