Wright Opera House Saved, Best Documentary Is Bag It, Magic Circle Celebrates 51st Season
by Watch Staff
Jan 02, 2011 | 2672 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Perhaps the most significant arts story for 2010 is the successful campaign to purchase the historic Wright Opera House in Ouray and preserve it as a small performance space and a home for the Center for the Arts of Ouray County. In January, new leadership and strategic planning for 2010 were announced, with Dee Williams becoming the new chair of the Friends of the Wright Opera House. With fundraising events scheduled throughout the year, including a Kort McCumber concert, the Timshel Theater Company’s Tuesday’s With Morrie, and a Sweet Sunny South concert, the campaign received its biggest boost when it obtained a $75,000 grant from the Gates Family Foundation in late June. Further, in early July, the owners of the building, Larry and Alice Leeper, generously reduced the price of the 122-year old building from $1 million to $850,000.

By October, however, the Friends were at risk of losing their Gates Foundation grant unless full funding was in place by Nov. 1. Last-minute scrambling brought in a $65,000 anonymous challenge grant and several fundraisers sponsored by local businesses, including the Ouray Brewery, as well as a packed-house presentation on Himalayan climbs by local Kelvin Kent.

In early November, Wright Opera House Board Chair Dee Williams announced they had reached their $250,000 fundraising goal and the opera house was saved. “The residents of Ouray have done an incredible thing,” she said.

In neighboring Telluride, for the second time in two years the town was recognized by the state of Colorado for its commitment to the arts, this year sharing the prestigious Governor’s Arts Award with the town of Creede. A ceremony, attended by Telluride Mayor Stu Fraser, took place in Denver in February.

Under new fashion show director Scott Grossman, the Telluride AIDS Benefit saw over 70 local runway models gracing its stage at the Telluride Conference Center, Feb. 25 and 27, putting on one of the most exciting shows in the event’s TK year history.

In March, Norwood’s Arts, Community and Education (ACE) received a new home at The Livery Playhouse for its art classes, music concerts, kids’ programs, movies, and educational courses. A few months prior, Jacqueline Hudson had taken over as the organization’s director.

Bag It, Telluride’s homegrown documentary about plastic, won the Best Documentary Audience Award at Ashland Independent Film Festival in April. Directed by Suzan Beraza and starring local funnyman Jeb Berrier, the film went on to win Audience Choice Award at Telluride Mountainfilm; Audience Award Second Place at Wild & Scenic Film Festival, Nevada Cit y, Calif.; and the Best of Festival award at the BLUE Ocean Film Festival in Monterey, Calif.

Speaking of Telluride Mountainfilm, this year’s Memorial Day Weekend festival screened 75 films, from the American Civil Rights Movement-galvanizing Freedom Riders, to the mind-bending Dirty Pictures. Film watchers won’t soon forget Hollywood director Tom Shadyac’s documentary, I Am, or Sons of Perdition, about the cast-out sons of modern-day fundamentalist Mormons.

An then the Telluride Bluegrass Festival came to town along with the quirky Edward Sharpe, whose dad (Rico resident Michael Ebert) introduced him onstage. Aside from the usual Bluegrass suspects, this year’s festival also brought us Cadillac Sky, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Lyle Lovett and Mumford and Sons.

Telluride’s Michael D. Palm Theatre has continued to define itself as a center for art-house movies, operas, and theatre performances. Producers Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall brought a special screening of the film The Last Airbender to the Palm on July 2 as a fundraiser for the theatre.

“This benefit event could not come at a more opportune time to help us keep our doors open and the theatre available to the community,” said Palm Director Heather Rommel.

Palm Theatre highlights for 2010 included live screenings of the Metropolitan Opera’s Aida, NT Live’s Phedre, and A Prairie Home Companion. Live on stage, Telluride audiences also enjoyed ballet performances, the Popovich Comedy Pet Theatre, and Kenya Safari Acrobats.

Ridgway’s popular Pickin’ in the Park series almost didn’t happen in 2010, but thanks a rallying of the Town of Ridgway, community members and businesses, the free summer-concert series in town park prevailed. 2010 bands included Two Man Gentlemen Band, T Bird and the Breaks, Waiting on Trial, Sally Ford and The Sound Outside, and the Elephant Revival.

