About the Friends of The Wright Opera House
Recognizing the potential to preserve and restore arts and culture in Ouray County by purchasing the historic Wright Opera House, a group of volunteers came together in 2007 with a vision to 'Save the Wright.' In 2008 the non-profit organization 'Friends of the Wright Opera House' was incorporated. The vision that followed was one of promoting artistic, cultural and educational opportunities for all by providing a centralized venue for performing arts organizations and by restoring the facility for another century of use.
In 2011, the Friends completed the acquisition of the Wright Opera House thanks to the generosity of the local community and the various foundations that came together and recognized the historical significance of the facility. During this time, the Friends brought new programming and events to Ouray County as an all volunteer board. At the same time, the Friends worked diligently to define a restoration plan for the Wright Opera House, working with both the Colorado State Historical Society as well as local stakeholders to ensure that the Wright reclaims its place as a premier entertainment venue.
For decades, the Wright Opera House has provided high quality entertainment and culture. With the Friends at the helm and with the continued support from the community, the Wright will exist for many decades to come as a crowning jewel for the City and County of Ouray, providing arts, entertainment and culture for all.
Board of Directors
After 30+ years, Lou and her husband John Hart are back as full-time, permanent residents in the little mountain town they never stopped calling home. Her family, the Tankersleys, moved to Ouray in 1960, bought a property, and began building the Twin Peaks Motel. Like most all businesses in Ouray at that time, it was a family affair. Her father and brothers built, while she and her sister and mother cleaned, made beds, took reservations, and together built a business on growing tourism that became a destination place notable for its owners’ love of this beautiful place and their southern hospitality. “At the time, I had no idea how blessed I was to be growing up in a beautiful mountain town that was safe, community-minded, and would never leave my heart,” she says. Lou married her high school sweetheart, John Hart, joined him in Hawaii as he served in the US Navy, and returned to Ouray to make our home here. John was employed by San Miguel Power, while she was at home raising two sons. Together they opened Ridgway True Value Hardware on Clinton in 1983. Southwest Colorado was not thriving at the time and they struggled to make ends meet, running the store and working extra jobs. Eventually they moved to the Phoenix area to try and secure their financial future. Their two sons grew up in Phoenix and attended NAU for their degrees. Lou too was able to go back for her degree in education and a Masters in Counseling, and enjoyed a 20 year career in public education and counseling in the Community College system.
In 2005 the Harts built their home on Oak Street, thinking at the time that it would be a summer place and a great escape from the heat of the desert. Once John retired for the second time, he was anxious to spend more time here in our Ouray home. Lou was still enjoying her college students but in 2019, they made the decision to sell their Arizona home and move back full time. Lou says, “we are so happy to be back. It’s different in some ways, more opportunities for adventure and culture and business. But there is some part of this place that is still just as captivating for us as it ever was. Maybe it’s Mt Abram that looms faithful out of my front window, maybe it’s the waterfalls or the Uncompahgre I can hear flowing endlessly from our windows, and maybe it's the spirit of timelessness that speaks from the mountains, and certainly it is the connection with people who call this place home because they too have been captivated. Probably it is all of these things. So we’re back; we’re home.”
Lou’s interest as a member of The Wright Board has everything to do with her appreciation for what Ouray has become and how The Wright has been “reborn” to bring a variety of arts and culture to our community. She views it as a place of community where both locals and visitors can come together for conversation, entertainment, arts and a sharing of the best parts of us that reflects both creation and creativity. “It is my honor to do so as a Board Member of The Wright Opera House,” says Lou.
Isabella grew up in South Africa in the beautiful historic town of Kimberley, the diamond capital of the world and origin of the Hope Diamond, gifted to Evelyn Walsh McLean of Camp Bird. She remains married to her childhood sweetheart and together they raised four children and has two grandchildren.
Isabella moved to Ouray in search of a better quality of life and a more inclusive and welcoming community for their son, Philip, who has Down syndrome. She found much more than that – stunning mountain vistas, culture, history, architecture, and the Wright Opera House! In her travels abroad, she frequented historic performing art venues such as the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, the Mariinsky Theater in St Petersburg, and London’s West End.
Isabella has a doctoral degree in clinical psychology and started her career by choosing to only serve marginalized communities such as people on probation and parole as well as Medicare patients. She believes she has the best job in the world and today she has thriving psychology practices in Denver and Ouray.
Susan Yoder is a 20 year resident of Ouray. Her only son graduated from Ouray High School in 2004. She is responsible for restoring the home on 4th Street in Ouray next to the courthouse, know as the “Zanett House”, originally built in the 1890’s. Growing up, Susan’s family moved frequently all over the country from small, rural towns to cities including Chicago and Los Angeles. This gave Susan the exposure to and love of different cultures, art, music and history across the country. And, especially a passion for saving old buildings. “I went to events at the Wright since I first moved to town and always imagined her original beauty. I was so happy to hear about the acquisition by the Friends of the Wright to save this amazing historic building and am so thrilled to see it become the premier venue for the arts, social events and education in the county.” Susan has been an avid event-goer and has done some volunteer work for the Wright. She feels lucky for any opportunity to support the mission of the Opera House to continue to contribute to the economic and cultural viability of our Community.
Mia Wentworth has lived in the Ouray area with her husband (Brendan) and fur baby (Duncan) since 2020. Mia loves all that the San Juan Mountains have to offer; hiking, biking, skiing, climbing and paddling. While they originally moved here for the outdoor activities, they have been especially grateful for all of the cultural offerings, especially those that take place at the Wright.
Mia was born a Yooper, originally from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. She moved to Colorado in 2010 and graduated with an MBA from the University of Colorado in 2012. Mia's professional career has been primarily in the property management field as both an operations and marketing director for multifamily housing.
Russell, a lifelong Texan, first visited this area in 2014 and immediately knew it was where he wanted to retire. In 2019, he moved part-time with Carol and their two dogs Decker and Albie to Ouray County, making it their full-time home in 2021. A graduate of Tarleton State University, Russell just completed a 30 year career at Southwest Airlines, finishing in the role of Vice President of Labor Relations. He and Carol value their new community and look forward to becoming more involved through numerous volunteer opportunities.
Brooke Easley comes from a deep background in teaching and volunteer work. For years, Easley contributed to the development of Parent Teacher Organizations at Krause Elementary in Brenham, TX, and Woodlands Elementary in Amarillo, TX, among many others. Prior to that, she taught AP High School Biology in Waller, TX. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Entomology from Texas A&M University.
Easley is a Ridgway, CO native. In 2004, she married her husband Kyle here in Ouray, his hometown. Together they moved to Texas for a number of years before returning to Ouray in 2021, now raising their daughter and son in the same beloved community where they were both raised. When the opportunity came for her to get involved in the Wright, she jumped.
Says Easley, "The Wright holds a special place for me. As a child growing up in the area we would come to numerous events and movies, such as C.W. McCall's San Juan Odyssey. I even attended prom here in high school with my now husband! When living in Texas and visiting family in Ouray and Ridgway, we would always stop in for events and bring our kids to experience the magic of the Wright. I am honored to have the opportunity to carry on the legacy of the Wright Opera House as a thriving cultural center in our community for all to enjoy."
Currently, Easley also coaches volleyball for Ouray Middle School.