Telluride Arts: Transfer Warehouse Update, Free & Clear!

Telluride Arts: Transfer Warehouse Update, Free & Clear!

Thursday, June 20, 2019 was a historic day for the arts and culture in Telluride.

Telluride Arts became the owner, free and clear, of the Telluride Transfer Warehouse, ready and now able to forward plans to renovate the historic structure that will become the physical address of Telluride’s cultural core at the corner of Fir and Pacific.

That address also includes a new home for the Ah Haa School for the Arts and the five-star Wilkinson Public Library. With those three cultural powerhouses pulling together, the quality of life and the economic well-being of the greater Telluride community will be enhanced. The future heART of the Telluride Arts District and the Telluride region’s all-caps art scene is set in stone – literally.

“The main impact of a revitalized Transfer Warehouse on our community is that a historic building has been and will forever be preserved as a landmark that locals and visitors alike will have access to, inside and out. Secondarily, the Warehouse will provide a permanent center for the arts and culture at the very heart of Telluride. In conjunction with the Wilkinson Library and the newly constructed Ah Haa School, the Warehouse offers an opportunity to continue the tradition of cultural exchange that has flowed through our canyon throughout the human history of the region,” said Telluride Arts board member Penelope Gleason.

“We became proud donors to Telluride Arts’ campaign to revitalize the Telluride Transfer Warehouse because we see parallels between this historic gem and the Valley Floor: a unique place that ultimately belongs to everyone. This second life given to this beautiful building by Telluride Arts will make it the cultural heart of the region,” said Katherine Borsecnik and Gene Weil.  

Transfer Warehouse, image, Molly Perrault of Telluride Arts.

Telluride Transfer Warehouse: A Brief History

Transfer Warehouse, back when. Courtesy, Telluride Arts.

In the early 1900s, tracks for the narrow gauge railroad ran along the southwest corridor of Pacific and Fir, a few blocks which came to be known as the Warehouse District.

The Telluride Transfer Company Warehouse, an imposing, two-story, sandstone structure, was built in 1906. When the mining boom went bust and Telluride became a ghost of its former wild and woolly self, the only two buildings left standing on the SW corner of Pacific and Fir Streets were the Stronghouse and the Transfer Warehouse, the latter serving as the livery barn, warehouse, and office for the Transfer Company until the 1950s.

The visionary founder of the Telluride Ski Area, Joe Zoline, purchased the property from the Schuler Family in 1968; the Transfer Warehouse then remained in use for commercial storage and as a filling station until 1978. In 1979, a heavy snow load caused the roof to collapse.

On May 31, 2016, oversight for the historic building switched hands.

On that day, the Town of Telluride gave a green light to a development proposal for the city block, which included the purchase of the Transfer Warehouse by Telluride Arts for the people of Telluride. The plan is for the reincarnated structure to once again serve as a warehouse – but this time, a warehouse of ideas and art under the guidance and supervision of the local arts council, which will provide space for programming designed to advance the intellectual and cultural life of the region.

Telluride Transfer Warehouse – Into the Future:

Transfer Warehouse, a work in process.


Transfer Warehouse, as envisioned by LTL Architects.

The goal of Telluride Arts is to walk the fine line between staying true to the ethos of the Telluride Region, that unrestrained and unfiltered mountain lifestyle we all celebrate, at the same time channeling that spirit into a robust vision for the future.

“We see the reimagined Warehouse as quintessential Telluride – planned by and for the local community – and big enough to serve Telluride going forward,” says Jones.

Telluride Arts’ overall strategy focuses on advancing the work of local artists and, at the same time, strengthening Telluride’s magnetic pull on artists from across the globe.

The new building will provide four floors of cultural spaces.

Underground a media room will be finely tuned for film, radio, and TV broadcast, plus small lectures and intimate events.

The main floor is the most flexible space, inviting people to flow off Fir Street into the building for a variety of community gatherings such as artist receptions, pop-up studios and shops, live music, poetry readings, dinners, and the like.

The (almost) 4,000-square-foot exhibition space of the second floor will be a game-changer for the region’s cultural offerings. A Kunsthalle model, a non-collecting, museum-quality gallery, will be host to edgy, provocative, large-scale installations by established and emerging artists from near and far.

The rooftop is another great venue for small gatherings, installations, music, and events, all set against the backdrop of the eye-popping views up the box canyon.

