Forty years ago, when its unique acoustic potential was first recognized by Bruce Odland, The TANK — an empty steel water tank in Rangely, Colorado — began its secret life as a recording destination for a dedicated group of musicians. When, in 2012, The TANK was in danger of being sold for scrap, that group of musicians formed Friends of The TANK (FOTT) to save this unique sonic resource.
To that end, FOTT ran a successful Kickstarter Campaign in 2013, raising more than $46,000 from 750 backers, worldwide. With the invaluable support of volunteers from all over the country, as well as members of Rangely and Rio County government, many Rangely area residents, and local businesses, those funds were used to secure The TANK and its land, to begin to renovate and rehabilitate The TANK, and to gain legal certification from Rio Blanco County.
Over a period of three years, FOTT installed electrical service, ventilation, and lighting; built an access road and parking lot; cut a full-size door for legal access and to accommodate large instruments; sealed and painted the floor and walls, built a deck, installed safety fencing, and provided sanitary facilities. FOTT successfully petitioned for a Change of Use permit from storage facility to assembly hall and, once the renovations brought the facility up to meet international code, The TANK received its Certificate of Occupancy. All of this and more was accomplished almost entirely by volunteers.
During Rangely’s Septemberfest 2015, an Open House at The TANK drew musicians, performers, and visitors from Rangely, Denver, Vernal (Utah), and beyond. Spontaneous jam sessions, a workshop with homeschool students, two concerts at the local elementary school, many hours of sonic exploration by local residents, and a free concert came together at The TANK that weekend. A few weeks later, The Flobots visited The TANK as part of “Detour,” a pilot program from Colorado Creative Industries and the Colorado Office of Economic Development. Even before its official opening, The TANK is already known, talked about, and visited by people in the region, and is fast becoming a signature element of the Western Slope.
During the Solstice week of June 21, 2016, Kickstarter backers, Rangely supporters, and Friends of The TANK gathered together to open The TANK Center for Sonic Arts. The week was filled with Open Houses at The TANK, a Deep Listening Workshop, dinner and a concert for backers and volunteers, a Kickstarter reward concert, and a concert that was open to the public and filled to overflowing. That week saw the kick-off to Open Saturdays at The TANK, where the public is welcome to enjoy, explore, and experience The TANK every Saturday, at no cost, from 9am – 1pm and 6-9 pm, through October.
Friends of The TANK and The TANK Center for Sonic Arts are currently in transition from a completely volunteer effort to a more sustainable organization, with a newly-hired Executive Director and an Operations Manager. Conceived as a hub of international/local collaboration and sonic experiences, The TANK Center for Sonic Arts will provide a venue for musicians, sound and interdisciplinary artists, architects, sonic thinkers, and other artists and educators from around the world to record, perform, and experience.
Priorities for programming at The TANK Center for Sonic Arts include providing a venue for artists and other sound explorers while utilizing The TANK for education and local participation. The TANK Center for Sonic Arts will be a unique educational resource, with Days of Sonic Learning, local youth and CNCC students receiving training in audio arts by Grammy Award winning engineers, and other activities for local school groups, organizations, institutions of higher learning, and residents. Artist residencies will dovetail with community participation. The TANK Center for Sonic Arts will provide a focal point for music and sound events across Colorado, and Rio Blanco County will share in the success of The TANK Center for Sonic Arts when concerts, workshops, residencies, and sonic tourism bring the world to Rangely’s doorstep.
For more about the history of The TANK, read Waving Hands Review: From Steam Age to World Music Stage The History of Rangely’s “Tank” by Heather Zadra.