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For the week of Jan 29 - Feb 4, 2003


Consultant urges collaboration on arts projects

Endorses new facilities in Ketchum, Hailey

Express Staff Writer

A consultant hired to determine the need for new arts facilities in the Wood River Valley reported last week that the region could support several new facilities in various locations and encouraged organizations to cooperate in developing new venues.

Duncan Webb, representing his New York City-based arts consulting firm Webb Management Services, on Friday issued to a crowd at Sun Valley City Hall his final findings from a lengthy, six-month study on the state of the local arts community.

Webb said the Wood River Valley has a specific need for new visual-arts facilities (including gallery space and classrooms), small performance-arts facilities, a large performance-arts facility and an un-winterized performance enclosure to support seasonal performances and special events.

The consultant said several organizations in the valley have interests in developing new facilities, and will be best served by forming partnerships to complete projects of mutual interest.

Dr. Jim Lewis, superintendent of the Blaine County School District, followed Webb’s presentation with a poignant speech that echoed Webb’s call for cooperation.

"Every time, there’s one or two or three factions that want to fight instead of build," he said. "We have to quit bickering."

Lewis’s remarks came after Webb endorsed a plan for a 1,500-seat auditorium at the new Wood River High School in Hailey. Webb said the school is interested in providing the site for the facility, but cannot fund the construction of the project.

He noted that the district has extended an offer to provide the land for the project if local arts supporters provide the funding.

"It’s all boils down to the deal," Webb said. "It’s up to the community how far we want to go with this."

He said a state-of-the-art 1,500-seat auditorium would cost up to $80 million to build, but a more modest facility could be built for considerably less.

As part of the study, Webb made specific recommendations to the Sun Valley Performing Arts Center to advance the group’s plans to redevelop the nexStage Theatre in Ketchum. Webb on Friday said he believes the nexStage building has adequate space for "at least two first-class performance spaces."

Webb also determined that the Ketchum-based Sun Valley Center for the Arts has inadequate space in its facilities, and there is a strong market for a seasonal performance enclosure for dance, music and special events.

The Webb report was commissioned last summer by the Sun Valley Arts Foundation to assess the need for new arts projects in the valley and to render an objective opinion on whether a centralized arts complex would be used and supported.

The Sun Valley Arts Foundation is a nonprofit organization originally formed to promote the development of a new, centralized arts campus in Ketchum or Sun Valley, but has since shifted its focus to promoting arts facilities throughout the valley. The foundation is led by board chairman Dan Drackett.

Approximately half of the $40,000 study was paid for by the City of Sun Valley, which last year 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.

In a preliminary report issued last October, Webb determined that a centralized complex of performance venues and offices is not needed.

Webb on Friday noted he interviewed more than 100 local residents, community leaders, arts supporters and members of arts organizations to bolster his independent research of the valley’s arts facilities.

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