The Vilar celebrates 25 years in style |

The Vilar celebrates 25 years in style

Long awaited Chihuly chandelier marks the performing arts center's 25th year

Vilar Performing Arts Center visionary Harry Frampton addresses the crowd at the reveal and dedication of the Chihuly chandelier to mark the venue's 25th anniversary.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

The Vilar Performing Arts Center is celebrating 25 years of showtime in the mountains and to mark the occasion it celebrated with a gift that was not silver, which is typically used to acknowledge a 25th anniversary, but glass, 205 pieces of glass, to be exact.

The blown glass was assembled into a chandelier created by the famous American glass artist, Dale Chihuly, whose work is known worldwide. The Chihuly chandelier is a fitting gift for this milestone because Chihuly was originally picked to provide artistic flair to the décor of the Vilar Performing Arts Center when it was being built in the mid-90s. He was even invited to Beaver Creek during the construction phase to see what would look good hanging above the grand staircase.

The Chihuly chandelier never came to fruition at the time due to other finishes that were prioritized for budgetary reasons, but the Vilar Performing Arts Center Committee never forgot about the original intention of that space and was hopeful that they’d someday put a Chihuly piece of art there.

The Dale Chihuly-designed Rippeto Family chandelier hangs in the upper lobby of the Vilar Performing Arts Center Thursday in Beaver Creek. The work of art has 205 glass pieces.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

The hope, work and dreams came to fruition on Dec. 22, the official opening night of the 25th anniversary season, when the public was invited to view this long-awaited chandelier. Owen Hutchinson, artistic director of the Vilar Performing Arts Center lead the crowd in a reveal and dedication of this piece of art.

“Two gentlemen who previously worked for Dale Chihuly and are the only approved installers of his works, like this one, spent three days up at the ceiling, piecing together 205 pieces of glass, one at a time, starting at the bottom of this armature and working their way up to the very top in a very thoughtful manner. Their greatest fear throughout the process with all these works is to run out of glass, so they start slowly and then add more as they go and perfect it until it is complete and it really turned out sensational,” Hutchinson said.

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Intricate glass work by artist Dale Chihuly hangs in the Vilar Performing Arts Center Thursday in Beaver Creek. The piece is 25 years old, fitting for the anniversary of the VPAC.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

The audience was filled with many early supporters of the Vilar Performing Arts Center, including Harry Frampton, a visionary of this facility who worked hand-in-hand with the architects, engineers, donors and community leaders to bring a year-round home for the performing arts to our valley.

Frampton recalled the story of how the Vilar Performing Arts Center came about. Beaver Creek Village was surrounded by the slopes and didn’t have much room to expand, especially not for a large performing arts center.

“Gordon Pierce, a very talented architect at the time, said ‘why don’t we build the performing arts center underneath the ice rink,’ and I always remember saying to Gordon, ‘well, what might that cost?’ and he said, ‘oh, two to three million dollars,’ and, knowing Gordon, he always underestimated the cost and I thought it may cost four or five million dollars and it ended up costing us 17 million, so, we were quite off,” Frampton said.  

Frampton continued to recall how the money was raised and much of it was through private donors like Doug Rippeto, whom the new Chihuly chandelier honors.

Rippeto was unable to attend the ceremony due to a family illness but was represented by stories told by Frampton and Alexia Jurschack, Vilar Performing Arts Center committee chair.

Jurschack told the story of how the Chihuly piece was found. Her husband, Jerry, saw a Chihuly up for auction that was hanging at a home not far from where they lived in New York and they got to go scout it out.

“We both walked in and we saw it and said, ‘this is it,’ and there was only one catch: how do we pay for it?” Jurschack said.  

“I called Doug Rippeto up and said, ‘Doug, we found the Chihuly that should be in the staircase for the 25th anniversary,’ and he said, ‘okay, how much?’ and I said, ‘well, wait a minute, we’re going to name it after you, that should count for something,” Jurschack said.

Jurschack went on to say that Rippeto was happy to fund it and felt it was part of his legacy. She also read a note from him that expressed how disappointed he was that he could not attend.

“It’s been an honor and a pleasure to be involved with the Vilar Performing Arts Center for many years. I’m sorry to miss this special evening celebrating our magnificent Chihuly chandelier but I look forward to seeing it in person later this winter. It’s an incredible addition to our world-class theater in this major anniversary season. My very best to you all. Thank you for your continued support of the VPAC and the arts in our community,” the note said.  

Veronica Swift and the H2 Big Band perform to kick off the Vilar Performing Arts Center’s 25th anniversary Thursday in Beaver Creek.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

Following the Rippeto Family chandelier dedication, patrons were treated to a jazz performance by Veronica Swift and the H2 Big Band to kick off the season. A special 25th Anniversary Celebration is scheduled for March 3 with Norah Jones. To learn more and to see the full lineup of performances, visit

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