This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

November 10, 2011 - art centers mark coming of age

I have now had the distinct pleasure of attending the ribbon cutting ceremonies for two wonderful facilities: the Lone Tree Arts Center, and the Parker Arts and Cultural Events (PACE) Center.

The Lone Tree Arts Center opened its doors on August 11. It has a 500 seat theater,  an additional 150-225 seat event theater that opens through a glass wall to a 300-350 seat outdoor terrace theater; and a lovely and functional entrance plaza. The cost for the facility was $23 million.

The PACE Center had its ribbon cutting ceremony on Oct. 28 (and will be officially opening on Oct. 29). And by the way, it was the most innovative such ceremony I've seen. Several ribbons were pulled across the stage, one behind the other, with one town Council person assigned to each. At the countdown, all of the ribbons were scissored through at once -- an exciting and interesting visual display.

The PACE Center has a 536 seat theater, 250 seat amphitheater, an event room with a catering and teaching kitchen, an art gallery, a dance studio, a media laboratory, and classrooms. It cost $21.7 million.

Because the Lone Tree Arts Center opened first, I've already attended about four events, and find that it works beautifully not only as a theater, but also as a sort of mini-conference center and luncheon space, as well as a reception and featured speaker venue.

I've only attended one performance at the PACE Center, but I can see already that it will be a success, too. 

Both centers have comfortable theaters with fine acoustics. Both have thoughtful designs. Lone Tree used Ohio-based architects Westlake Reed Leskosky. Parker employed Denver-based Semple Brown Designs.

Both centers took advantage of just the right moment in the economy to build impressive public spaces that were remarkably affordable. 

There are some differences. The funding for the Lone Tree Arts Center was based on a public vote, and narrowly carried. The funding for the PACE Center is based on Certificates of Participation (COPs) -- a kind of mortgage paid for out of existing revenues. Both projects have demonstrated close management of costs, and both Lone Tree and Parker have relied upon corporate and private donations.

Another difference may be just my own read. From the perspective of live performance, the Lone Tree Arts Center is clearly set up as a touring facility. That is, a show rolls in, sets up the stage, does the performance, and leaves.

The PACE Center feels like a more diverse community space. While it can host touring shows, too, the studios, media lab, and classrooms seem to encourage local citizens not just to consume culture, but to create it.

There is room in Douglas County for both approaches, and I'll be curious to see how these design differences pan out over the next few years.

I can't help but notice as I wander through each of the towns to see the related new construction, particularly in Lone Tree. An investment in the arts (and medical centers, in both communities) seems to encourage other investments. I can certainly see the appeal of living within walking distance of either place. Both will increase the vitality of their respective municipalities.

It's a good thing to be able to drive just a short distance to a great show, and be home before midnight. Now we just need more late night restaurants. Douglas County is coming of age.

Kudos to the leadership of both Lone Tree and Parker, and congratulations to your citizens.
LaRue's Views

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