Carbondale’s Launchpad takes off
The Launchpad, a new collaborative space for the visual and performing arts in the former Gordon Cooper Library building in downtown Carbondale, debuts to the public tonight with the blessing at 5 and Carbondale Council on Arts and Humanity’s 4th annual “Support Women Artists Now” (SWAN) opening at 6.
It’s a long time in the making for everyone involved. CCAH has missed having a presence downtown since it moved to the Third Street Center in 2010, Dance Initiative has spent the last three years searching high and low for a home, and the building at 4th and Garfield has been standing vacant for nearly a year.
The name is an homage to astronaut Gordon Cooper, one of Mercury Seven, whose mother resided in the area and who appeared at the original christening of the building in 1984. The name was dropped from Carbondale’s library when they moved to their new location at 3rd and Sopris.
Shortly thereafter, Dance Initiative lost the first round of Request for Proposals to a CCAH backed plan for an art center featuring the work of local sculpture James Surls. The Surls Center ultimately backed out, and CCAH began to consider the space for a downtown gallery of their own.
“We loved the synergy and possibilities at the Third Street Center, and a lot of wonderful things happened there, but we missed the vibrancy and energy of being downtown,” explained CCAH’s Amy Kimberly.
As part of the land swap that produced the Third Street Center and the original “anchor tenant”, CCAH wanted to keep a presence there and Kimberly wanted to avoid another divisive battle over the space, so she reached out to previous applicants and ultimately suggested a collaborative proposal with Dance Initiative.
“I didn’t have to think too long about it,” recalled Dance Initiative’s Peter Gilbert. “Even though Dance Initiative could have used all the space, the advantages of partnering with CCAH far outweighed the loss.”
After looking at over a dozen spaces since the last RFP, Gilbert had exhausted all his options and was ready to invest some money for a space that really worked.
The ultimate design includes a 774 square foot gallery with an additional 22 feet of walls pace in the central promenade, a 680 foot soundproof studio, and 1150 square foot open studio. A sprung floor eases the physical strain of performing arts, and a pair of new beams in the high ceiling allow aerialists to perform and practice.
It’s an impressive transformation in just a couple of months.
“It hasn’t been more than about seven weeks since we started the renovation,” Gilbert said. “It’s gone very smoothly thanks to B&H contractors. They took this project on as if it was a major project and did their time on time and on budget.”
The bathrooms will be open to the public whenever the gallery is– 9 to 5 weekdays, First Fridays, and various other events. The Carbondale Chamber of Commerce, which also made a bid for the building, will have an information kiosk in the entryway.
An “artique” gift shop will feature regional and national artists, jewelers, and authors as well as limited run Carbondale T-shirts, an enterprise which Kimberly hopes will help support the space financially, foster local talent, and generate sales tax.
Classes, workshops, and individuals can rent the space for $8-$20 an hour (see http://www.launchpadcarbondale.com for more information), and CCAH is also looking to rent its old space to folks looking for a creative space during off hours.
“This is big. There’s 10 to 12 groups that have already signed up to use this space. It’s going to serve a lot of different people,” Kimberly said. “We’re not looking at this as a major performance space. It’s a breeding ground for people to hone their craft and then take it out to places like Thunder River or the Wheeler.”
“I hope that it leads to more opportunity for all the performing arts, but we need people to come out and see dance and love dance,” Gilbert said. “I like to say that Dance is the mother of all the arts, but it doesn’t always get the respect it deserves. It’s not unusual for the dance community to not given the attention of theatre or music or visual arts. I’d like to see more people introduced to it.
“Carbondale continues on the path to be a town where creativity is really part of it’s core. And I think dance can be part of it’s creativity.”
There will be plenty of opportunities for the public to enjoy the Launchpad. CCAH has gallery openings every six weeks. SWAN will run through November’s First Friday, then take a break for 2015 and return in 2016. Deck the Walls follows in December and the Valley Visual Arts Show, which used the old library as an overflow space in bygone days, returns in January.
Dance Initiative is also inviting people to check out some of their midday workshops on Oct. 17 and 18 as part of the Spectrum Dance Festival, in addition to performances at the Thunder River Theatre.
CCAH’s Dia de los Muertos will remain at the Third Street Center, but Santa will move to the Launchpad for Light up Carbondale.
“It’s exciting to have visibility at both places,” Kimberly said.
With their long searches fullfilled, both CCAH and Dance Initiative are settling in to the space and planning to grow with it. They have already invested in additional insulation and energy efficient LEDs. Expect “random acts of performance” and snow sculptures this winter.
Long term, a solar array on the roof and a sculpture garden or food production are in the works. It’s a fundamentally Carbondalian enterprise, and anything is possible.
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