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It takes a village … to raise an arts center

By Laura Moore
Special to The PREVIEW

A year ago, people often asked my husband, Tim, and I if we were planning on having a family.  A normal question to a young married couple.

My usual answer: “I think that the Center for the Arts is about as much of a baby as we can handle right now.”

Now, after nearly nine months of pregnancy with an impending addition looming in our near future, we are putting our big Center baby to sleep for two months.  (OK., who am I kidding? The Center never sleeps. You should see the magic that is happening in there as I write this).

During this (relative) down time, I have taken to reading baby books, prepping myself for the adventure ahead.  One thing that I keep coming across is the planning and organization of who is going to help, and when.  Who have we lined up to babysit?  Who is bringing food in the early weeks so we can bond and recover?  Who looks after older children if you have them?  Who helps clean the house and do the dishes?  Who helps send out birth announcements?  Who throws you a baby shower, so you have help acquiring all the mounds of baby items you never knew you needed — or more importantly, gifts of love and support?  Who has resources for a mommies’ group or lactation group?  Who can tell you which pediatrician is best?  Who are you going to call at 3 a.m. when your baby won’t stop crying and you need help?

Mostly, they are questions that I never thought to ask and never knew I would need to answer.  I had heard the expression that, “It takes a village to raise a child,” and these questions that were being presented to me made me start to see the reality of that statement.

The Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts is two years old this April.  It is a year-round theatre, art gallery, music venue and events center. In 2012, we recorded over 130 days with events scheduled, not counting,  of course,  rehearsal days, building days and setup days. It has no staff and next to zero government support — both totally unheard of for an arts center, let alone for a theatre company with the schedule load of Thingamajig. But, what we do have instead, is a village.

When out to dinner with friends of the ours and friends of Thingamajig Theatre, the couple hosting asked us who hung our posters for each of our shows.  We looked at each other.  “We do,” we answered, sort of surprised.  Didn’t they know?  The same people that hang our posters also build our sets, cast the shows, clean the toilets, manage the events schedule, mop the floor, direct the shows, build the programs, hunt for props, build the props. There is not enough space here for the list. It takes quite a lot of energy, to be honest, but when you love, love, love what you are doing, the energy builds itself back up and recharges you — unless you are in your first trimester, or second or third for that matter and unless your husband and partner is gone for weeks auditioning actors, directors, lighting designers and choreographers around the country in order to strengthen and build the quality and reputation of the theatre company you both love so much.

Then you begin to rub your eyes and look around, wondering how and if you can get it all done.  And since you don’t have a lot of time to stand around wondering, you put your head down and pick up the snow shovel and waddle out (by now, yes, you are aware that you have started waddling) to the front sidewalk to start shoveling the foot of snow that has accumulated overnight. But, when you reach the edge of the parking lot, you see Tim Brown with his big beautiful snow machine scraping the sidewalk clear before he plows the parking lot for the hundredth time this winter.  But everyone knows all about him, because we thank Tim for donating his time to the Center before all of our shows  like we thank the Quality Inn and Mountain Home Landing for donating rooms to our out-of-town talent. We thank Julie Brown for volunteering time to style the hair for our actors, and Trish Lash for putting her sign-making talents to work on most of our props; Doug Chapin for the hundreds of hours spent getting our beautiful photos; and Terry Smith of Terry’s Ace who has donated so much in building materials and furniture to the Center. But recently, I have been thinking of the numerous surprises over the past year that have seemingly breezed through the front doors of the Center.

Did you know that the high school student you see most nights behind the box office and the tech booth is volunteering and has been there most every week for two years? Did you also know that a 13-year-old started calling this winter to see if her mom could drop her off, so she could come fold bathroom towels, put away props and do dishes? Do you remember the horrific pothole that used to greet you as you enter the Center parking lot? Someone comes and fills it up. I never have seen him doing it, but one day the hole just disappeared, just like the huge stack of recyclables that had built up in the kitchen. Someone came and took them away, just when they were starting to creep around the corner into the dressing room.  Ladies sometimes stay after events and hand-wash dishes for hours. Then there is the gentlemen who noticed our broken door and asked where we kept our tools, the guy who noticed our broken vacuum and asked if he could bring it home and fix it and when he brought it back, he noticed our shop vacuum was broken, too, and the guy who showed up to help make a complicated prop piece and stayed for four extra hours cleaning the shop. There’s the lady who has been upstairs working for months to create some kind of order to the incredible chaos of our costume and prop storage and who has come down the stairs in time to see a pregnant woman squatting over a checkered floors she is trying to paint while holding her breath and the lady puts down the extra hangers and picks up a paint brush to join her. Then, of course, there is the fearless leader of the Grey Wolves, calling them in to pack the house and donning a name tag and clipboard an hour before the show to make certain of the order of things on a sold-out night. And, of course, you have seen our bartenders and musicians, but did you know about the guy who helps strike our sets and the woman who always says, “Yes, I will be there!” when we are in a pinch.

This is our village.

And like raising a child — it has taken you all. Thank you so much for your love and support.  See you in May!

This story was posted on April 4, 2013.