Punk band Agent Orange rocks to a crowded audience pit on stage at the Steamboat Mountain Theater in Steamboat Springs on Thursday night.

Photo by Brian Ray

Punk band Agent Orange rocks to a crowded audience pit on stage at the Steamboat Mountain Theater in Steamboat Springs on Thursday night.

'Messiah' production spotlights need for arts venue


— As executive director of the Steamboat Springs Art Council, Marion Kahn said she feels the need for a true performing arts venue every day.

Kahn said a lack of rehearsal and performance space in Steamboat Springs has put the arts community at critical mass.

"You can't put one more drop in that cup without it spilling over," Kahn said.

On Saturday, several of those groups will come together to stage the town's first professional production of Handel's "Messiah." A holiday tradition that often has a roster of more than 100 people, the "Messiah" is a joint effort by five of Steamboat's largest performing organizations.

John Fairlie, executive director of the Steamboat Springs Orchestra, said the production is a testament to both the quality and collaborative abilities of Steamboat's performing organizations.

"A lot of the same people who are interested in putting together a performing arts center are working together to put on this 'Messiah,'" Fairlie said.

Colorado Mountain College underwrote the funding for the show and has several students in the 100-person "Messiah" choir, which is filled out by the Community Chorus. The Steamboat orchestra will provide instrumental accompaniment, and Emerald City Opera is bringing in top-notch soloists. The Arts Council is handling publicity.

Each of those groups envisions a multi-use performance and teaching facility to meet the arts community's needs.

"Steamboat Springs could be a prime arts center, and I think we have a proven need to have this additional space. Now the question is, how do we get together and make this happen," Kahn said.

Familiar proposal

The idea isn't a new one. But while nearly everyone in the local arts community says additional space is an immediate need, varied interests present varied goals for that space.

"I think that the prize at the end would keep everybody at the table," Fairlie said. That prize would be one structure everyone could use, instead of "seven structures that are just OK," Fairlie said.

In 2000, the Arts Council put together a task force to assess the needs of Steamboat's arts community. Many of the spaces and performing groups included in that assessment no longer exist. At the time, the task force estimated a $10 million to $12 million building cost for a performing arts center, with an additional $2.5 million to $3 million for equipment and technical costs.

Those estimates account for a community arts center of at least 25,000 square feet that would include a venue with up to 550 seats and full wings, fly space, backstage, load-in areas, dressing rooms, a sprung floor and an orchestra pit; five practice rooms and two large music classrooms; three to 10 individual visual arts studios and classrooms; three dance rehearsal rooms and a dance studio; a visual arts gallery; and storage and office space.

Most of those needs have increased, Kahn said. She guessed construction and operation of a full-fledged performing arts and rehearsal space would now cost closer to $40 million.

To foot that kind of bill, Kahn suggested a partnership between public and private interests and building in phases. Because the space would need to be in constant use to be sustainable - the performing arts, no matter how successful, do not make enough money to support themselves - Kahn suggested renting out theater space for conferences and meetings during the day.

Trading spaces

A lack of designated performance and practice space limits what the town's varied arts groups can do, Kahn said. Trying to book dance, music, theater and visual art in multi-use rooms, such as those at the Depot Art Center, makes scheduling a headache.

"You end up in trade-off situations," she said.

When existing spaces are available - such as Steamboat Mountain Theater, the Steamboat Christian Center or the Depot - few are capable of handling big touring acts or full-fledged dramatic productions. Keri Rusthoi, founder of Emerald City Opera, said building a new space will attract enough talent to keep it booked every day of every week.

"It's kind of like 'Field of Dreams' - if you build it, they will come," Rusthoi said. "They built a half pipe on the mountain, and they built a really great freestyle run. They had to put the money and the effort into it first, and now they get to host really great stuff."

The Opera is especially limited by what's currently available, staging its annual summer productions at Steamboat Springs High School.

"Until there is a true performing arts center in town, we really can't expand," Rusthoi said.

Collaborating with CMC

Kerry Hart, dean of Colorado Mountain College's Alpine Campus in Steamboat, said he wants to bulk up arts education at the college, then work toward building a facility to house those programs.

"One of the things we've done this semester to jumpstart the music program is collaborating on the 'Messiah,'" Hart said.

If the college were involved in building a performing arts center, Hart said it would have to be for students first but still could fill community needs.

"Everybody is interested in pooling our resources to make something bigger that would be for everybody," Hart said. Venue space at a CMC facility could be used for student, community and touring artist performances, he said.

An arts destination

Kahn, like Fairlie, Rusthoi and Hart, is adamant that Steamboat Springs can become an arts destination.

"From the first time I hit the ground here to get involved with the arts, I've been saying that (the arts) are the second reason you come to Steamboat. I even put it on our new business card," Kahn said.

"I still believe that sports and the outdoors will always be the first reason people come here, but arts can be the second reason."


Matthew Stoddard 9 years, 5 months ago

e*lite /ÉË lit, eÉË lit/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[i-leet, ey-leet] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation noun 1. (often used with a plural verb) the choice or best of anything considered collectively, as of a group or class of persons.
2. (used with a plural verb) persons of the highest class: Only the elite were there.
3. a group of persons exercising the major share of authority or influence within a larger group: the power elite of a major political party.
4. a type, approximately 10-point in printing-type size, widely used in typewriters and having 12 characters to the inch. Compare pica1.
adjective 5. representing the most choice or select; best: an elite group of authors.

And where in Steamboat does this defininition apply to artists/performers?

I would usually call exclusionists, such as yourself, elitist. That falls more in line with dinosaurs.

