[click "Play", Susan has a conversation with Will, Kate and Pia]
The initiative began with Will Thompson, owner of the Telluride Gallery of Fine Arts and an active member of the Telluride Merchants’ Association.
Since the economic downturn, the need to deal with vacant real estate has been a challenge for business owners from coast to coast. From Seattle to Dayton, Chicago to Cleveland, they have turned to arts organizations and artists for colorful solutions. Empty spaces on Telluride’s Main Street got Will’s wheels turning.
“One of the very key things that business owners in this town want to accomplish is to have empty spaces occupied,” explained Will. “If they aren’t occupied by businesses, they could be occupied by nonprofits to bring attention to the cultural aspects of our town. That’s how towns thrive. We can’t have that urban blight. The merchants do not want to see closed up shops and empty spaces. Whenever we can do anything for the Historical Museum, Telluride Arts and artists in town we will—we have a lot of worthwhile nonprofits in town and why not have them on center stage. This provides an opportunity to do just that.”
As a liaison between grassroots arts and business communities, Telluride Arts is in the perfect position to strategically match artists and spaces. When Will called executive director Kate Jones about his idea for the Times Building, vacant since the last summer, Kate had the perfect solution in the person of Pia Kamala.
Pia Kamala is a familiar face if you are a regular at the Asian Tapas bar There, where she and owner, Tyler, the Fred and Ginger of Telluride’s bar scene, perform a well choreographed dance nightly to the delight of all. (Some regulars, I am one, turn up just to see what Pia is wearing.) But Pia is much more than a pretty face and fashion queen. She is a talented artist in need of a space to do her thing, large-scale mixed media work.
The Times Building space was slated for a remodel, but when Kate met with project manager John Kutak he was open to the idea, as was Western Partners, LLC, the building’s owner.
“We were able to turn her loose in the space immediately and it has been a great addition of vibrant color since the day she walked in. I live near there and it is such a pleasure to walk by at night and see a glow on main street where before there was a dingy dark hole. We are so grateful to John and his people for opening their minds and their doors to a local artist, and thrilled with the lively, vibrant work that Pia has developed there.”
This is a lemonade from lemons story: Telluride has never had a shortage of artists, just a shortage of spaces for them to work. Well, maybe no more.
To see how other towns have addressed the challenge of empty spaces, follow these links:
To find out more about this new program from Telluride Arts, click the “play” button and listen to what Kate, Will and Pia have to say.