Steamboat Art Museum board members, Shirley Stocks and Rod Hanna talk about the museum’s expansion into the rest of the historic Rehder Building at 803 Lincoln Avenue downtown.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Steamboat Art Museum board members, Shirley Stocks and Rod Hanna talk about the museum’s expansion into the rest of the historic Rehder Building at 803 Lincoln Avenue downtown.

Steamboat Art Museum expanding within Rehder building

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Steamboat Art Museum board members, Shirley Stocks and Rod Hanna stand where the museum’s expansion will be in the historic Rehder Building, 803 Lincoln Ave. in downtown Steamboat.

— Inside the back room of the historic Rehder building, a dark red carpet is drenched in memories from the days of the Brandywine, where locals mingled in the 1970s. The stonework on the bare walls harkens back to the 1920s, when the room was first built as an addition.

And up until two years ago, the space was filled with the aromas from Antares restaurant.

But in about three weeks, the Steamboat Art Museum will add another layer to the back half of the Rehder building’s complex history.

The museum, which currently occupies the front half of the Rehder building with its Lincoln Avenue entrance, will expand into the back portion of the building with a new exhibit, Rocky Mountain Plein Air Artists, set to open there on Labor Day weekend.

The expansion will double the museum’s size, adding an extra space for exhibits, workshops and lectures as well as an art resource library.

“The Steamboat Art Museum has been seen has a first class museum, and this will help expand our abilities,” said museum curator and board member Shirley Stocks about expanding. “It’s a great space.”

Right now, there are ladders and lumber scattered around the three rooms, dust and drywall settled on the ledges. But with the help of the community, through volunteers and donations, Stocks said the room will be glowing for the opening in three weeks.

The museum still hopes to raise $50,000 for the project, which also will go toward Phase 2 of the expansion that will knock down the wall that separates the front and back halves of the building.

The building, originally constructed in 1905, belonged to local artist Helen Rehder, who left it to the city when she died in 2004. She stipulated that the building had to be used for a museum.

The Steamboat Art Museum opened its first exhibit — a history of Routt County painters — in 2006.

In March 2010, the Museum signed a 99-year lease with the city for the price of $1 a year.

The conditions of the lease made the exterior care of the building a city responsibility, while the museum would take care of the interior.

City Council member Scott Myller, who also works as an architect in town, recalled on Friday the building’s complex history of uses.

“I think that it’s one of the landmark buildings in town,” he said about the Rehder building. “I’m thrilled the city does own it.

When it was donated, “We were given it and given direct potential uses for it… I think a big open art museum is perfect.”

During the past year and a half, museum board member Rod Hanna said the city has replaced the roof of the building and reinforced some of the wooden trusses that support the back room.

Before the lease was signed in 2010, however, city staff expressed some concern about the financial responsibility. Council members unanimously approved the lease, which could be terminated within 3 years with three year’s notice.

The city spent $311,000 on repairs to the building in 2008-09. The city also received a $150,000 grant from a state historic society and $75,000 from the Rehder estate for some of the structural improvements.

Once the roof work was completed, the museum had the go-ahead to refurbish the interior to prepare for the upcoming show.

But they plan to keep most of the elements that recall each part of the building’s history.

“It’s going to have the same feel,” Stocks said.

A lower level study, the room furthest from Lincoln Avenue will be transformed into an art library, where there will be a reading area, computer and resources donated from the community.

Garry Dulin, of the Jane Dulin Memorial Foundation, helped fund the library project with a $6,800 donation, and Stocks said they’ve already secured several of books.

In addition, Stocks and Hanna expressed long-term plans for a hanging system, lighting system and environmental controls, which would set the stage for larger and more upscale exhibits.

“It adds credibility to the community as an arts center,” Hanna said about expanding the museum. “And it becomes another attraction for people interested in coming to town.”

As for the buildings namesake, Helen Rehder, Stocks thinks she’d be just as excited about the upcoming changes.

“She’d be ecstatic,” Stocks said. “I think she would absolutely love it.”

To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@SteamboatToday.com

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