Margaret Hair's column appears Fridays in the 4 Points arts and entertainment section in the Steamboat Today
. Contact her at 871-4204 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Steamboat Springs On Saturday night, Steamboat Mountain Theater will close its doors for destruction.
In most places, the closing of a venue that has been around for 2 1/2 years does not have a lasting impact.
There are other halls, other advocates for the stage and all its uses, other venues to book a nationally touring music act or put on a community theater production.
Those places are not Steamboat Springs. In Steamboat Springs, the closing of a medium-sized venue with local ownership and management, theater-quality lights and soundboards, and a blank-slate booking policy is a devastating blow to a growing arts community.
Certainly, it is possible that another performing arts venue will crop up in the mountain theater's stead. But in the meantime, in that time when there is no really comfortable home base for the performing arts in a community that seems to crave them, the loss of that space is huge.
You'll have to forgive me for mentioning the last place I lived, which I know I do a lot, but the closest example I can think of for a landmark arts location closing, and for the impact that closing will have, is a long-running independent record store in my college town.
That store had been there for much longer and had touched a broader base with its support of local and live music by hosting in-store shows, insisting on stocking local bands (even ones that didn't sell) and maintaining an unflagging devotion to supporting art that was good, that was original and that had staying power.
To me, the loss of Steamboat Mountain Theater is as indicative of a shift in a relatively small town's culture as that store closing. Schoolkids Records lost its grip because of a declining demand for physical music products, and the mountain theater is losing its lease because of burgeoning ski town development. The two aren't directly related, but they are indicative of a new kind of consumption to which the independent arts have not fully adapted.
And the only thing you can do in that situation, besides give up, is to keep doing it - even when that is not the financially responsible thing to do. It would have been silly for Schoolkids to keep going, and it had been for a while. And so they caved.
But theater in a small town isn't a completely commercial venture, at least not as much as selling records to a market that no longer wants them. And the proposition of closing down for good isn't as cut and dry as it might be elsewhere. It does cost though, and it costs big. We'll just have to hope for finding a way to make it work.