Guest opinion: Sundance still believes in arts and culture district

Betsy Wallace
Sundance Institute managing director

As we emerge from the pandemic and look toward the future, we wanted to reiterate our commitment to continuing conversations with Park City and provide an update on our involvement in the Park City arts and culture district. The Sundance Institute has been a fervent supporter of the district since 2017 when then-Mayor Jack Thomas shared with us the city’s vision of creating a place for residents, visitors and audiences of all ages to participate in diverse cultural activities. In the four years since that shared vision emerged, the Institute has dedicated significant time and resources, alongside the city and Kimball Art Center, to help develop a bold and forward-thinking district plan. We believe the district will enrich the community as a whole and also serve as a valuable economic driver for years to come.

Over this past year, the impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic have been significant for us as for many nonprofits. The Institute needed to pause our work on this important project in order to devote our resources to sustaining our organization, and to serving our mission of supporting independent artists in new ways — including the planning and execution of our first ever online Sundance Film Festival.

While the initial concept of the district has been adjusted over time, we have continued to engage with the city to ensure the district remains true to the arts and culture aspects we all agreed on initially. We believe it is critical that the core purpose of the district remains true to this original intent. We were excited by the meetings held by the city last week. The level of public engagement reaffirmed our belief in the merits of the arts and cultural district and what it will bring to the community of Park City.

We recently shared that after a decade of leading Sundance, our CEO Keri Putnam has announced her decision to step down with her last day being Aug. 31. As our board of directors undertakes the search for a new CEO, we are now going to move out of “pause” on the arts and culture district project to prepare to move forward. First, we will work with the city to confirm that the district designs prioritize arts and culture and to resolve the remaining deal points that were left open when we paused just prior to the pandemic since each party entered into the original letter of intent in July 2017. And second, since our organization, like so many, has evolved during COVID-19, we want to look at our building design elements to ensure they align to our future needs.

We hope to take steps forward with Park City officials regarding our involvement with a goal of having most of these aspects in place by the time our new CEO joins later in the year so we can share the status of the development and our excitement for the project.

We believe in the concept of the arts and culture district. While we still have issues that need to be worked through, the core reasons for our desired involvement remain as does our commitment to this project.


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