transfer warehouse

The Telluride Arts District recently acquired the Transfer Warehouse. (Courtesy photo)

The work of planning a new arts space in the historic Transfer Warehouse can begin in earnest. Built in 1906 at the corner of Pacific and Fir streets, Telluride Arts officially acquired the building last week, a step that Executive Director Kate Jones called “natural and exhilarating.”

Board president Penelope Gleason said the timing of the acquisition is “perfectly serendipitous.”

Last week marked the completion of phase one of the district’s capital campaign — its largest to date, raising about $3 million — enabling the organization to own the historic building without mortgage or debt.

As stewards of the Transfer Warehouse, Telluride Arts negotiated the purchase of the property and requisite approvals by the town, provided additional protection of the historic exterior through the Historic Trust, oversaw the restoration of the stone walls and developed a plan for future design and use of the space.

“This moment marks the fulfillment of a promise and a mandate that we accepted to preserve the warehouse as a public space in perpetuity, ensure it will someday have a roof and buy-out the developer,” Jones said.

“The trifecta of the Wilkinson Public Library, the (currently under construction) new Ah Haa School and the Transfer Warehouse will give our community an authentic core of Telluride culture,” Gleason added.

Moving forward, the second phase of the capital campaign will raise money for construction.

“We have had such incredible support from the community, from small donations of money to incredibly creative donations of in-kind gifts and services as well as larger donations,” Gleason said. “We have a development team that has been laying the groundwork for a well-planned and executed capital campaign, working with individuals and researching grants and other sources of funding. All this has been poised to be engaged once the building was secured.”

Telluride Arts is launching a “name a stone” campaign this summer with prices starting at $100 or four hours of volunteering.

“It will be a little bit like naming a star,” Jones said. “We will have print and digital images with everybody’s names.”

The organization will also need to secure final design approvals in hopes of beginning construction in 2021, as the town is requiring a roof to be built as part of the PUD agreements.

“We have two options: put the basic roof on the building and use it in a single-story space, or raise additional funds for the contemporary architectural landmark that is planned,” Jones said.

She added that prioritizing the use of the Transfer Warehouse to serve as many people as possible, rather than dividing it into private studios for individuals, was a public decision, the result of many hours of community planning. Architects included four flexible artist-in-residence spaces to serve locals and guests. However, those studio plans were developed before officials knew that the Ah Haa School would be relocating next door, so the plans may be redundant.

“The design is still conceptual and will be honed over the next year,” Jones explained. “The warehouse will primarily be the clean exhibition and event space, a place for artists to share completed projects, both a counterpoint and complement to the maker’s space just across the street.”

When the Stronghouse building sold three years ago, Telluride Arts relocated studios to the former Voodoo Lounge building next to the skateboard park in a temporary collaboration with the town.

The district will continue to explore new programming, as well as collaborations with artists, arts organizations and art supporters.

Telluride’s first nonprofit established 1971, Telluride Arts’ mission is to “elevate and promote a culture of the arts” across the region. In 2012, the district engaged the community to help develop the Telluride Cultural Master Plan and proceeded to establish the Telluride Arts District, one of the first Certified Creative Districts in the state.

“The Cultural Master Plan included a strong priority for a permanent central arts facility for our community and the Transfer Warehouse development project was working with the town on their PUD, including community benefits,” Gleason explained. “The Zolines (local philanthropists) have always been unfaltering supporters of the arts so this was a perfect match.”

Early on, Jones said, there were discussions about designing a large restaurant in the roofless stone building with a penthouse overhead.

“When Telluride Arts became involved, we picked up where the Zolines left off and pushed for a cultural space instead,” Jones said.  

To celebrate the acquisition of the Transfer Warehouse building, Telluride Arts is hosting a series of collaborative community events throughout the summer at the warehouse, featuring local artists and nonprofits. A free unveiling of a digital projection project will take place Wednesday from 10-11:30 p.m.

For more information on the design and progress of the Transfer Warehouse, visit