The Aspen School District on Thursday asked for community input on how to use part of a nearly $ 95 million bond approved by voters last fall to make improvements to facilities in theater on the school district campus.
The bond is intended to meet the school district’s most urgent capital needs, including the Black Box Theater at Aspen High School and the District Theater performing arts center across the street. Community members met with architect Gilbert Sanchez and theater design firm consultant Theater Projects Gena Buhler on Thursday, when many highlighted their shared view that the school district’s theaters currently do not have enough capacity. ‘space for all desired uses, and that theaters should be accessible. to the large community of Aspen.
Aspen Education Foundation Vice President Kurt Hall attended the meeting and said it was important not to prioritize one school district or community over the other and suggested that part of the money be used to rename the performing arts center.
“Calling it the District Theater puts the school first – only the name sends a message,” he said. “We need to turn it more into a community asset. More professionals who use it and the training that can accompany it help and make it a more solid training center. And having more space helps. The only way it actually works is if it’s a multi-purpose setup.
Sanchez said the district had $ 6 million to spend on improving the theater, after separating out priorities and what could be deferred. Priorities include air conditioning work, safety upgrades, aisle lighting, life and safety issues related to rigging systems and new carpets, paints and seats. The first step in a broader planning includes the development of a new chalet for the preschool, which will allow the district to reclaim two classrooms behind the stage of the performing arts center and transform them into dressing rooms. . The second step will consist of improving the hall, concession stands and toilets, and finalizing a separation between secondary and primary uses. Sanchez said this item will depend on fundraising.
“Some of the functions of high school and elementary school are classrooms during the day and changing rooms at night,” he said. “It creates conflict. … We have to figure out how to fund this part.
Tammy Baar of the Aspen Community Theater suggested selling seats to raise money for improvements. Another idea was to reallocate some of the money from the Wheeler real estate transfer tax – which will appear on the November ballot after Aspen City Council approved a proposal to continue funding the Wheeler Opera House. , remove the cap on arts and culture grants, and fund operations at the Red Brick Center rather than reallocating some of the money to community and educational arts organizations. Hall, for his part, was one of a group of four members of the AEF board that circulated a petition in July in an attempt to collect enough signatures to put a citizens’ initiative on the ballot that reportedly kept 50% of the RETT collections with the Wheeler and the remaining 50% for other artistic uses, the latest in a long series of attempts to dedicate a portion of the Wheeler RETT funds to the District Theater.
One parent said that as a representative of Aspen’s taxpayers, she believes the money should be spent on education. Hall suggested returning to city council to seek other avenues for funding.
In a broader sense, participants said they would also like to see more accessibility to the campus – including better signage and improvements in the parking lot – which led to some great ideas for additional amenities like a service. valet parking or bar.
Alcohol is currently not allowed on the school campus, but Buhler said she frequently hears the suggestion when working on theater improvements, as bars play a role in the full theatrical experience. .
“Bar and alcohol are always a conversation that comes up in any space; it’s not unique just here, ”she said. “It turns into an experience, and these spaces are about the experience. Good or bad, alcohol service and concessions go hand in hand with this.
She noted that, as participants expressed support for inclusive theater in the community, school-owned facilities should not be used only for education, and community experiences can be incorporated into appropriate management.
“That’s what I mean: a goal of ‘We want it to be used as much as possible for different purposes,” said Buhler. “It blends the safety and security of children with access and experience for everyone in the community. ”
Buhler and Sanchez will continue to solicit feedback from the community before making final decisions, and anyone who was unable to attend Thursday’s meeting but wishes to contact are encouraged to contact Sanchez via email at grsanchezaia @ gmail. .com. Buhler can also be contacted at email@example.com.