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San Juan College dedicates newly remodeled theater

The Connie Gotsch Arts Foundation funded renovations
The new box office at the Connie Gotsch Theatre was part of renovations made possible by funding from the Connie Gotsch Arts Foundation. The theater was dedicated Sept. 8. (Morgan Mitchell/Durango Herald)

FARMINGTON – San Juan College held a grand opening and dedication ceremony last week to showcase the newly renovated Connie Gotsch Theatre on campus.

The theater was originally called the “Little Theatre” but was renamed after Connie Gotsch because of the work she did with the school and community through the stage, radio and other forms of entertainment.

With the help of private donors, the theater was renovated for a total cost of $718,551. The college held a dedication ceremony Sept. 8 and opened the theater for tours.

The building was originally built in 1974 as part of the college and contains a 7,770-square-foot theater complete with new carpet, tile, auditorium seating, new house and stage lighting, a video system, a newly remodeled lobby, ticket booth, dressing rooms and a special case dedicated to Connie Gotsch.

Foundation members and members of the community stand outside for a ribbon-cutting to celebrate the newly remodeled Connie Gotsch Theatre. Funding for renovations came from the Connie Gotsch Arts Foundation. The theater was dedicated Sept. 8. (Morgan Mitchell/Durango Herald)

Connie Gotsch worked at the college’s radio station, KSJE, from October 1990 to July 2012, when she died. In 2013, the Connie Gotsch Arts Foundation was formed in her memory, said Cathy Pope with the organization.

Pope said the mission of the organization “is to support the arts and artists of San Juan County.”

“First, we provide scholarships to students for music and dance lessons, college tuition, summer arts and music camps,” Pope said. “Second, we provide grants to a wide variety of individuals, teachers, schools and organizations located in San Juan County who are involved in music, art, literature, photography, dance, etc.”

The foundation also does work with schools and has a music program to introduce the students to instruments of the orchestra.

The donation to SJC was made in 2019 and renovations began in 2020. Lucy Haber, spokeswoman for the college, said physical plant staff members assisted in the renovation and physical plant Senior Director Chris Harrelson was the project manager.

The flooring was installed by Angel’s Flooring, the lobby design was completed by Steven Neilsen, and Beck TOI designed and installed the auditorium seats. Electrical work was completed by Ross Wes. The general contractor for the renovation project was Winters Construction.

“Thanks to the generosity of the Connie Gotsch Arts Foundation, the Little Theatre has been beautifully redone and renamed after 35 years,” said San Juan College Foundation Executive Director Gayle Dean. “Our physical plant, under the leadership of Chris Harrelson, and the San Juan College Foundation partnered with the Connie Gotsch Arts Foundation to create a space which will serve our community for decades to come.”

The facility is more than just a stage now, thanks to the foundation.

“Part of our gift to the college was an endowment of $250,000, most of the proceeds of which will be used to help the Fine Arts Department in various ways,” Pope said. “There will also be several thousand dollars of those proceeds which can be used by nonprofit arts groups and schools to use the theater free of charge once a year on a first-come, first-served basis.”

For information about using the Connie Gotsch Theatre for events, call SJC Scheduling Services at (505) 566-3296.

mmitchell@durangoherald.com

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