It was a near miss and chance encounter that started The Arts Campus at Willits on its Path to Zero. But as the arts organization winds up construction on its new Contemporary Center for the Performing Arts, AKA The Contemporary, and gets ready to welcome audiences in summer 2021, the conversation is still far from over.
A few years ago, TACAW Executive Director Ryan Honey was skiing in Snowmass for a friend’s 50th birthday party. Coming out of a line on Hanging Valley Wall, he and another skier nearly ran into each other. They got to talking later in the lodge, first about the awesome powder conditions that spurred the near collision, then introduced themselves: Turns out the other skier was Dave Munk, a board member of both Holy Cross Energy and CORE. That fortuitous meeting got the conversation rolling on how to make TACAW’s future performing arts center — then in the early planning stages — as climate-friendly as possible.
At Munk’s urging, in 2019 TACAW applied for and received CORE’s biggest grant, then called The Randy Udall Energy (TRUE) Pioneer Grant, rebranded as the all-encompassing CORE Grant, which would pay for most of the cost of a 64-kilowatt solar array on the roof of the 10,000-square-foot building. Receiving the grant says Honey, “made it clear to us we wanted to go all-in on sustainability for our new building. Everyone at CORE is so passionate about the mission. They walk the walk; they’re true believers.”
And so, the conversation evolved between TACAW, CORE, and Holy Cross. Possibilities were explored to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, and everyone got excited. When the team planning the building said gas wouldn’t power it at all, “our input on that note was, no gas is great, but you have to do electric right,” says CORE Program Director Marty Treadway.
That led to, for example, a decision to use a more climate-friendly refrigerant than is typically used in the heat pump system. And an all-electric building powered by solar, Honey and Treadway both pointed out, holds the potential of storing energy in batteries, possibly for future community use.
“At a time when we’re talking about resiliency in communities and our buildings, the arts center as a community node could offer some resiliency in times of crisis,” says Treadway. “This is a unique opportunity to make a difference with a really valuable community space.”
For Holy Cross, a progressive utility that has committed to providing 100% renewable energy by 2030, the publicly accessible building could serve as an example to potential clients, a showcase of what’s possible.
Ryan Honey also doesn’t consider the conversation closed once the Contemporary opens this summer. For one, there’s planning for the rest of the arts campus — the building sits on just one-third of the parcel on which TACAW has a 99-year lease. Then there’s the Contemporary’s programming, and all the people — artists, audiences, chefs, presenters — who will be coming through. Communication about energy efficiency, beneficial electrification, and climate should be infused in all those areas.
“We see CORE as a real partner in trying to elevate the conversation on climate change with our new building,” says Honey.