Sherb

The façade of the Sherbino Theater, Ridgway’s cultural touchstone. (Courtesy photo)

The world isn’t normal at the moment, and hasn’t been for nearly a year.

But Trisha Oakland’s job is not only to envision the future, but to actively prepare for it.

She’s finding her work right now “pretty exciting.”

It’s easy to see why: Oakland is programs director for the Sherbino Theater and Weehawken Creative Arts, which collaborate on bringing cultural programming to Ridgway. Arts events have been mostly virtual over the past few months, but that is changing. Over the next few weeks, an increasing number of in-person events, for those who would like to attend them — and in accordance with Ouray County health protocols — are being held.

“Our thinking has been guided by what people want,” Oakland said. “We’re offering in-person programming for youth, in particular. And also for adults, who’ve been going stir crazy lately and would like to meet, as long as they can do it safely. Other people are happy to stick with online arts events for right now, and we’ll continue to offer these, as well. Rosemerry Wahtola-Trommer is hosting a poetry reading class online, which already filled up. One reason these classes are popular is that people can take them from everywhere.”

Even after it is safe for everyone to gather again — hopefully by late summer — “We’ll keep offering online classes,” Oakland said. “We’ll probably do it all year long.”

Meanwhile, starting this week, rehearsals for Weehawken’s popular Spring Dance Program, for ages 2.5 to 18, has resumed. “We’ve given ourselves an extra few weeks as a buffer” in the case the virus surges and rehearsals need to shut down, Oakland said. “And, obviously, we can’t have 200-plus dancers performing” at one time, as is usual for Weehawken’s spring and winter extravaganzas. So some changes have been made: The program typically culminates in a performance at the Montrose Pavilion, “but we’re thinking we’ll probably host it outside, hopefully in Ridgway’s Town Park” come May, Oakland said. Showcases for tap, ballet, jazz, hip-hop and more will be spread out over several days.

“It limits the size of the audience, limits the number of kids,” and the parents will get a better chance to see their young charges perform. “We definitely saw a drop-off in interest” in dance classes last fall, “but we’re seeing the numbers pick back up,” Oakland said. “People are more and more ready for their kids to come back. Kids doing remote learning need physical activity and socialization.”

Dance rehearsals are being held at the Montrose Field House and in the Old Schoolhouse in Ridgway: “Masks are required, we have social distancing measures in place, and we’ve built in a gap between each class where we clean and disinfect.”

The students have had no problems adapting to the health protocols.

“The students are great,” Oakland said. “Kids are adaptable. They just go with it.”

For adults, new in-person classes are also coming up: a total of four ArtBar courses, taught by Anne Hockenberry, will take place through the end of March.

“We found these were really popular last fall; they’re a nice length of time,” about as long as it takes to have a drink or two and complete an artistic creation.

Artist Anne Hockenberry, who instructs, “Is fun,” Oakland said, “and we built up quite a little following with her classes. We don’t have a ton of things we can offer at the moment — we can’t host full-day workshops, people aren’t ready to be inside all day — so for now, this is a perfect fit to get people out and doing something.”

February ArtBars are titled, “Cactus and Cabernet” and “Valentine Trees,” and two more are planned for March.

Also next month, the Sherbino will host the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival from Feb. 19-28, which features 50 films online.

Looking ahead, “the Courtyard behind the Sherbino Theater will be our venue in the summer again,” Oakland said. “We’re waiting for what the health guidelines will be for this summer. Perhaps we can open it up a little bit more. When the music season ended last October,” it had been so successful that the Sherbino’s staff immediately concluded, “Let’s plan that for next year, things will look the same. If restrictions remain in place,” that’s okay. “If there’s more opportunity, we’ll take it, but I know we can run a solid program behind the Sherbino,” Oakland said.

Indeed, “By April, I’ll be able to announce a pretty full performance lineup, all the way through September or October,” she added. “We have calendars on the wall for the whole year in our offices, and they’re filling up. There’s a lot there! It’s pretty exciting, seeing it all come together.”

For the latest on programming at the Sherbino Theater, visit sherbino.org.