OURAY COUNTY – Weehawken Creative Arts has “for the most part not worried about buildings. We’ve not been very building-based,” according to executive director Ashley King. That has freed the six-year-old Ouray County dance and arts organization to “concentrate on programs. We offered 17 programs our first year, in 2004. Now we’re offering nearly 375 programs a year. But,” King said recently, “there are only so many times you can ask a church for space to hold a dance class.”
Now for the first time, Weehawken will have a home, two homes. “And neither one will be in my home!” King said gleefully.
Next Tuesday and Wednesday nights, Sept. 6 and 7, Weehawken, which King described as “the Ah Haa School of Ouray County,” will host open houses at its two new, permanent facilities, one in Ouray (Tuesday night) in the old Biota Building, and the second in Ridgway (Wednesday night), upstairs above Adam Johnson’s Box Factory woodshop on North Cora in the Riverpark Light Industrial neighborhood. The Ridgway home will include “a real live office,” King added. “We’ll still be borrowing empty rooms for our Friday classes in Montrose. But having permanent spaces in Ridgway and Ouray is a real milestone for us.”
The smaller of the two spaces will be in the Biota Building, which was built initially as a water-bottling plant. “Compared to the vast interior, we are taking only a tiny space,” King said, “just 2,000 square feet. We’ve already done a ton of work with volunteers, tearing down walls and adding a special dance floor. That space will be a dance studio and arts studios, plus some wonderful storage space. We own all of our costumes, so we’ll have the luxury of 700 square feet of costume storage.”
“The big room,” King said, “will be in Ridgway, in Adam’s Box Factory building. It will house our office and a large studio space that mimics the size of the Wright stage.” (Dance performances and recitals will continue to be held at the Wright Opera House in Ouray, where Weehawken rented studio space for the last three years. Annual productions include an all-ages Nutcracker around the holidays and a “Stars and Stripes” summer production.) “We have tape on the floor to exactly match the dimensions of the Wright stage,” King said. “This is a really wonderful, big, open space with lots of light. And, yes, it will have mirrors and barres – the whole bit. This [open house] will be a great opportunity to come check out the spaces, ask questions, meet teachers, even try on some dance shoes.”
Weehawken is not just about dance, she stressed. Fifty percent of the non-profit’s class offerings are dance: ballet, jazz, hip-hop, tap and couples dance, for children and adults. The other 50 percent include: karate, culinary arts, horticulture, photography, acting/theatre, creative writing, and more.
With the new long-term spaces, “The biggest shift the public will see,” King said, “is more arts classes in Ouray, and more of the dance classes will be in Ridgway. The biggest shift for us is a sense of permanence.
“We have great relationships with our two landlords. On the horizon: an industrial arts program downstairs in Adam’s woodshop, with Adam as the instructor. This will be in the summer when Adam has the time.” (During the school year Johnson is the shop teacher at the Ridgway secondary school.) As for the Biota space, “There’s lots of room for growth there, too.”
The open houses will run from 6-8 p.m. both Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Light food and drinks will be served. Come meet the board members, King said. “It’s going to be a great opportunity to connect with Weehawken.”
Fall dance classes begin the week of Sept. 12. For a complete schedule of class offerings, see the Weehawken website at: www.weehawkenarts.org. Or call Ashley King at 318-0150.