Jim Opdahl, treasurer of the Friends of the Wright Opera House, reported last week that $79,787 has been donated or pledged as of May 31. This includes a $25,000 pledge dependent on being successful in the application for a $300,000 grant from the Colorado Historic Fund, and a $10,000 pledge contingent on the success of raising the funds to meet the purchase price of the opera house. Opdahl said that because of the significant tax benefits tied to all donations between $50 and $100,000, the contingency clauses for pledges eliminates complications in case the project does not happen.
“The success of this initial phase of the campaign reflects the power of a great community,” said Ralph Huesing, president of the Friends of the Wright Opera House. “This is a project that the people clearly think is valuable for the future and they gone beyond just thinking ‘something should be done to save the Wright’ and have dug deep to show significant support for this community vision.
“In addition to individual donations and pledges, corporate donors are providing underwriting of events, artists are providing benefit performances and arts organizations are providing support. Citizens’ State Bank will sponsor the Kort McCumber concert. Alpine Bank will help with the cost of Sweet Sunny South. The Timshel Theater Company provided two benefit performances of The Gin Game. Diamond W Wranglers are doing a benefit concert. The Ouray County Performing Arts Guild and Weehawken Creative Arts have made donations. These are all indicative of the promise seen for the future asset that the Wright Opera House can be.”
Members of the board will travel to Crested Butte in mid-June to meet with Colorado foundations participating in Rural Philanthropy Days, a time when Western Slope nonprofits present projects for consideration for funding. They will seek grants to help purchase the building.
Huesing said that evidence of community support for the project is critical to convince the foundations that this is a worthy cause for their grants. “Our goal is to have $200,00 in commitments when we begin to submit grant proposals in September,” he said.
They continue to plan fund raisers which are providing a significant addition to the local entertainment scene. According to Dee Williams, who is planning the programming for the FWOH Board, these events are illustrating what can be possible if the opera house is purchased and run by the nonprofit organization.
“We are fortunate to have a historic and relatively workable space to plan fund raising events for this step – to raise the funds to purchase the building,” Williams said. “However, there seems to be community agreement that we need a versatile venue with the appropriate equipment and spaces that match the interests of our community and our visitors, and match the quality of the many cultural initiatives here.
“All efforts now are targeted to obtain the building. After the purchase, the building and equipment can be upgraded. Eventually, our goal is to create one of the premier small performance spaces on the Western Slope, as well as a center to serve the organizations so important in providing the cultural foundation of our lifestyle. It is not feasible to expect such a project within the private sector,” she said. “Only the nonprofit concept can successfully provide this type of operation. We have an advantage over other communities who try to attempt this type of an operation because there is an existing, successful retail component in the building. The rental income from that will help with basic maintenance as we move forward to upgrade the facility.”
The Timshel Theater Company recently presented a two night performance to kick off the summer. Williams is talking with other theater groups who might consider a short run in Ouray. Eventually, the hope is to establish a local repertory theater group. Other summer events currently scheduled include:
• June 17: Kort McCumber and the McCumberland Gap Band in concert on the eve of the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. This return appearance is much anticipated by those who have enjoyed his prior appearances here. This concert is being sponsored by Citizens’ State Bank, thereby eliminating expenses and allowing the proceeds to go to the fund to purchase the Opera House. Advance tickets ($15) are now available at Buckskin Booksellers, Khristopher’s Culinaire, Mouse’s Chocolates, Cimarron Coffee and Books; and, in Montrose, at Ouray Silversmith.
• July 25: Diamond W Wranglers are donating their Saturday night concert to the Friends of the Wright. This “cowboy music” band from Kansas first appeared in Ouray in 2008 and played to full houses for several concerts.
• August 21: Sweet Sunny South, a favorite throughout the Western Slope, will return to the area for their first Wright Opera House appearance. Alpine Bank is a sponsor of this concert.