David Neishabori of AZADI Rugs, right, presents Telluride Science Research Center Executive Director Mark Kozak with a check for $100,000 to support the roof replacement that will allow the Telluride Regional Medical Center to conduct COVID-19 care in a safe, dry facility. (Courtesy photo)

Everyone’s heard the saying, “When one door closes, another one opens.” It’s a metaphor that means when something doesn’t work out like you wanted another opportunity will arise. In the case of the Telluride Science Research Center (TSRC) it’s taken more literally. The organization recently completed the purchase of the Telluride Depot building, as the Ah Haa School for the Arts moved out and bought its new home on Pacific Avenue after 13 years in the historic building.

The Depot, which will be converted into the new Telluride Science & Innovation Center, gives TSRC a permanent home in Telluride, which is something officials have been working towards for years.

“The closing on the Depot is a huge deal for us. It's not only the successful culmination of three years of solid-effort fundraising, but it's also the realization of a decades-long desire for TSRC to have a permanent foothold in Telluride. Our scientist community is ecstatic,” TSRC Managing Director Cindy Fusting said.

Since 1984, TSRC has used the Telluride schools for its annual programming, including a busy summer that annually welcomes over 1,300 scientists to the area, not to mention the fall and winter workshops at the Depot.

“Owning the Depot will allow us to offer scientific workshops outside of the seven-week window that's been available to us at the schools. We already have a great track record of hosting fall and winter workshops at the Depot, but we've had to squeeze them in whenever the Ah Haa School had breaks in their own programming,” Fusting said. “Our scientists love the Depot just like all of us do here in Telluride. It's an inspiring building with a great history and a great sense of place. Once the building is ready, we'll be able to host up to three workshops per week there throughout the year.”

The building is currently being used for the Telluride Regional Medical Center’s respiratory clinic. TSRC will rent the space to the med center for at least the next year, according to a news release, but external restoration work will begin within that timeframe.

“We are so glad to be able to make the space available to the med center at this time. We think it is a great short-term solution for them, and while we intended to get started on the full renovation right away, we will use the extra time to make sure that our technology is state-of-the-art so that we'll be ready to pivot to virtual or hybrid-virtual programming in the future,” Fusting said.

AZADI Fine Rugs made a $100,00 donation recently so the TSRC can replace the roof, which will benefit the med center as well. Many of the scientists who participate in TSRC’s offerings had to shift their focus to the COVID-19 pandemic, so the donation is also helping find a cure and vaccine.

“We are extremely committed to the community and are honored to support TSRC,” said David Neishabori, owner of AZADI Fine Rugs, in a news release. “We wanted to play a role and help globally to find a cure/vaccine for COVID-19.”

Donors like AZADI are greatly appreciate, especially during this pandemic-stricken year, as a majority of TSRC events had to be canceled, which affected funds.

“Like the rest of the world, all of our best-laid plans were thrown out the window in March,” Fusting said. “We had to cancel all of our in-person meetings scheduled for the rest of the year. Revenues from our in-person meetings in the summer make up about 90 percent of our operating budget, so that was painful and scary. We worked hard to quickly pivot to virtual offerings. Twelve of our 58 scheduled meetings decided to go forward with a full virtual workshop schedule, and though nothing can replicate the intimate, collaborative experience of an in-person TSRC meeting, all of our virtual participants were pleasantly surprised with the effectiveness of meeting virtually. … We also sadly had to cancel our popular Town Talk series which regularly attracts nearly 100 locals and visitors at each event.”

All was not lost, though, the Telluride Science Summer Lecture Series and a new podcast, Science Straight Up, kept TSRC active throughout the summer.

“Two scientists from each previously scheduled workshop agreed to present modified talks on their subjects each weekday throughout the summer. These were scientist-level talks and were well-received and appreciated by our scientific community, with many of our principal investigators providing access to the talks for their lab groups or students,” Fusting explained. “ … Science Straight Up was generously hosted by Judy Muller and George Lewis and broadcast on a bi-weekly basis on KOTO. The series featured many of our scientists who made the quick pivot in the spring to focus on ways that their work could be used to understand or attack the virus crisis.”

TSRC is focusing on future programming as well, even though some changes had to be made. Fundraising for the renovation is also a major focus going forward.

“For now, we are strategizing on the best way to move forward in 2021. We will not be able to host any of our previously scheduled in-person meetings during the winter, but we are hopeful that we will be able to host some in-person meetings next summer. No doubt they will be smaller and may likely have a virtual component. Even a best-case scenario where we're able to host several meetings will be a significant downgrade from our original 2021 plans. Pre-pandemic plans had us expecting a record number of meetings and scientists in town in 2021,” Fusting said. “Our scientific community has expressed strong support for us to proceed with programming as best we can, and we will do so. The next couple of months will help us solidify those plans. Our development committee — Sally Puff Courtney, Miles Cook and Carol Keogh — has been amazing we would not be owners of the Depot without them or without the incredible financial support of our local community and our many contributing scientists. We are just kicking off our fundraising for the Renovation Phase of the building project.”

It might take some time, but more doors will be opening for TSRC, and beyond.

“More than that our being able to purchase the Depot I hope will make this building and property a community place, a place everyone can use,” TSRC Board President Nancy Levinger said at Friday’s closing.