Known to locals as “Ridgway’s living room,” the Sherbino Theater — famous for its array of community-oriented events — has announced its expansion.
Run by the Ridgway Chautauqua Society, the local arts and theater nonprofit purchased the building immediately next door (on its west side) of what is currently home to Magpie Antiques.
“It is so exciting,” Sue Husch, president of the board of trustees, said of the purchase. “The possibilities all of a sudden blew wide open and we just feel like it is a great investment for us … and for the future of the Ridgway Chautauqua Society and the Sherbino theater and art community here in Ridgway.”
Husch said that prior to the decision to expand, a team of stakeholders embarked on a road trip across Colorado to community theaters in 17 towns to get a sense for what could be accomplished at the Ridgway institution.
“It was super ambitious — but man, did it teach us a lot,” she said.
One thing that became apparent was the focus on preserving the historical heritage of the building.
“What was really interesting about that trip was, we really liked the historic feel of most of these theaters,” Husch said. “We realized that on the block we are on, the historical aspect is hugely important.
“It also revamped our list of things that needed to be done,” she added. Much of which is related to managing a more-than-100-year-old structure: There is a leaky roof that needs repairs, and “we have a super-old boiler and no ventilation. So with those kinds of things, we really learned what might be able to work for us (during the trip).”
Another priority will be working on the theater’s sound system.
“The current Sherbino Theater was built before the amplification of sound, so we constantly run into the problem where you can whisper at the bar and literally hear it onstage,” she said.
In addition to upgrading the current structure, the organization saw a need to expand.
“What we have discovered in our learning journeys is that if we are going to do live theater, we need more width to the stage in order to do background changes,” she said. “Having that building will allow us to (construct horizontal sets) instead of having to go up.”
The second building will also house office space — the nonprofit currently rents — starting in 2018. It might also be used to sell merchandise, exhibit artwork and act as a box office or bar.
There are a lot of different ideas for how this new space might best be used, Husch said: “It’s all a fresh slate. It can be whatever we decide.”
One thing is certain: The new space will allow the organization to continue and expand its programming, which includes get-togethers like Sherb Nerds, a monthly trivia night; Sherb Talks, learning events featuring local adventurers and speakers; family movie nights; and live theater, poetry readings and music.
“We are trying to do our part to bring that main street back,” Husch said. “We feel so good about the direction we are going and the fun that we are providing, but also the education opportunities and the cultural enrichment.”
Colin Lacy, president of the board of directors for the Ridgway Area Chamber of Commerce, said the revitalization of the Sherbino is an exciting prospect for the town’s vitality.
“Together with the completion of the downtown streetscape, this represents a continuation of a path towards a stronger and more dynamic local economy,” Lacy wrote in a statement to the Watch. “I think this is particularly exciting, as it is a project that celebrates Ridgway’s history and culture, but can simultaneously be a driver of new growth and opportunity for other local businesses and residents.”
In order to make the Sherbino Theater’s goals a reality, the organization has two capital campaigns going: one to raise funds for the renovations and another to pay off the purchase of the new building.
Early estimates put the cost of renovations to the current building at around $90,000, Hursch said. The organization is looking to raise another $500,000, to pay off the new building and to fund several structural upgrades and stabilization projects.