Ridgway Performing Arts Stage a Labor of Love
by Carli Hansen
Jul 20, 2013 | 2427 views | 0 0 comments | 56 56 recommendations | email to a friend | print
JOB WELL DONE - The University of Colorado students who built the new Performing Arts Stage in Ridgway's Hartwell Park took a breather at its completion. (Courtesy photo)
JOB WELL DONE - The University of Colorado students who built the new Performing Arts Stage in Ridgway's Hartwell Park took a breather at its completion. (Courtesy photo)

15 Students, Four Weekends, Two Teachers and Lots of Community Support

RIDGWAY – This month marks the sixth year of the Ridgway Concert Series, and the first year the concert series is taking place on the new permanent Ridgway Performing Arts Stage in Hartwell Park. 

“If we’re going to do this, and do it long-term, we should have our own stage,” said Mayor John Clark. 

Over a year ago, Ridgway architect John Baskfield suggested the town apply for a grant from the University of Colorado Denver to build the stage. Students of the Design Build Certificate Program at the College of Architecture and Planning build three projects every year for a fraction of the normal cost. 

The application was accepted, and the Ridgway Town Council entered into a $25,000 contract with the university. They committed to another $5,000 when the project went over budget. This paid for the materials while the university donated the labor. 

“If we had paid for a contractor to design it and build it, it’s easy to imagine the whole thing could have cost over $100,000,”  said Clark. “It’s obvious we got a pretty good deal for our money.” 

The stage was paid for by proceeds from previous concert series, including donations and beer sales. The town started with just over $16,000 in the bank. 

“I think it’s important for people to know that even though we built the stage, it’s not paid for yet,” said Treasurer Pam Kraft. “We’ll still be fundraising and asking people to contribute to keep the concert series going and pay off the stage.”  

Both Clark and Kraft emphasized that the stage was not paid for with taxpayers’ dollars. 

Major donors to the project include Rich and Karen Avery of Box Canyon Lodge in Ouray, who gave lodging to the students who built the stage in May (in the past they have also given lodging to the concert series artists and the brewers for the Love Your Valley Festival in mid-May, the major fundraiser for the concert series). American Antique Lumber of Montrose donated white pine lumber from a 1930s barn for the back wall and ceiling of the stage. Timberwolf Welding of Olathe donated the steel fabrication. “They were worried about working with students, but when they put up the first beam they were blown away. They found out it was within an eighth of an inch of where it needed to be,” said Clark. Dickerson Construction of Ridgway also lent the students scaffolding and construction equipment. Other suppliers included Alpine Lumber, Recla Metals, and Southern Wood Imports. 

A team of 15 students and two teachers laid the foundation and worked to construct the steel structure with wood trusses and a steel skin with corrugated roofing over four weekends in April and May. “All the students, very few of which actually had architecture experience, just did an amazing job. It’s pretty mind-boggling,” said Clark. 

An eight-member committee of local residents, town staff and councilmembers met with the students numerous times throughout the designing and building process.

“I worked with the students and the committee,” said Kraft. “They were great people. They just loved the community and they were so happy to be here. They said everyone welcomed them and every day they were out there working people would stop and talk to them. All they could talk about was coming back for the concerts.” 

Concerts will not be the only events to take place on the stage. Clark said “the sky’s the limit” and Kraft agreed “there are endless possibilities,” including school performances, chamber music, dances, and films.

“I also had a very well-known artist approach me and ask about performing on our stage, but I can’t say who yet,” said Kraft.

Clark and Kraft say community response has been almost unanimously positive, with Clark reporting praise from artists who have performed on the stage, so far. He described the stage as being “just another step in Ridgway’s evolution in being a real creative community. It’s a piece of the puzzle. 

“And it really fits in with the creative district designation we just got,” said Clark.

The centrally located stage emphasizes the importance of the performing arts as well as the importance of the natural surroundings to the town, Kraft said. “When you walk up to the stage from the back, it blends into the landscape. You get down to the front and it’s just mind blowing. From any other part of the park you can’t tell what it is. We were all really surprised when it went up. It just really, really worked out.” 

To see the new stage in action, be sure to check out Ruby Velle & the Soulphonics next Thursday in Hartwell Park.

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