Meet Breckenridge’s first Cultural CEO, Robb Woulfe – charged with overseeing and expanding arts and culture in the town. He’s not afraid to take some risks in his new pursuit.
“It needs to be bold, it needs to be big, it needs to be flashy,” said Woulfe of the programming he wants to launch in Breckenridge. “I am a big fan of spectacle and I think that takes its shape in a lot of different things.” Since the 1960s when Breckenridge opened its mountain and saw both its year-round and seasonal populations surge, it has also seen a steady increase in arts related activities. Today, Breckenridge attracts an estimated 1.5 million skiers annually and hosts hundreds of arts and cultural events. There’s now a number of now has many performing arts venues, hundreds of annual events, and a robust art gallery scene. In 2001, town leaders designated a downtown Arts District. Expansion and renovation work within the district is slated for completion Nov. 2014. The growth of its cultural community prompted Breckenridge’s nationwide search for a Cultural CEO back in 2013. As the new head of a yet to be named nonprofit, Woulfe sees the town’s already robust ski scene and existing arts and cultural offerings as complimentary, rather than competitive tracks. “I think it is how you bring those two elements together,” said Woulfe. “And how we build upon that identity of what Breckenridge is and not fight it.” There are demographic trends Woulfe will have to contend with in this popular ski town. Its population between the ages of 18 and 34, 39 percent of its 4,600 residents, is higher than the national average. Youth is often seen as a plus for marketers and advertisers, it runs counter though to the National Endowment for the Arts’ finding that the majority of performing and visual arts attendees are those 35 and older. Woulfe’s near decade as leader of the Ann Arbor Summer Festivalhas him well versed in entertaining an age group that often wants to assure their 1,000 closest "friends" and "followers" can also vicariously take part in their experience via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like. He’s learned the 18-34 set isn’t always interested in an off-the-grid experience in a darkened theater. With that in mind, he hopes to program some new free outdoor events. “It’s less in my mind about trying to get that group to come to the symphony as is trying to create an experience for them that they will attend,” said Woulfe. Moving forward, Woulfe said he will explore partnerships with recreational organizations and other town businesses, adding he tends to see “everything” as a venue. “It’s not just the theater or the performing arts center but I look at streets as venues, I look at mountains as venues,” continues Woulfe, “I look at the local bar down the street as a venue and I think, for us, it’s really putting together a portfolio of those venues to be able to tell the story of arts and culture in the community.” Although there are a growing number of communities in the state with arts leaders, Colorado Creative Industries believes Breckenridge to be the first in the state to use the title “Cultural CEO.” That’s recognition that arts' mean business is on the rise in Colorado. (Closing track by Jeff Parker Trio, "Swept Out to Sea," from the CD Bright Light in Winter
.) Arts District is a collaboration of KUNC, Rocky Mountain PBS, and KUVO.