The Ah Haa School for the Arts achieved a monumental milestone last week by paying off the final debt on our home, the historic Train Depot on S. Townsend Ave. Through the incredible support of community members, foundations, friends and donors, the dream of owning our building free and clear is now a reality. This would never have been possible without the generous support of so many people. Thank you, Telluride community!
Our road to ownership of the Depot began in the spring of 2007, when Ah Haa traded its original home, the historic Silverbell Building on S. Spruce St., for the Depot, owned by James Loo. At the time, Ah Haa was bursting at the seams. Despite the Silverbell’s ideal location and incredible charm, the school was in need of more room, especially outdoor space. Along with the trade, Loo graciously financed the remaining $1.5 million balance on the property, enabling Ah Haa to expand. We’re now able to offer a wider variety of classes in several studios, oftentimes simultaneously. And the spacious Daniel Tucker Gallery has proven to be a popular community gathering and exhibition space. Furthermore, Ah Haa welcomes a multitude of visitors each year, who walk through our doors to take in an important segment of Telluride’s history – a public amenity we are honored to provide.
Over the past six-plus years, Ah Haa has worked diligently to pay off its loan. During this same time, we undertook a partial remodel of the building to improve its functionality as an art school and also meet ADA requirements. Grants from the Telluride Foundation, the Gates Family Foundation and the Boettcher Foundation, as well numerous supporters, both large and small, helped Ah Haa achieve the fundraising necessary to accomplish such an enormous undertaking. We also received many significant in-kind donations. Additionally, James Loo forgave a substantial portion of the principal and interest on our loan, and when the time came to refinance, Alpine Bank arranged a generous agreement.
In true Telluride fashion, the community came together on many different levels to allow us to pay off this debt. It’s hard to fully express the gratitude we have for everyone’s help and support – we couldn’t have done this without you and we are thrilled!
Our focus in the coming year is to assess our space and program needs and create a vision for the future of Ah Haa. The building has incredible potential – and it’s yet to be tapped. Additionally, this old building needs much loving care, including a lot of deferred maintenance. Since we acquired the Depot we’ve focused on getting the debt paid off vs. making material investments in the building. Now we can shift our attention to analyzing what is needed to preserve and maintain our historic structure and offer a first class art and event facility.
In the meantime (and thanks to you!), Ah Haa is alive and well, and has never been more vital to our wonderful community. As we enthusiastically head into the next era, we welcome your input and ideas. With the Telluride Creative District now a reality, the future of the arts in Telluride has never looked brighter. Thank you for believing in the work we do and, most especially, the power of art.