The Montrose Ute Indian Musuem held its first-ever Indian-Cowboy Festival on July 3, complete with an Indian Market, featuring beadwork, jewelry, silver and pottery, “Old Tyme Photography” inside a tipi, pony rides and a performance of the traditional Grass Dance.

Downtown Montrose gallery owners brought back the popular summer Art Walks, held the first Friday of each month. Meanwhile, Montrose Public Art eXperience (PAX) used the events to sell raffle tickets for an oil painting donated by Montrose artist Gina Grundemann, Last Light on Little Cimarron, which raised money for the organization’s public art program. That organization’s fifth annual Gala Event and Quickdraw was held Aug. 27, highlighting 19 new sculptures and a performance by cowgirl singer Peggy Malone. For a third year in a row, Ridgway sculptor Bill Noland received the event’s People’s Choice Award, this year for his bronze sculpture of pheasants.

The Ah Haa School’s venerable summer art auction brought Artopia to Telluride on July 23, creating a funky, euphoric, psychedelic atmosphere underneath a outdoor large tent, complete with the art of ex-Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann, up for live auction.

The always-fresh, always cutting-edge SquidShow took its grassroots theatre company to Deep Creek Mine, downvalley from Telluride, for July 31-Aug. 3 performances of Cataclysm!, written by SquidShow founder Sasha Cucciniello and New York City-based playwright Sarah Gancher. Cucciniello found the rustic location location (home to the Deep Creek Artisan Guild) to be the ideal setting for an unlikely group of pioneers attempting to create a new society from the ashes of the old.

This year’s Telluride Jazz Celebration returned to its early-August time slot after last year’s experimental move to early June. “We’re back home,” exulted Festival Director Paul Machado, who secured pianist/composer/arranger/bandleader Toshiko Akiyoshi as the festival’s guest of honor. Exemplifying the breadth of the festival, other guests included Hazel Miller, the Gospel Hummingbirds, Dianne Reeves, Larry Coryell, Karl Denson, and Stanley Clark, to name a few.

Also of note: The major shift change, not quite 24 hours later, of Jazz Celebration to jam band Phish, which took over the stage for a two-night gala. “It’s an interesting transition,” noted Machado, but it went amazingly smoothly.

Also on the Telluride music front, the Telluride Chamber Music Festival brought back its co-founder Robin Sutherland this year, performing a special concert at the Palm Theater on Aug. 18. “I am so glad to be back in Telluride playing and enjoying wonderful music, as the composers intended, surrounded by friends and music lovers! We all feel we have come home,” said Sutherland.

The festival also featured a dynamic cabaret performance by San Francisco-based mezzo soprano Erin Neff at the Sheridan Opera House. Aug. 12, p. 23

After a six year hiatus, the Telluride Repertory Theatre brought back Shakespeare in the Park with its Jeb Berrier-directed production of The Merchant of Venice on the Town Park stage. The Rep also came out of the woodwork this year in collaboration with the Telluride Playwright’s Festival to produce a staged production of Philip Gerson’s play, This Isn’t What It Looks Like, which opened July 15 at the Palm.

Telluride Council for the Arts and Humanities welcomed a new executive director in July, Kate Jones. “I don’t believe art happens in a vacuum; arts are essential for a sustainable community, both economically and culturally,” she said.

Montrose’s Magic Circle Players Theater kicked off its 51st season with the Sept. 3 opening of Oliver!, featuring a cast of 36 adults and children. Of the theater’s half-century of bringing live theater to a town of 15,000, Director Merrilee Robertson said “Not many small theaters do as well, and several years ago we received the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts.”

Magic Circle presented Broadway Bound in November, and performances for 2011will include The Gazebo in January, Dancing at Lughnasa in March, and South Pacific in May. This December a large children’s cast assembled to present The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.

The 37th Telluride Film Festival featured the usual intoxicating mix of new unheralded features and documentaries, deserving revivals of classics, and a smattering of glamour. Screened over four days during Labor Day weekend, films ranged from the dystopian Never Let Me Go to the raucous Tamara Drewe to the heart-wrenching Biutiful. This year’s tributes went to film greats Claudia Cardinale, Colin Firth and Peter Weir.