Even today in its current fetal state, the Transfer Warehouse is a vibrant community space, hosting vaudeville shows, mushroom dinners, small concerts, dance parties, and much more. Moving forward, however, the new and improved Transfer Warehouse becomes a place designed to feed users at every level of their being, body and soul.

“The first responsibility as outlined in the agreements with the Town is to ensure the Transfer Warehouse building has in the simplest of designs a safe and functional roof, and there are clear specs for that basic requirement. Telluride Arts is mandated  to build a functioning building that meets codes and preserves the historic nature of the structure. However we feel our responsibility is really greater than that. We feel we should oversee the creation of a facility that truly serves our community and beyond, transform the stone skeleton into a compelling structure that reflects the uniqueness of Telluride, always a blend of new and old ideas. Personally I feel a great responsibility for future generations whose dreams we cannot see. I feel we need to make a wonderful facility that is flexible enough to meet the needs of those who may not even be born yet, a place that both inspires and enhances their creative visions in, on, and around,” added Gleason.

Telluride Arts, Business as Usual:

Because the Warehouse is such a high-profile project, it often overshadows the day-to-day work of Telluride Arts, so it is important to note that the Telluride Arts team continues to grow all of its programs and remains ever-dedicated to advancing the Arts District as a whole.

To whit, Telluride Arts has remained focused on growing its services to the local arts community as artists become increasingly pressured by the cost of living and working locally.

It has replenished the Small Grants for Artists program and created new site-specific grants and cash awards through Art + Architecture weekend, an event designed to connect artists with patrons.

Telluride Arts connects artists with other grant opportunities and resources through the Arts Source Facebook page, e-plus news, and an online directory. The nonprofit also maintains an incubator for arts-based start-ups.

Telluride Arts throws a spotlight on local artists through the First Thursday Art Walks, Twenty(by)Telluride, a monthly Artist Feature, weekend Instagram takeovers, an online directory of artists, and an Open Art Radio show.

The organization creates opportunities and venues at which local artists are paid for their work: Holiday Arts Bazaar; a new Summer Arts Bazaar, July 6-7; live performances at the Warehouse and at the galleries.

The two galleries owned and operated by Telluride Arts  – Telluride Arts HQ and Gallery 81435 – serve as a launching pad for artists into the commercial sector. The galleries provide opportunities for artists to exhibit new bodies of work, which the organization then promotes to other galleries in Telluride and beyond.

Telluride Arts currently hosts the monthly Talking Gourds and other small programs in its current spaces at no cost, and has planned a series of collaborative community events at the Warehouse featuring a multitude of talented artists.

With regard to the challenge of working space, Telluride Arts provides low-cost studios to artists in the heart of Town. The Voodoo Studios is a temporary arrangement made possible through collaboration with the Town, as was the Stronghouse made possible by the Zoline family.

While the Voodoo studios are thriving – although there is one empty space available still – Telluride Arts fully understands that maintaining low-cost workspace and housing for artists is a challenge being faced in all vibrant communities – and a hot topic across all of the Colorado Creative Districts.

In response, taking that bull by the horns, Telluride Arts has initiated conversations with both the Town and County about prioritizing artist studio/gallery type spaces in new deed-restricted commercial spaces being planned. In late 2018, Telluride Arts did a survey of maker’s spaces and updated the listings on its website.

It is important to note that Telluride Arts is the longest running non-profit community arts advocacy organization in San Miguel County consistently serving the region since 1971. In fact, a number of Telluride’s most cherished arts organizations, core festivals, and events were nurtured through their early development and bolstered during tough times by Telluride Arts, then the Telluride Council for the Arts & Humanities, among them, the Telluride Film Festival, the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, and the Sheridan Opera House.

The small grants program and cooperative programming with other organizations underline the fact that Telluride Arts has always been a team-player working tirelessly to foster fine and performing arts the Telluride region. In that regard, and despite the enormous undertaking that is the Transfer Warehouse, nothing has changed. The Big Idea was and remains for Telluride Arts to foster a culture that supports individual aspirations while widening and deepening people’s connection to the world of culture and ideas.That goal comes to roost in the Transfer Warehouse.

In short, the Transfer Warehouse will amplify the on-going work of the Telluride Arts District and Telluride Arts in profound and important ways.

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