CLAREMONT — Claremont Opera House board members Phaedra Laushance and Rebecca Vinduska sat in the front row of a silent theater Thursday to promote the organization’s new season beginning Saturday.
With the glow of a cellphone illuminating their exuberant faces, the pair recorded a live Facebook blog for their followers, informing them that the first show will be by Foreigners Journey, a rock tribute group that covers material from two power-ballad pioneers, Journey and Foreigner.
Video blogs are a small part of the Opera House’s “change in direction,” said Laushance, who joined the board of directors in June. The current board wants the organization to play a lead role in the city’s master plan objective to “create a cultural arts district that supports public art and entrepreneurship.”
Board members, including Board Secretary Felicia Brych Dalke, want the Opera House to serve as a community hub for the arts in the city.
“An arts center based on collaborating rather than competing,” Dalke said.
Mayor Charlene Lovett, who sits on the board as a council representative, said that the arts are the most effective way to create a vibrant downtown economy. Through collaboration with other artists, arts supporters and community stakeholders, the Opera House can use its resources to promote its own venue and community arts simultaneously.
“Collaboration is the key,” Lovett said. “No one person has the bandwidth to accomplish this alone.”
One plan underway is to maximize the use of the Opera House’s atrium for local art showings and events. The board has extended invitations to a number of artists, musicians, organizations and schools with arts programs to participate in a Local Arts Showcase, which will show submitted local artwork through the fall season.
Executive Director Louanne Lewit would love to renew a partnership with the Claremont School District to hold student exhibits.
Much of the board’s discussions are still in the brainstorming phase. In early September, the board revived committees that had become inactive under previous boards, and restructured them to align with the new board’s priorities and goals, according to Dalke.
“The board has reinvigorated its focus and efforts,” Dalke said.
Dalke mentioned a discussion of “pop-up events,” which haven’t reached a planning stage but would involve the Opera House, in partnership with a business or organization, hosting an arts event at another community location, like a local restaurant or a school.
“We’d like people to think about the Opera House as an experience, not just a physical venue,” Vinduska said.
Tickets are still available for Foreigners Journey, which starts Saturday at 8 p.m. Tickets are $29 per person and may be purchased at the door, by phone at (603) 542-0064 or online at http://www.claremontoperahouse.info
The public is also encouraged to visit the Opera House’s Facebook page to follow news of upcoming ticket raffles, trivia contests and news about upcoming shows.
Opera House receives $20,000 grant
Last week, the Opera House received a Cultural Conservation Grant for $20,000 through the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts.
The grant is funded through the state Conservation License Plate Trust Fund, or the “Moose Plate Fund,” Lewit said.
Established in 1998 by the state legislature, this fund is entirely supported by the sale of the state’s specialty “moose” license plates. Proceeds from these plate sales go toward New Hampshire environmental and cultural conservation programs.
This grant will allow the Opera House to finish reupholstering the theater seats, according to Lewit.
Last year, the Opera House used $30,000 in grant funds, $20,000 from a Cultural Conservation Grant and $10,000 from the Bern Foundation, to reupholster 310 theater seats whose fabric was deteriorating. The heaviest deterioration was on the house-right side, where seats are exposed to sunlight.
With the new grant, the Opera House will reupholster the 210 remaining seats in the middle section.
“I’m really excited to have this completed,” Lewit said.
The new reupholstery is expected to last about 20 years.
The grant of $20,000 is nearly one-third of the Opera House’s original construction cost. It was built in 1897, according to the organization’s website.