San Juan Chamber MusicFest brought internationally acclaimed pianist Max Levinson, violinist Irina Muresanu and cellist Tom Landschoot to venues in Ridgway and Ouray in September. Sponsored by the Ouray County Performing Arts Guild, the trio presented a concert celebrating the 200th birthdays of Chopin and Shumann, as well as a special salon concert at a private home and three student concerts at area schools.

Telluride’s festival season wrapped up Sept. 17-19 with the 17th Blues and Brews Festival and a smokin’ musical lineup, including George Thorogood, Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi, and the great B.B. King.

To acknowledge October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Domestic Violence Prevention Month, the Telluride-based Ah Haa School for the Arts presented its first Art of Being a Woman Month, including the first Bra Invitational and BRA-vo Show, featuring embellished undergarments decorated by community members and auctioned off at a special fashion show. Work by visiting artists Charlotte Jorgensen and Marty Langion was featured in shows at the school, and children’s author/illustrator Tao Nyeu led a silkscreen project for kids. Finally, the national touring women’s short film festival LunaFest was presented on Oct. 14. A portion of the proceeds from all events was donated to the domestic violence and sexual assault support organization, San Miguel Resource Center.

The Telluride Horror Show made its debut Oct. 15-17, bringing with it the latest independent horror films, screened at the Sheridan Opera House and Nugget theaters. Horror fans delighted in the over-the-top gore of Satan Hates You and the psychologically intense Phyasma Ex Machina, as well as the more comedic Bitter Feast and Tucker and Dale vs. Evil. But perhaps the festival favorite was Machete Maidens Unleashed!, re-screened at The Nugget the week following.

Weehawken Dance presented Dancing Through the Decades at Ouray’s Beaumont Hotel on Oct. 23. The special fundraiser chronicled dance and fashion through the decades, performed by Weehawken dancers.

The new Ouray Brewery premiered its Mountaineering Film Fest series with a career-spanning slideshow by world-class mountain climber Jim Donini on Nov. 18.

Two public sculpture projects were favorably considered by the Ridgway Town Council in November. Willow Creek Floral owner Ed Folga proposed an ice sculpture event to run in conjunction with the Ouray Ice Festival this January. Caitlin Switzer, on the steering committee for Montrose’s Public Art eXperience, proposed the formation of RAX, or Ridgway Art eXperience, which would bring bronze sculptures on loan from artists to locations in downtown Ridgway. Council indicated support for both projects.

The Sheridan Arts Foundation’s Young People’s Theater presented Sleeping Beauty (Sort of), an original production by Artistic Director Jennifer Julia, on the SOH stage, Dec. 3-5. The play, starring a cast of 25 middle schoolers, was “one of the tightest, funniest, smartest shows that we’ve done in awhile,” said Julia.

The 2010 holiday season saw multiple dance and musical productions, including the Telluride Choral Society’s WinterSing concerts, From Darkness to Light, led by new Artistic Director Rhonda Muckerman. The Western Slope Concert Series presented Make the Season Bright shows in Grand Junction, Telluride and Montrose, featuring a 13-piece orchestra and guest singer Katie Johnson; Weehawken Dancers from Ouray, Ridgway and Montrose performed The Nutcracker at Ouray’s Wright Opera House.

Telluride’s new Ames Conservatory, which took over the former Telluride Dance Academy, put on its inaugural performance on the Palm Theatre stage Dec. 10-12, with The Polar Express. Artistic Director Valerie Madonia secured special guest Broadway singer Ted Keegan for the production, as well as Telluride-homegrown Paul Distefano, straight from his pre-professional training at the Joffrey Ballet School. Distefano joined fellow pre-professional dancer Katy Bowlby of Durango, and Ballet West Academy Professional Trainee Zachary Prentice. The show was a preview of the high performance caliber the Ames Conservatory intends to make standard here. “I wanted to introduce the Conservatory in an extraordinary way,” said founder Stephanie Ames.

Upcoming dance and theater intensives being planned for 2011 include a Telluride Director’s Choice Workshop, Broadway Bound, The Dancer’s Stage, and Madonia Ballet Intensives.

“We hope to become a driving force for the arts her in Telluride,” said Ames.

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