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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

For the week of November 6 - 12, 2002


Valley arts complex not needed, study says

Express Staff Writer

A consultant hired to assess the need for new arts facilities in the Wood River Valley has determined that a centralized complex of performance venues and offices is not needed, but some new facilities would be beneficial to regional residents and visitors.

The determinations were outlined in a report issued last week to the board members of the Sun Valley Arts Foundation by their hired consultant, Webb Management Services of New York City.

The SVAF—with the support of the cities of Sun Valley, Ketchum and Hailey—commissioned the formal Needs Assessment last summer to serve as a blueprint for future arts projects in the valley, and to render an objective opinion on whether a centralized arts complex would be used and supported.

Approximately half of the $40,000 study was paid for by the City of Sun Valley, which had tentatively offered a city-owned five-acre parcel east of Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Church as a location for a centralized arts complex.

The proposal earlier this year of a multi-million dollar set of facilities for the prized open-space parcel was met with a mix of support and vehement opposition, prompting Sun Valley Mayor David Wilson to hold a series of town meetings on the future of the site.

Dan Drackett, chairman of the SVAF, said last week the results of the study provide a clear mandate that a state-of-the-art theater, music and fine arts complex is not needed in the Wood River Valley at this time. However, Drackett said the conclusions of the Webb Management Services report have provided the foundation with a new mandate to improve and expand arts facilities at various locations throughout the valley.

"It turns out there does not seem to be a strong feeling in this county that everything needs to be centralized in one location," Drackett said. "We originally thought a centralized site could be more than the sum of its points, but too many compromises would have to be made if it was all located in one site, whether it be in Ketchum, Sun Valley or Hailey.

"This points us in an entirely new direction."

Sam Gappmeyer, executive director of Sun Valley Center for the Arts, said the results of the study should not be characterized as a defeat for proponents of a centralized arts complex, but as an invitation for all patrons of the arts to improve the existing facilities.

"I think the conclusions that we need to move toward a decentralized model were very positive," he said. "I applaud Mayor Wilson and Mr. Drackett for bringing up the ideas they did, and responding to the community’s desire for a needs assessment."

The main conclusions of the report were:

· The Wood River Valley has a highly educated contingent of residents that form the bulk of a highly active arts community.

· Efforts to improve facilities should have a consolidated vision and fund-raising mechanism, and should not promote new facilities at the expense of open space or existing arts groups.

· Residents do not like to travel long distances to attend arts events, but are more willing to travel north than south.

· When compared to Jackson, Wyo., and Aspen, Colo., the valley does not have comparable facilities for lecture halls and educational arts facilities.

· There is a local demand for new, smaller arts facilities of varying sizes, and new arts facilities would enhance the region. Overall, the valley needs a lecture hall, rehearsal studios, classrooms, and artist housing.

Associates from Webb Management Services as part of the study conducted approximately 85 interviews with selected valley residents, including government officials, community leaders, school officials, business owners, artists and arts patrons.

The complete report was not scheduled to be released until the end of the year, but the conclusions of the extensive preliminary report provided answers to most questions about the valley’s needs.

The conclusions of the report will indeed change the mission of the SVAF, which was founded earlier this year with the goal of establishing a centralized arts complex somewhere in the Ketchum-Sun Valley area.

Drackett said the foundation will work with its consultant to develop a suitable business plan, and may strive to serve the community as a central organization promoting and raising funds for cultural venues and events.

"There is strong evidence that suggests we may need a year-round performance hall in Hailey, possibly done in conjunction with Wood River High School," he said, noting that the SVAF plans to develop a grid of facilities that could be developed over time.

"The Sun Valley Arts Foundation will enthusiastically participate in promoting the arts in the valley," he added.

And, while the future of Sun Valley’s five-acre parcel on Sun Valley Road is certainly not to be the site of an arts complex, a new debate about the land may be emerging. Wilson last month suggested that he would like the site to be considered as a seasonal venue—likely in temporary tents—for events such as the Sun Valley Wine Auction and the Sun Valley Center Arts and Crafts Festival.



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