The nonprofit organization, Friends of the Wright Opera House, has made significant headway in raising funds to purchase the historic structure located on Main Street in Ouray, having raised over $400,000 and hoping for an additional $100,000 from other grants this summer. If this is achieved, they are more than halfway toward their $1 million fundraising goal so they can purchase the building.
The vision: To purchase the Wright and convert this aging structure into a vibrant, active and happening center for culture and the arts, while maintaining its historic heritage and charm. Current plans are to complete a historic preservation of the building that includes upgrading the auditorium into one of the finest small performance facilities in the area; the addition of some retail spaces; and quarters for the Ouray County Arts Center that include offices and classrooms for local nonprofit organizations.
“The concept for The Center for the Arts is to eventually provide or create spaces appropriate” to best accommodate the county’s nonprofits,” Friends of the Wright Boardmember Joyce Linn says, and “particularly for those who are delivering services in the arts.”
For instance, Weehawken Creative Arts, a nonprofit that is essentially Ouray County’s center for all things artistic, has offered over 616 classes since it began in 2004. Weehawken serves over 3,000 people, roughly half of them children, with classes that range from painting to photography and cooking to children’s theatre workshops. Weehawken’s dance programs have grown from a handful of students to a consistent base of over 100 children and adults each semester.
“Weehawken Creative Arts has matured into an enormous provider of instruction in many genres with hundreds of classes,” Linn says. “Eventually they will need some bricks and mortar to centralize their operation. Our many visual artists are helping to create a special destination for those who make that their profession. They provide a backbone for the instructional side of that art serving the Weehawken mission. They exhibit in various venues, but it would be of particular value to eventually add another exhibition opportunity for this art in the Opera House.”
Linn said the Ouray Performing Arts Guild brings an array of performers to the area and having an appropriate performance space at the Wright Opera House will be welcome. “The Opera House will suit their needs perfectly,” Linn says.
The Wright will host theatrical performances, as well. The Ouray County Players, a local theater group performing occasionally needs a proper setting for more frequent performances as well. To that end, it will host their popular Christmas “live radio show” this year – as well as stage a December performance of A Child’s Christmas in Wales this December. The Timshel Theater, developing a strong theatrical presence in Montrose, will work at the Opera House whenever possible, as will the Ouray Movie Club, with its regular winter schedule of award-winning independent movies.
“In many communities, a center for the arts begins with the bricks and mortar, with a sort of ‘build it and they will come’ approach,” Linn said. “Here, instead, much of the potential use has already been developed and the bricks and mortar now need to follow their lead. The building needs some upgrading to best serve the opportunities already present.”
This summer, the Opera House hosts several benefit concert fundraisers to help raise capital to purchase the building; there will also be a steady menu of summer camps for youth in theater, dance and music, as well. And sometime in late August or early September the Timshel Theater will perform Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays With Morrie.On Sept. 17, the all-American music of Kort McCumber will be coming to the Opera House stage; on Oct. 1 it hosts the Double D Wranglers.
Information about the history and the vision for the Wright Opera House, along with information about the progress of the Campaign to Save the Opera House and a current schedule of events, is available at www. SaveTheWright.org. It is the intent of the nonprofit to finalize the purchase of the Opera House before Dec. 31, 2010. For a lineup of summer Weehawken classes and events check out weehawkenarts.org/.