Blumenthal: Moving on and moving beyond the Aspen bubble | Opinion

Mel B

Two long-term residents of Snowmass Village — one who made headlines in Aspen and one who made headlines in Snowmass — moved their separate ways a few years back, but not before leaving their marks on the communities in which they both once flourished.

But before we start this walk down memory lane, I’d like to offer kudos to Andy Travers, The Aspen Times arts editor, and his moving tribute last week to Laura “Missie” Thorne, who passed away in May.

Travers recounted Thorne’s role in the 1979 founding and nurturing of the Aspen Art Museum as well as her many years as a nationally renowned sculptor whose massive steel works will continue to memorialize her artistic vision and talents here in Aspen, internationally and in prominent locations throughout the U.S.

Focusing attention on Missie Thorne and the history of the Aspen Art Museum awakened memories of another more recent high-powered Aspen Art Museum director, Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson, one of the two controversial Snowmass residents referred to in the opening of this week’s commentary. Heidi led the museum for 14 years, and during her tenure raised $45 million from Aspen’s glitterati to build the museum’s wicker-basket-styled home base that stands prominently at the corner of Spring Street and Hyman Avenue. And as icing on the cake, she raised an additional $27 million to cover the museum’s operational costs for many years to come.

Under rumored questionable and controversial circumstances that never have been explained publicly, Heidi’s contract was not extended following negotiations with the museum hierarchy in 2019. Her abruptly announced departure by a New York-based PR firm in June of that year was followed a few months later by another change in the museum’s leadership, and Heidi soon thereafter became just another Aspen historical memory.

But like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Heidi’s rebirth was recently heralded in a Los Angeles Times puff piece concerning the construction of the new 53,000-square-foot Orange County Museum of Art located in a very posh section of southern California at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa.

As its new CEO and Director, Heidi Zuckerman (no longer with the accompanying Jacobson) is now leading another huge fundraising campaign, this time totaling $93 million.

Although on a much grander scale and twice as expensive as the Aspen Art Museum, she fortunately took the helm of the Orange County Museum organization with more than half the construction cost already banked. Well on her way to meeting her financial targets, she’s already raised more than $9.4 million in her first eight weeks on the job. Assuming her Rolodex of well-heeled art supporters is still intact, she’ll likely hit the jackpot without breaking much of a sweat.

The well-heeled art lovers populating Costa Mesa and its surrounding communities aren’t much different than the well-heeled who populate Aspen on a full- or part-time basis: just offer to put their names on the front door and they’ll come running with open wallets.

Speaking of big bucks, one of her first art acquisitions in Orange County is a representation of infinite abundance: painted dollar bills suspended from the ceiling with fishing wire. Rumor has it that she inspires her staff to walk under the dollar bills and tell them what’s needed. It’s regrettable she didn’t bring this installation to Aspen, where the locals and part-timers would likely have been similarly inspired.

As to the other last name and husband attached to it, that would be Chris Jacobson, who is now thriving in Paonia.

Following his controversial term as a Snowmass Village Town Council member, from which he was recalled after conviction for DUI and criminal mischief, and his separation from Heidi, he moved on to Hotchkiss — where he brushed up on his musical and baking skills — and then on to Paonia, where he put those skills to work. He founded Paonia Bread Works, which has flourished over the past few years as one of Paonia’s most prominent small businesses.

If you’re ever in the area looking for a bushel of Colorado’s best peaches, I highly recommend also dropping by Bread Works for coffee and one of Chris’ fabulous artisan breads, pastries, bagels and one of his and his band’s occasional musical performances.

Although Heidi’s tenure at the Aspen Art Museum ended under questionable circumstances and Chris’ tenure in Snowmass Village politics ended on a sour note, both fortunately appear to have been reborn to do what they each do best.

Chris and Heidi’s respective rebirths, although no longer as a team, is a hopeful and positive sign that although life throws a bit of crap your way, with lots of hard work and a bit of good luck, you can turn your life around and begin anew — and best of all, it’s in Paonia and Orange County, where likely they never think about let alone care about what happens in Aspen or Snowmass Village.

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