When you are given the responsibility of protecting a legacy, you have to take it seriously. And that is exactly what the current Board and members of The Picketwire Center for Performing and Visual Arts are doing. As they plan their 50th Anniversary next year, the Board has been busy preparing its theatre and building for the community and alumni to return for the celebration.
In 1968, The Picketwire Players were born and became one of La Junta’s best cultural creations. The power of this community theatre was a change agent for family activities and professional level entertainment. The Players have had several “homes” since their birth in 1968: the La Junta High School stage, the Otero Junior College Humanities Center stage (now the Ed Stafford Theatre). But in 1976, Picketwire finally found its permanent home in the abandoned Herren Junior High School auditorium at 802 San Juan Avenue in La Junta.
Thanks to previous Boards and Players, the lovely WPA era building was transformed into Picketwire’s home. Fundraising and hard work got the auditorium into working order. Additional fund raising and hard work bought new seats and other amenities over the decades.
During the past four years, the Picketwire Board has continued renovations to keep Picketwire’s building alive and improve production innovation. Below is an accounting of those improvements.
- Electrical upgrades: new wiring for safety and increased capacity use
- Improvements to old plumbing and adding new toilets in the women’s bathroom
- New LED production lighting: these not only improved creative capacity for productions and concerts, the LED lights have helped cut our utility costs
- New sound mixing board
- Added a projection system: this enabled Picketwire to provide special effects during productions and has enhanced large productions such as “Les Miserables”
- Institutionalized video system for productions: we are now able to video rehearsals for training purposes or archive productions, concerts and events.
- New curtains and rigging system: these new curtains not only have enhanced production capabilities, but have improved safety backstage
- Improvements to landscaping: added rock along the street. This has not only improved the look of the exterior, but has cut down on water usage.
- Started an archiving project, including an oral history DVD
- Painted interior areas of the building.
- Made improvements to HVAC system.
- Redesigned stage door and exterior grounds. This not only enhances the aesthetics of our building, but it also allows for safe drop off capability.
- Added assisted entry into the auditorium. This allows us to move heavy equipment safely from the hallway to the seating area, as well as provide seating for our patrons who would struggle with stairs. We now have options for wheel chair seating in the auditorium.
- Started a training system for new directors, and lighting/sound operators.
- Implemented fundraising procedures, including sponsorship, to help fund these improvements.
The completed assisted entry project was accomplished with all volunteer labor from Board members. Tracey and Cameron Salzbrenner, Jeff Jackson, Scott and Desiree Goheen, Zach Zamora and Brenda Erwin, who logged nearly 300 hours of volunteer time on this project.
Our Picketwire building improvements are a work in progress. During the remainder of 2017, additional improvements will be made:
- Build a new light booth and install a new sound system.
- Repair original exterior doors. This not only adds to the aesthetics of the building, but it improves security and energy efficiency.
- Add more landscaping.
- Design a plaque for the name plates which were on the seats that needed to be removed for the assisted entry project.
For decades Picketwire has endured because of the dedication of its Players and board members as well as the support of our patrons and community. Volunteer hours for productions and renovations number in the thousands. For years we have mounted wonderful productions and made improvements to our building. Also, for nearly five decades, we have built friendships and relationships as well as protected and promoted live theatre. We are proud that we have been able to sustain our legacy and, most importantly, that we have given voice to generations of artists. If you are interested in helping us to continue this legacy please contact the Picketwire Center at 719-384-8320. It didn’t take long to live our 49 years, but the journey has been glorious!