One hundred and twenty arts enthusiasts braved a stormy night Nov. 17 to get a "sneak peek" at plans for the new Grand Mesa Arts and Events Center (GMAEC) which is due to open in downtown Cedaredge in Spring 2018. GMAEC board president Deborah Shaffer and vice president David Starr co-hosted the two-hour event held at the Cedaredge Civic Center.

Guest speakers Katie Sickles, Cedaredge Town Administrator, and Nick Streza, Cedaredge Chamber of Commerce board president, both agreed that the center was a great idea. Sickles touted the center as "a dream come true" and Streza reminded the audience that community support is essential for the center to succeed.

After introductions and well wishes from town dignitaries, eight talented individuals took the stage to give future center patrons a preview of coming attractions. Local author Christie Aschwanden, read her essay "Finding Home" and shared how she came to inhabit and love the local community. The quartet Dawson Springs performed with Beth Williams and Paul Frazier vocalizing and playing guitars, Tom Kay on banjo, and Larry Claxton on bass. Local favorite Phil Ellsworth, who recently celebrated his 92nd birthday, played harmonica and recited an original poem entitled "Come Home to the Hills." And Karen Cline and LeRoy Black amused the crowd with their short play "Anticipation" concerning a couple of friends who were "waiting for Art" to show up.

In addition to performing arts GMAEC also supports visual arts and eight local artists displayed their work at the sneak peek. Featured artists were sculptors Tracy Munson and Daphna Russell; painters Carol Ann Rasmussen, Dale Russell Smith and Connie Williams; and photographers Diane St. Peters, Jerry Young and Sandy Wilt.

A question-and-answer period closed the evening and the audience learned more about the new GMAEC building in downtown Cedaredge:

• The building at the corner of 2nd Street and Main will be renovated in such a way that its historic preservation status will be maintained.

• The new performance area will seat about 150 people and feature a large stage for live performances including music, dance, and theater.

• The building once housed a movie theater and films will again be shown in the new facility.

GMAEC intends to build on the success of other Cedaredge venues and cooperate with them in presenting entertainment events that involve the entire community:

• The Grand Mesa Impressionz Gallery began the community's artistic revival when it opened in December 2015 as an artists' co-op and the gallery was instrumental in beginning the process to establish Cedaredge as a Certified Colorado Creative District -- a designation that generates a supportive climate for business development, arts, and culture.

• Existing venues in Cedaredge will be integrated into GMAEC event planning including the Old Slaughter House Music Hall and regional restaurants and taverns.

Members of the GMAEC board also shared an update of their fundraising efforts: The next fundraising event, scheduled for December 4, is completely sold out but donations of goods and services for the event's auctions are still being accepted at Cedaredge Land Company, 160 West Main Street in Cedaredge.

Several other fundraisers are planned. A total of $50,000 has been raised so far and the 501(3)c nonprofit organization hopes to double that amount by Christmas.

Having at least $100,000 raised locally will enhance GMAEC's chances of securing additional grant funds since funding organizations typically look for high levels of community support. GMAEC representatives said that monetary contributions of any amount are welcome and stressed that sustained annual support will be essential to open and operate the center building. Large donations will earn contributors "founder" status and -- depending on the amount -- big donors will be eligible for additional forms of special recognition such as being acknowledged in performance programs.

Tax-deductible donations can be made through the group's Facebook page ( or by mail to Grand Mesa Arts & Events Center, Attn: Donations, PO Box 583, Cedaredge, CO 81413.

In addition to providing monetary donations, supporters are also encouraged to volunteer their time and talents to what has become a broad-based community effort to make the new Grand Mesa Arts and Events Center a success.

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