Like the artists it nurtures, the Breckenridge Arts District continues to blossom. Witness September’s public coming-out party that previewed new venues in the town’s ever-expanding creative campus, which occupies an entire block just east of the Riverwalk Performing Arts Center. Throughout a festive three-day affair that included whimsical street performers and live music, visitors milled about five newly renovated and refurbished studios that will host local and visiting artists in what’s becoming a nationally recognized and widely admired municipal arts program.
“It was lights on and a terrific reception, with hundreds of people enjoying the new venue,” says Robb Woulfe, CEO of the town’s Cultural Arts Division and the former artistic director of the Ann Arbor Summer Festival, who was hired to the newly created position last January. “With the core campus built out, the town will have an identifiable anchor for the addition of future structures.”
The $8.2 million, one-acre district—13 years in the making and overseen by nonprofit incubator Breckenridge Creative Arts (BreckCreate)—includes eight rehabilitated historic barns, cabins, and sheds that retain elements of the town’s rough-hewn veneer but have been repurposed as specialized galleries, classrooms, and live/work studios with modern amenities like radiant floor heating. Building on the success of the acclaimed Fuqua Livery Stable (a painting studio with an atelier leased to a local artist), the new Ceramic Studio, Hot Shop (metalsmithing and glasswork), Little Red Shed (gas and a wood-fired kilns), and other structures can accommodate a bevy of artists working in a variety of disciplines.
This December’s opening of the renovated Breckenridge Theater (the 100-seat home of Breckenridge Backstage Theatre at 121 S Ridge St.), coupled with next summer’s opening of the Old Masonic Hall (a multipurpose facility for visual and performing arts classes, exhibition space, and more artists’ studios) just around the corner on Main Street and the 2016 opening of the Speakeasy Theater (a 150-seat cinema on North Harris Street that will screen Hollywood and art-house films) will complete the expansion, at least for the foreseeable future.
“Our vision is to develop a district that would bring together studios, galleries, performances spaces, historic landmarks, public art, restaurants, cafés, and other creative businesses in downtown Breckenridge,” Woulfe explains. “The core campus is a significant step that enables us to host workshops, exhibits, artists-in-residence, and other activities enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.”
Call it a creative crucible that will allow Breck to compete with, and perhaps even upstage, Aspen’s Anderson Ranch.