Vail looks to create artists in residency program with proposed studio in Ford Park￼
The program would look to bring artists from different disciplines to work in and be inspired by Vail
Vail is on its way to bringing an Artist in Residency program to the town, which it hopes will further its mission of enhancing its cultural vitality.
On Tuesday, members of the Vail Town Council expressed their support for a first look and proposed design of the Artist in Residency Studio in Ford Park.
The building will still need to go through the town’s channels before the redevelopment can happen. However, the initial plans — designed by architect Harry Teague — were met with a round of thumbs up and praise at Tuesday’s meeting.
The impetus for the Artist in Residency program and studio traces back over a decade, although a $50,000 donation from East West Partners in 2016 to craft the studio has begun to make it a reality. While slight advancements have been made throughout the years, the town began looking more seriously at what the project and development could look like in the past few years. In October 2022, the Arts in Public Places board approved the initial design.
“Over the past three quarters of the year, we have been working diligently with consultants as far as updating our strategic plan, policies, guidelines and to create the framework for the Vail Artists in Residency program,” said Molly Eppard, the town’s Art in Public Places coordinator. “It truly did become obvious (the residency program) was going to become a cornerstone for the Art in Public Places Program in general.”
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While the studio may still be a way out, Eppard said it is planning to launch a pilot of the residency program this summer.
The Ford Park Master Plan identifies the residency program as a means of accomplishing four main things, outside of its primary goal of providing a space for artists to come to Vail. This includes creating an exceptional and diverse art collection, engaging with the community, increasing collaboration with nonprofits including youth organizations, and creating more educational opportunities around visual art.
A staff memo on the program identifies the building as an “art shack.” And, on Tuesday, Teague said it was “extraordinary its survived those snowstorms.”
However, the building’s future holds a lot of promise, he added.
“I think it’s rather an auspicious, historic moment right now to get a toehold of the art building in Vail is really a significant step,” he said, later calling it a “crowning achievement” in his 50-year career.
Teague described the proposed design for the studio as a “gabled, modern style” building. The idea is that it would simultaneously stand out and blend into the natural environment, itself becoming “like a sculpture in the park,” as Teague put it.
“I think it’s a really lovely, attractive space, inspiring in a lot of ways to work,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is give it a presence on that path that’s inviting enough that people will come in and pester these artists and drive them crazy.”
While the exact details of the residency program are yet to be ironed out, the idea is that the studio would serve a diverse array of artists and disciplines.
Eppard said that the general idea is that there would be resident artists year-round, with the “grand residency” lasting around four weeks over the summer. The other residencies would be “malleable” depending on the season and the artist’s disciplines and needs, but likely would be between two to four weeks.
“We really want to make it a premier working artist studio that will attract significant artists, but also allowing us to diversify the collection too,” she said, later adding, “We have had a few artists who are eager as well who have approached saying, ‘I would love to have the opportunity to work in Vail.’ In a sense, it’s almost a retreat where the artist can step back, reenergize.”
Because the space in Ford Park is designed simply as a studio (and not residentially zoned), the plan is to rely on the Art in Public Place’s board, donors and local lodging community to find places for the artists to live while in Vail.
Eppard expressed that the studio has the potential to become a “legacy building in the community” once completed. However, before it gets there it will need to go through the town’s approval process as well as construction.
“We feel like we’re truly focused on the direction of the (Art in Public Places) program, which ultimately became the importance of how the space would evolve,” she said.
The town currently has budgeted $850,000 for the studio project’s construction.
On Tuesday, Eppard also gave an update on Vail’s Art in Public Places collection, which has grown to include 69 pieces of art in its public collection — in addition to 10 murals. The new installations in 2022 included three murals at the Lionshead skatepark and parking structure by artist Kaitlin Ziesmer as well as four sculptures from Vicki and Kent Logan’s private collection.
And looking ahead, Eppard pointed to the town’s 16th annual Winterfest, which is being installed right now and expected to be on display through February, an additional sculpture from Vicki and Kent Logan as well as a painting commissioned from Lamont Joseph White in collaboration with the National Brotherhood of Skiers Summit in February.
And as for how the Artists in Residency studio and program fits into the overall collection and its progress, Teague said that he felt this studio — and the residency program it supports — is just the “tip of the iceberg.”
“This is going to be a catalyst for a lot of exciting community things,” he said.