Who Are We Fundraising For?
The Sherbino Theater/Ridgway Chautauqua Society Partnership
A serious movement is afoot within Ouray County for arts organizations to cooperate in the areas of event planning, scheduling, marketing, coordination, and event staffing. Willing to lead, Weehawken-RCS/Sherbino took the spirit of collaboration a step further and entered into an Agreement for Collaboration, Cooperation & Cost Sharing (MOU) in the fall of 2014. Having completed a successful first year, Weehawken Creative Arts and the RCS/Sherbino now share a staff of three, share space and systems, are developing mutually beneficial programming, and are taking advantage of economies-of-scale efficiencies wherever possible.
About Weehawken Creative Arts:
At Weehawken Creative Arts, we are in the business of changing lives, nurturing dreams, and helping kids and adults in Ouray County and neighboring communities discover their creative potential through the arts.
We offer transformative, individualized arts education programming led by extraordinary instructors, as well as a variety of art-inspired events. More than that, we offer a place for you to find your very own community of kindred spirits, wherever your artistic passion lies.
Weehawken Creative Arts was founded in 2004 by Susie Opdahl, a creative dynamo who retired to Ouray from Oregon with her husband, Jim, in the late ‘90s. Susie had a vision to actively engage her new community and help it prosper by creating a program that would offer arts education opportunities for locals and visitors alike. With the help of a dedicated board of directors, her idea found fertile ground and soon grew from dream to reality in the form of a new nonprofit organization.
Today, our programs are offered in Ridgway, Ouray, Montrose and Silverton and we regularly draw students from those communities and beyond for both classes and our signature special events.
About Ridgway Chautauqua Society and Sherbino Theater:
Today the Sherbino is a highly-energized anchor in the heart of historic downtown Ridgway. The Sherbino, or the “Sherb” to many locals, refers both to the physical space, and all that it embodies. The building — the Sherbino, is owned and operated by the Ridgway Chautauqua Society, a nonprofit organization incorporated in 2012 for the purpose of keeping the historic Sherbino theater a community gathering place and fully utilizing the space by offering high-quality, diverse programming.
Today the Sherbino is synonymous with the Ridgway Chautauqua Society. But that hasn’t always been the case. On August 27 1915, the Ouray Herald reported on Ridgway’s newest building, “The new theater being erected by Louis Sherbino and son is nearing completion and will be ready for the opening show and dance the first week in September. The theater will be one of the most up-to-date on the Western Slope, with comfortable chairs, best of lighting fixtures, perfect ventilation and an ideal floor for dancing.”
The Sherbino was designated a Colorado State Landmark in 1991 for its significant role in the social and cultural heritage of the Town of Ridgway. It has been many things in its 100-plus year history: a performance venue, a roller-skating rink, a teepee/yurt factory, a film house, an illegal gambling hall, a post office, a live music hall, meeting & gathering place, and Jack Dempsey even fought here!
Fast forward to 2009 when the Sherbino Theater sat dark for the entire winter. After a brief re-opening as the White Horse Saloon, the Sherbino again went dark in 2011. Many of us began asking if we, the citizens of the community, could find a way to get the Sherbino open again. The suggestion for the Town government to buy it, didn’t fly for a number of good reasons.
On December 20th, 2011, we were told that the theater would close for good. That catalyzed us to spring into action. Eleven days later, we staged the “Emergency New Year’s Eve Party”. Our motto “Think Globally, Party Locally.” Two breweries donated beer. Three liquor stores donated wine and tequila. Two bands played for free. The newspapers gave us discounted ad space. The word went out on Facebook. Over 200 people showed up on December 31, 2011 which helped us realize how important the theater was to our community. We decided, with passion and gusto, to incorporate and re-invent the Sherbino Theater.
On February 11, 2012 we incorporated as the Ridgway Chautauqua Society Inc., doing business as (dba) the Sherbino Community Theater Association. Today, we are more frequently called the Sherbino, but to bring emphasis to our broader mission, we have adopted the moniker, Ridgway Chautauqua at the Sherbino.
In July of 2012 we received our 501(c)(3) designation from the I.R.S. Knowing that we needed paid staff in order to deliver on our mission, we partnered with Weehawken Creative Arts in 2014, entering into a very unique staff-sharing arrangement. Weehawken offered up some of it's talented team on a part-time basis to the Sherbino to get programs and operations up and running. This wonderful partnership continues still and has helped keep our costs low and expertise high.
In 2014, the organization secured title to the Sherbino building and in 2016 we launched the first phase of a capital campaign, resulting in outright ownership of the building.
We are definitely a work in progress! Our November 2017 acquisition of the building immediately adjacent to the Sherbino, is the latest chapter of our forward movement. Acquiring and activating another historic downtown building supports our vision and the town’s vision for developing a vibrant Main Street and Creative District.