Breckenridge’s historic Arts District gets an upgrade for the twenty-first century.
The Breckenridge Arts District has been busy with planning and building, not marketing itself, so its imminent evolution has been flying under the radar. Still, the district recently received more than sixty applications for ten guest-artist slots in the Tin Shop, a historic metal workshop that in 2006 was reopened as a combination art studio and residence. The applicants—photographers, painters, and metalsmiths, who come from as far away as the UK—heard about the Tin Shop opportunity almost exclusively by word-of-mouth.
Appropriate, then, that the Arts District is in expansion mode. What began as a way to preserve and make innovative use of several of the town’s oldest buildings has become something more: a creative crucible that integrates old structures and new facilities, performance stages and fine arts, a sense of history and a look into Breckenridge’s future.
Part of the transformation has already occurred in the decade since the Arts District, a city-owned campus on two-thirds of an acre at the corner of Ridge and Washington, was first proposed. The thirty-nine-year-old Backstage Theatre Company found a permanent residence in a renovated saloon. A number of historic buildings (the Robert Whyte House, the Fuqua Livery Stable, and the Quandary Antiques Cabin) were turned into spaces for resident artists and creative workshops.
The push toward putting the finishing touches on the district begins this summer. Two new structures—a shop for metalworks and a ceramics studio—will go up. The Quandary log cabin, currently the site of a ceramics program, will be turned into a center for children’s workshops. The Robert Whyte House and the Mikolitis Barn, studios for textiles and printmaking, will be rehabbed. The project is slated for completion in the fall of 2014 (though two more components of the district—an addition to the Backstage Theatre and the opening of a dance studio across the street, in Abby Hall—will be finished later).
Jenn Cram (pictured above), the administrator of Breckenridge’s public art program, sees the district as more than just a center for the arts. The installation of sculptures, walkways, and lights will connect the campus to Abby Hall and on to the Riverwalk Center, home of the Breckenridge Music Festival, and the Harris Street Building, which will house a library and movie theater.
“It becomes this cultural spine, a synergy of creativity,” Cram says. “A lot of these historic structures needed some love. We’re breathing new life into them and into the core of our town."