OURAY – The Wright Opera House will be closed from Feb. 3 through mid-May, as interior restoration of the historic facility gets underway. The commercial businesses located on the ground floor of the building, including the Blue Pear gift shop and the Artisan Bakery, will remain open during construction.
The so-called “Access Project”, as this phase of the restoration has been dubbed, includes the installation of a much needed elevator, improvements to the central staircase, and a makeover of both the downstairs and upstairs lobbies. The project has been awarded to Dallas Creek Construction and is slated for completion by May 15.
“It's a big deal for us to close down for three months," said Wright Opera House Executive Director Josh Gowans. “But when construction is complete, the Wright will be better equipped to handle a larger population of people.”
Fundraising for the Access Project took about a year to complete, and was largely achieved through a capital campaign launched by the Friends of the Wright Opera House in the spring of 2013. Funds came primarily from private donors and two substantial grants from the Gates Family Foundation and El Pomar Foundation.
“We were very lucky to have the Western Slope Rural Philanthropy Days in Ouray during 2013,” noted Joyce Linn, who chairs FWOH’s development committee. “It put us in touch with several key foundations and helped us form a plan to raise the necessary funds. As always with the Wright, community response has been very strong.”
Over the past year, FWOH has also raised $100,000 for operations, and has nearly completed an effort to raise $20,000 to purchase 200 new theater chairs.
The organization has also applied for additional grants to help cover renovation costs, including a $100,000 grant from the Colorado State Historical Fund for stabilization of the building’s foundation. The group will find out on Feb. 1 whether this grant application was successful.
Meanwhile, as work gets underway on the Access Project, Gowans said that the organization plans to take a much-needed hiatus from fundraising efforts, to focus on construction.
“It will be a nice break,” Gowans said. “We have been moving quickly on marketing and fundraising. With the downtime, we can take the opportunity to fine-tune our operations.”
The Wright Opera House, built in 1888, was a focal point for culture and entertainment during Ouray’s early days as a mining boomtown, offering a welcome contrast to offerings from the town’s saloons and brothels. Over the years, the building has evolved with the times, serving the town in a variety of capacities.
FWOH purchased the Wright Opera House in 2011 following a herculean fundraising effort, with the goal of preserving the aging structure as a center for the performing arts. In this, the group has so far been successful. In 2013, over 60 events were held at the venue, with over 3,400 tickets sold. Nearly 30 percent of patrons came from out-of-town.
The entire restoration of the Wright Opera House is expected to cost $2 million, and will take place over five to seven years. Updates on the construction progress and general information can be found online at thewrightoperahouse.org.