It's always funny when someone who uses the U.S. social services, such as yourself, keep railing against those same services you collect.

J.W. says "Hi!" by the way!


id04sp 9 years, 5 months ago

Hey, how about using the unused courtrooms in the new injustice center during the evening for practice spaces.


Matthew Stoddard 9 years, 5 months ago

ID- I'm all for it! The Courthouse was used for plays 5 decades ago, occassionally.

Nice to see SBvor riling up patrons and performers. Nothing like that to actually put a tax question thru! Thanks! We may just get a Performing Arts Center after all...thanks to the whiny guy in the corner, with the dunce cap on!


Matthew Stoddard 9 years, 5 months ago

As if you could be construed as having character??? LMAO!!!! Too much!!! Thanks!!! I really needed that one today!!!!


id04sp 9 years, 5 months ago

I figured the injustice center cost every Routt County property tax payer about $1,200.00 minimum. This thing would cost us more than $2,000 each.

$2,000 buys at least 250 movie tickets, a season pass and a couple of cups of hot chocolate on the ski hill, car insurance for two years, real estate tax and electricity for a year . . . . .

Let's get real, people. There's no way I would vote to spend $2,000 out of my own pocket for the local arts community to get up on stage and put on crap like that Christmas play last year with the gay reindeer, etc.

Oh, wait, maybe there's a reason people object to funding "the arts" in a town this small -- like when you don't want to take your kids to see the productions because of content.

How about this instead? Build a portable stage for the rodeo grounds and do everything outside, during the summer, including "The Messiah." It makes just as much sense.


Ana123 9 years, 5 months ago

I think that it is important to have a place that houses art of every kind. We should be supporting the arts in our community as it is another outlet for further growth and MORE revenue toward our community. Whatever the price to build a place that can house performances and art can be worked on or budgeted...we should SUPPORT OUR LOCAL ARTISANS and PROMOTE the GROWTH of our city


OnTheBusGus 9 years, 5 months ago

Looking at the Colorado Concert Update from jambase.com I see many venues but none appear to be publicly funded. All are private in various ski/mountain/small towns so... a great business opportunity exists for someone in Steamboat to create a venue. I would start with that movie theatre downtown. It could be the next Fox/Bluebird/Belly Up. Anyone else agree?


id04sp 9 years, 5 months ago

And we should like KITTENS and PUPPIES and take in every one that needs a home, and feed them at taxpayer expense because they NEED us!

Here's how the food chain really works.

Music and entertainment require a casino or some other attraction to draw the crowd. Go visit Branson, MO and see how it works there. And Las Vegas. And Laughlin, NV.

I can't tell you how it warms my cockles to go to a casino like Isle of Capri in Las Vegas and see some young woman placed up on a pedestal, doing a high-kick dance in a short skirt for the entertainment of the 2 or 3 gamblers who look up from the slot machines to ogle her, and realize that without art, she wouldn't be degrading herself in public to make a living because she was allowed to think she could be a professional dancer by her dumb family and friends.

I'm getting pretty sick of having to deal with a bunch of losers who think the rest of us would ever want to pay money to watch them jump around and make noise, or pretend to be someone they aren't.

You need money, power and sex to make art and entertainment viable.

Music, art and dance may or may not be easier than working for a living, but they certainly do eat up more money than people are willing to spend for the sake of entertainment. Some other form of commercial sponsorship is always required unless there's a considerable endowment from some patron.

In the end, it's the so-called "artists" who get the least money 99.9% of the time. More like 99.999% of the time the "artists" don't make enough at it to live.

I don't ask the city or the county to fund my hobby without expecting to pay for it. Golf is a fine example of paying for the facilities to enjoy your hobby. If the "arts community" had to pay close to $100 each every time they got together for 3 or 4 hours to practice, most would find another hobby.

Hmmmm . . . I wonder why the local community doesn't come out to Haymaker and line the course to watch us amateurs play golf. OF COURSE! It's because most of us SUCK at it, and the only people who go out and watch a golf tournament are people who enjoy watching the pros and top amateurs play.

That's probably why the arts are not self-supporting in Steamboat. The only people who enjoy it are the ones producing it.


summerbird 9 years, 5 months ago

As much as I love and support the arts, I have to agree with id04sp on this one. Steamboat does not need an incredibly expensive performing arts venue. We have too many more important problems that need to be solved. After we have affordable housing, better pay for teachers, etc. etc, and even a US40 bypass, then lets talk about this.

For all fellow culture vultures: make do with what you have, be creative in transforming existing spaces, add more performances if you can't jam all the audience in one weekend. If you truly believe in the "magic of the theatre," it doesn't matter where you perform, what matters is that you are performing.


id04sp 9 years, 5 months ago

Patricia Heaton has talked about this (she played Debra on "Everybody Loves Raymond").

The reason that show was successful is that they did the work, kept plugging, and finally got somebody to come up with the money to put it on. Phillip Rosenthal was the exec producer, and his wife played Amy on the show -- which is how somebody as average looking as her got on TV in the first place.

You have to find your market. If you wait for it to come to you, it won't happen.

Do a piece, video it, and put it on U-Tube. The South Park guys got their start doing an "animated Christmas Card" for some Fox executive. The author of "The Celestine Prophecy" partnered with the Tattered Cover bookstore in Denver to self publish, and some editor from New York picked up a copy while out here on vacation. The NY publisher picked it up, and it was a huge best seller.

Everybody who owns a business knows that it requires personal investment, work and risk.

If you believe your art has merit to others, it's up to YOU to do the work to expose it.


flotilla 9 years, 5 months ago

Colobob. you are dead on my friend. Now if they would only stop trying to keep it as a damn movie theater.


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