Evolution of the Kimball Art Center: How a Once Radical Idea Sowed the Seeds for the New Arts & Culture District

Once a radical idea, Park City's now beloved gathering place for the arts is being taken to the next level.

By Michaela Wagner July 27, 2017

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The new arts and culture district means big things for the Kimball Art Center and Sundance Institute.

For most of us, Park City is inextricably linked to summer and winter's lively outdoor recreation scenes. But it was only a few decades ago that the town began it's transformation from mining town to resort mecca. With the impending purchase of 5.25 acres in the Bonanza Park neighborhood to create an arts and culture district, Park City is starting another chapter in hopes of becoming a regional leader in the arts. 

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Bill Kimball

A dedicated arts and culture district doesn't seem so extraordinary these days, but the idea of having a gathering space designed around the arts was quite a radical idea in 1976 when philanthropist and Ogden native Bill Kimball happened to be in town for an Alpine Meadows board meeting. A major supporter of education and the arts, Kimball looked at the old, dilapidated Eley Garge, then home of the Kimball Livery Stable (no relation), and saw a instead a vibrant arts and cultural center. He renovated the space and it became the first home of the Kimball Art Center. 

Since those humble beginnings, the KAC come a long way, putting on countless art exhibits, offering classes, and bringing us the annual Kimball Arts Festival. It's one of our community's most beloved institutions, a beacon for arts education, and, unsurprisingly, a key collaborator in Park City's plans for a new arts and culture district. They, along with Sundance Institute, have agreed to be key partners with the city in moving the project forward. "This is really a case of the stars aligning, even six months ago, we would have doubted the possibility of this happening, but there's a tremendous level of excitement about the opportunities this partnership presents," says Kimball Art Center Board Chair Maggie AbuHaidar. "It really shows a commitment and vision for the arts this town hasn't had before." AbuHaidar also noted the proximity to the Park City school system and how many kids are underserved in the arts. "There's so much potential for growth by creating relationships with the schools and the fine arts, to support them the same way we do our student-athletes." 

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The Kimball Art Center's signature event, the Park City Kimball Arts Festival, takes places this summer from August 4-6.

For the Sundance Institute, the chance for a permanent space comes at the right time. "For a long time we have been internally discussing how best to proceed when our current lease ran out. So, when the city brought this idea to our attention, it seemed like a perfect opportunity," says Betsy Wallace, Managing Director and CFO, Sundance Institute. "Park City has been our home for 30 years now and we hope to remain here for a long time to come. Having a permanent space, our first ever, only solidifies that commitment, as well as the bond between this organization and city." Although exactly what building will include is still very nebulous at this early stay, the facilities and the resources will undoubtedly help the nonprofit continue supporting independent artists, a world-class experience to Festival-goers, and help support year-round programs, including the Artist Labs and our free Summer Film Series.

Everything is a blank slate at the moment and, but both institutions and the city are laying the plans, hoping to get key infrastructure in place to start breaking ground in 2019. We're looking forward to seeing the project develop over the coming months.

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