Avon considers arts district for part of mall
heedING Wolf’s howl
Jake Wolf the drummer was envisioning possible arts districts in the Vail Valley long before the Colorado Creative Industries Division started giving out funding and assistance for them.
And then he ran for office.
“I ran on the premise that I was going to be a defibrillator for this beat-less ‘Heart of the Valley,’” said Jake Wolf the councilman. “You can’t have a vibrancy and a heartbeat if you don’t have any center. And if there was a list of things that could make a place vibrant with culture, arts would be right at the top. When I came across this possibility for our town, it It made sense to me to go after it because we need a cultural arts center in Eagle County.”
After hearing Wolf’s pitch, Director of Economic Initiatives Susan Fairweather jumped at the opportunity to help.
“Doing the research, making the calls and putting it all together was really because of (Wolf’s) passion in seeing the town of Avon have a realized — and a certified — arts district,” Fairweather said. “It really fits well with his vision as an artist, and I really think without his enthusiasm we may have held off for another year. He really felt strongly that we could make this happen, and I believe he’s right.”
AVON — Does the idea of a downtown arts district pique your interest? Then you may be a candidate for a possible cultural arts council in town, which will need to be formed in order to see that district through.
Elected officials and staff in Avon think an arts district could coincide nicely with the town’s $2 million pedestrian mall project, set for this summer in the area between Benchmark Road, Avon Station (the town’s transit center) and Lettuce Shed Lane. This past week, the town found out that the State of Colorado’s Creative Industries Division likes the idea as well and will send representatives for a visit to the site of the proposed arts district on May 6.
Colorado Creative Industries runs a two-year Creative Arts District program, providing an estimated $42,000 in benefits to towns accepted into it.
In addition to $10,000 in direct capital from Colorado’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade, those benefits include: customized economic impact data from the Western Arts Federation, signs marking the certified creative district on the highway, national and statewide marketing and social media opportunities, the ability to leverage funding for additional funding and partnerships, direct mentoring and coaching from other Colorado-certified creative districts, access to research and best practices from across the nation in arts districts and training webinars for Avon’s yet-to-be-formed arts council.
“The easy work is saying, ‘Yes, we are interested,’” said Susan Fairweather, Avon’s new director of economic initiatives. “The hard work will be collecting the inventories of art and spaces and defining the district and creating a cultural arts council here — a stakeholder committee.”
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Fairweather took the job in mid-February. She’s the first economic development director Avon has ever had.
“What has been going on in Avon in the last year is a review and reorganization of town departments,” said Town Manager Virginia Egger. “For example, last year we merged parks and rec together, and what we have been doing is saving significant money in terms of not filling vacancies when the position is no longer deemed to be needed.”
Egger said during the interview process, Fairweather made the point that director of economic initiatives position has the potential for the new hire to earn more for the town than their salary and benefits are costing, if that new hire is successful.
“We need a director of economic initiatives to really make it Avon’s time,” Egger said. “I think we’ve done a lot of work, we did the research we’ve got the branding contract, and we’ve been able to solicit and hire a director, but I don’t have the time every day to attend to really what’s so important — our current and existing business community.”
Origin Design of Whistler, B.C. has been hired to work on new branding for Avon, which currently uses the tagline “The Heart of the Valley.” Origin’s fee will be $28,000 for brand conceptualization, $12,500 for a logo and $3,000 for tagline development.
Between Fairweather’s new position and the hiring of Origin for brand work, the town is making large investments, but not as large as the amount saved by not filling the high paying positions of director of public works and a director of community development, Egger said.
“The tasks set within the positions were able to be redeployed, so what has been great I think is the real analytical work in our organizational structure and what positions we need,” Egger said.
LIKING THE ODDS
Fairweather says with only 11 cities being chosen by Colorado Creative Industries for site visits and seven of those cities receiving entry into the Creative Arts District program, Avon has a decent chance of being selected.
“I did lot of research with the state of Colorado and talked to the principals down there to find out if we would have a chance because we don’t have lot of our vision in the ground yet — we don’t have an arts council yet, we don’t have a name for our creative district — so we are really in its infancy at this point,” Fairweather said. “What I found out is that Avon is actually very well poised for being a candidate, because we don’t have a lot on the ground and we could benefit so greatly from the expertise that they offer through the program.”
The program doesn’t create any restrictions on the town, Fairweather noted, despite the word “district” being attached to it.
“It doesn’t create a special tax district or anything like that,” she said. “And the designation only stays for as long as we want to keep it.”
Those interested in helping create and shape Avon’s art district through an official arts council are encourage to contact Fairweather at 970-748-4072 or email@example.com.