Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Casper comes together to decide on "art space" details

When I was at the Casper College Literary Conference last month, I dropped by the Sunshine Apartments’ construction site across from the Nicolaysen Art Museum. This is one of the more interesting projects in the state. A years-long struggle over removing a slumlord’s run-down property has culminated in a community-wide effort to build affordable “green” housing with arts and education as its centerpiece.

The Nicolaysen Art Museum, in partnership with the Wyoming Community Development Authority, the city of Casper and Grimshaw Investments, received a $50,000 NEA grant to build an “art space” into the Sunshine II Apartments on the corner of Beech Street and Collins Drive.  

Now all the partners are coming together to decide the scope of the project. On Thursday, Oct. 27, 5:30-7 p.m., the public is invited to a town hall forum, “Creating Communities Through Art and Housing,” in the Nic lobby.

At Thursday’s forum, those attending will meet the three artist groups who were selected as finalists from 86 who submitted requests for credentials to a selection panel in the summer. The finalists are the pair of Gail Simpson and Aristotle Georgiades of Actual Size Artworks, Stoughton, Wis.; Sulkang Zhao of New York; and Matthew Dehaemers of Kansas City, Kan.

From yesterday's Casper Star-Tribune:
WCDA Director David Haney said roughly 30 days after the site visit and forum, the finalists will have mock-ups ready of their idea for Casper, based in part on the feedback they receive at the forum. 
“We want something interactive, multigenerational, something that reflects Wyoming culture and Casper’s character. We want it to be practical and educational and reflect sustainability. We don’t want something that isn’t going to reflect Wyoming values. Beyond that, we don’t know what we want, and that’s the purpose of Thursday,” Haney said. 
Those in attendance will be welcome to ask questions of the artist finalists as well as the project partners.
Interesting that so many entities have worked together to change this blighted piece of downtown real estate. It's only fitting that the public is being invited to decide on the next step. Casper's downtown seems to be changing faster than Cheyenne's. New streetscapes are already being built, and traffic rerouted. The Nic is one of the state's best art museums. But the affordable housing units and their art space tied it into the neighborhood. It works the other way too -- people who live in the development will be tied into the Nic and the city's arts community. That's how it should be. 

There some public/private efforts to turn Cheyenne's Hynds Building into a live/work space for artists. That would be a welcome addition to downtown. The big challenge is how to tie it all together -- live/work spaces. galleries, museums, retailers, performing venues, parking, etc. The community will have to meet on this just as they're doing in Casper. 

For more on this issue, go to Casper Star-Tribune Community News editor Sally Ann Shurmur’s blog at

Read more on the Oct. 27 meeting:

No comments: