Sopris Sun

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Live entertainment and affordability merge at The Temporary

By Justin Patrick 
Special to The Sopris Sun 

A performing arts space called The Temporary in Willits Town Center is poised to become the midvalley’s happening new hangout. The venue, operated by nonprofit organization The Arts Campus at Willits (TACAW), opened Aug. 11 and has since attracted a cadre of fans with an array of performances. The buzz is growing and crowds are pouring in to several events per week, according to board member Jeff Orsulack and managing director Ryan Honey.

“We’re making a lot of touches in the community,” Orsulack said.

Honey agreed, adding: “This room is all things to all people.”

From the outside, The Temporary, located across the street from Capitol Creek Brewery, is about as unassuming a performance venue as one could imagine: It’s tucked in harmoniously with offices and a hot tub retailer. But those who pass through the gigantic door off of Market Street will enter into a world of carefully selected performing arts acts that will remind them (at least the old timers) of “what Aspen used to be.” A spacious lobby and well-stocked bar allow for comfortable mingling before and after shows and during intermission. The performance space consists of a large open room that seats 140 facing a slightly elevated stage. Elegant chandeliers dangle from the ceilings; even the bathrooms are adorned with tasteful graffiti. The venue exudes an energetic, creative vibe.

On Oct. 6, New Orleans cellist, singer, and poet Leyla McCalla and her two bandmates performed at The Temporary as part of their first national tour. They had played the previous evening in Fort Collins and were headed to Denver the following morning. McCalla sang in French, Haitian Creole and English, employing the cello, banjo, viola, guitar and triangle. It was not the standard jam band or bluegrass sound that resonates through so many venues in this area. It was a tantalizing, unique ensemble that seemed to fully absorb the crowd’s attention.

The next day, Doc Murdock of Nederland presented the magic show “Kids Kulture.” Although the show differed drastically from that of the previous evening, the venue was packed again — this time with parents and children, most of whom sat on the floor at the foot of the stage eagerly observing each of Doc Murdock’s tricks. His skillful illusions, pizzazz and humorous antics kept both children and adults captivated for the hourlong show.

The variety of performances is an example of how The Temporary plans to attract patrons with different tastes. Marc Breslin, vice president of TACAW’s board of directors, brings years of experience recruiting acts for Jazz Aspen Snowmass and Belly Up and will be selecting talent for The Temporary. According to Honey, Breslin possesses a near-encyclopedic knowledge of music and an excellent sense of what will interest local audiences.

“Today, it was a great space for kids. Last night, it was a great space for adults. That’s the idea. It’s something for everyone,” said Orsulack, a midvalley resident of 25 years and architect whose firm is donating time to design the permanent arts facility envisioned for Willits. Orsulack and Honey, along with Breslin, are convinced that they are scratching a big itch in the midvalley corridor.

“It’s hard to keep people in this community,” Orsulack said. “One of the reasons for that is you don’t have the civic and arts institutions.” He spoke to the need to provide cultural sustenance, not just shops and restaurants, to residents. He pointed to Colorado’s Creative Industries program as a prime example of how paving the way for arts is an essential ingredient for building lasting, vibrant communities, especially in the rural western half of the state.

Honey agreed. “We’re unique in the midvalley,” he said. “We’re the first ones to come with a product like this in this area. People really appreciate that.”

TACAW received the bulk of its seed money from a real estate transfer assessment that puts money into an earmarked fund each time a property is sold and plans to leverage that good start into a more self-sustaining nonprofit model. Ticket prices will be more affordable than at venues in towns like Aspen and Denver. Currently, tickets range in price from a few dollars to $20. Notable touring headlining comedian Adam Cayton-Holland, for example, will appear Oct. 21. Online tickets cost $19, a refreshingly reasonable price to shell out for top-tier standup.

“We are looking to create high quality performing arts … at a price point where people can say ‘I can go out tonight,’” Orsulack said.

The opening of The Temporary is the first major step to creating a large (and permanent) performing arts campus. Its founders are hoping to raise up to $8 million to construct a stand-alone, state-of-the-art facility in the Willits Town Center. For now, The Temporary will act as a real-life staging ground to give community members a taste of how that vision could impact their lives. The venue is partnering with local businesses to offer package deals to attendees, such as a $25 prefix dinner that includes a glass of wine at the neighboring Market Street Kitchen. For a list of upcoming events and more information, visit www.tacaw.org.