PAC3 heads into year two with improvements, diversity

April E. Clark
Post Independent Arts Writer
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
CARBONDALE, Colorado — Josh Behrman has had quite the year.

At the end of May, Behrman celebrated the first anniversary of the opening of his entertainment brainchild, the Performing Arts Center at Third Street (PAC3).

The facility is Carbondale’s first and only performing arts center based in the arts-focused Third Street Center, formerly Carbondale Elementary School. Three years ago, the school was refurbished with a focus on green building techniques to house valley nonprofits, art studios and the PAC3 theater in the space that was once the gymnasium.

“I’d say in the first year, it’s been quite radical,” said Behrman, founder and president of Mountain Groove Productions Inc. and Music For the Mountains, the nonprofit entity that spearheaded the theater’s opening.

“I’ve definitely felt every emotion possible. We’ve had really great performances. The room is getting a great reputation — people are saying PAC3 is a great room to play,” he said.

Behrman and his staff have put an emphasis on bringing diversity to the venue, presenting national touring acts ranging from the March Fourth Marching Band and Robert Earl Keen to hosting fundraising events for local nonprofits WindWalkers and the Waldorf School.

Mixed in have been stand-up comedy by Paula Poundstone, burlesque performances, a dance festival, and a kids’ concert by The Not-Its, the PAC3 Music Academy Summer Camp for young musicians, and more. Saturday night features three up-and-coming comics from the Denver stand-up scene. the Two & Half Men of Comedy.

“It’s really nice, we’ve gotten statewide recognition, as well as out-of-state, for what we’re doing here,” Behrman said. “We’re getting recognized in the artist community. A lot of people think it’s a school when they pull up, then when they get inside they see what it’s all about and say, ‘This is really fantastic, and not what we expected.’ The artists have been very impressed with Third Street, that we have a theater, an arts council, art studios, and nonprofits here. They say they love Carbondale and can’t wait to come back.”

Hospitality is a main focus of the PAC3, putting Carbondale on the map for performing artists that may not otherwise have heard of the small mountain town, Behrman said.

“The town treats performers well,” he said. “People enjoy the eccentricity of what we’re all about here. We’ve had some pretty well-known artists say we love this room, we love Carbondale.”

July’s recent acoustic Hot Tuna show was a highlight for Behrman in the last 14 months the venue’s doors have been open. The blues-rock band is a spin-off of legendary rock band Jefferson Airplane.

“Hot Tuna, hands-down, has been my favorite show,” he said. “They have been idols of mine for quite some time. Artists of their caliber are starting to get what we’re about and help us grow. Our performers have been very generous to us. Hot Tuna loved the room and they loved the experience. Now they know there’s a choice outside of Aspen, where we can say this room might be more fitting for a show like Hot Tuna.”

Behrman also enjoyed presenting Texas country and folk artist Robert Earl Keen at the packed theater for a standing-room only performance last August.

“For the last 16 or 17 years, I’ve presented him almost every year,” he said.

‘In it to win it’

Now that PAC3 has experienced a year of operation, the venue is gearing up for the challenge of remaining steadfast in times when businesses have struggled, Behrman said. This summer, PAC3 offered a $100 summer pass that provided entry to almost 30 shows.

“We want PAC3 to be accessible. Membership is a great thing, and donations are a great thing. We want to expand the PAC3 family. Ultimately that’s our goal, to make this theater sustainable so that it can operate and not be in financial trouble.”

Behrman credited season ticket holders, private donors and valley businesses such as Alchemy Audio Visual, which helped with lighting and sound, for improving the venue in its maiden year.

“What’s cool is it has made use of a previously used space, making it another indoor outlet for music and entertainment in the lower valley,” said Alchemy lighting designer and audio/visual technician Matt Soltesz of Glenwood Springs. “Right there in itself is right on.”

Soltesz noted PAC3’s use of light-emitting diodes (LED) lighting and state-of-the-art, energy-efficient materials in creating the theater’s versatile and professional atmosphere.

“They’ve adapted the materials and the needs for a venue like that to produce a well-balanced theater look and feel,” he said. “It such a good use of space. I think it’s fun, and we need more of it. The whole Third Street Center is a shining example of things to come in the valley.”

Behrman said PAC3 continues to make improvements in lighting and sound to better accommodate the major acts coming through the doors. He also plans to better incorporate the valley art scene by displaying works by locals in the space.

“We’re really going to expand using PAC3 as a way to promote art,” he said. “We’re going to invite local artists to paint during shows. And I want to change up the [stage] panels with every season.”

PAC3 may also see a boost in marketing efforts thanks to a recent $15,000 grant from Garfield County to improve sales tax revenues. The grant requires the nonprofit Music for the Mountain PAC3 Foundation to raise an equal amount of matching funds for the theater’s continuation.

“We hope people embrace this and understand that we’re doing this for the community and that they can all take ownership of it,” Behrman said. “I tell the staff that we’re not going out of business by any means. That we’re not in trouble, we’re in need. And you know what they say back to me? ‘We’re in it to win it.’”

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