The nonprofit East Side Art Institute aims to break ground on a new campus in Boulder County in 2025, said Nancy Utterback, the organization’s founder.
With help from a group of anonymous philanthropists, the institute secured an interest-free loan in 2021 for $750,000 to purchase land on the eastern corridor of the county, Utterback said. She called the funding an “absolute miracle.”
“I take that as a sign that this really is an important thing to the community — that people came together to make this happen,” she said.
The campus, which is set to be built on 14.27 acres at 10500 Isabelle Road, will offer art education to people of all ages, Utterback said. The facilities will provide recreational classes, studio work, certificate programs and academic courses in drawing, painting, ceramics and many other types of art.
“We have so many people hungry to learn and so many people to share what they already know,” she explained. “There’s a huge gap in the area, so I wanted to fill that.”
The campus will include a commons building, a wood and metal shop and a ceramics building, Utterback said.
“Eventually we’d like to have a small caretaker’s house out there so that there’s someone always on the property,” she said.
The commons building will feature three large classrooms, a gallery, an auditorium and a kitchen. The East Side Art Institute plans to raise between $3.5 and $4 million to build the commons building, and the cost of the entire campus is expected to cost around $7 million, Utterback said.
“We’re going to do it in phases,” she said. “In 2024 we want to really get out there and work and try to get enough big donors to help us build the commons building first, and then once we’re up and running, it’ll be easier, because we’ll have a wider reach into the community.”
In addition to the interest-free loan to buy the land, the nonprofit has also raised around $100,000 to work with the county to purchase and prepare the property — a process that took several years, Utterback said.
“We had to have three traffic studies, septic studies, elevation studies — every time we turned around, there was another 10 or 20 or 30,000 we had to pay just to get through the county process,” she explained.
“And we raised that money in very small donations — $25, $100, $1,000. And every time we’d get to a point where we used every cent we had, and another thing we had to do, we put out a request and again, by some miracle, the community stepped up with this and got us there.”
The property’s owner held the land for the art institute while the organization worked on raising funds for the acreage and dealing with the county’s requests, Utterback said.
“During that period, he was wonderful,” she explained. “I wanted to make sure the property was healthy, and there wasn’t any contamination — no pesticides or anything on the property — which led to a state cleanup, and he handled that with grace and paid for it, and we got a clean bill of health.”
The art institute has already been able to offer some classes on the property, including painting, Japanese joinery, ceramic firing, raku, saggar and pit firing.
Until enough funds are raised to build the commons building, the organization plans to build a labyrinth so the community can enjoy the land, Utterback said.
“The property is spectacular, and the location is the best you can imagine,” she said. “We are just opening up too to the community, so people can come out and walk the property. If you’re a painter, and you want to paint out there, you can do that. As an artist, we know we’re inspired by nature, but we also know that just being in nature can slow your heart rate and help you re-center.”
The art institute also plans to host yoga and tai chi classes on the property, and music events.
A group of people with branding and marketing backgrounds have volunteered to help with the nonprofit’s 2024 fundraising campaign, Utterback said.