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Nonprofit Salt River Arts Society purchases Ford Theatre

At the Jenny Oaks Baker concert late in April, James Arbizu announced that the Salt River Arts Society nonprofit foundation was poised to purchase the Ford Theatre in Afton. 

That has now officially happened.

Arbizu commented this week in an interview with SVI: “We put together a nonprofit earlier this year, and they’ve been the ones that have been applying for grants and also bringing in artists through myself and other people on the board. We were able to arrange it for the nonprofit to buy the Ford theatre, which is a wonderful development. It took a bit of finagling, but we were able to make that happen. 

The Salt River Arts Society, an outgrowth of the original Salt River Symphony Chorus, now owns, organizes and directs the efforts at Ford Theatre. Arbizu explained that most of the plans will continue as before, “For the most part, the plans are the same. We were trying to figure out the best way to make it work. We felt like it made more sense for it to go to nonprofit than to come to James and Daphne.”

Arbizu explained the nonprofit will still need community support in the form of donations. “If patrons enjoy weekly events like the comedy show, Monday night recitals, or weekend events, they can support us with a monthly donation. In exchange they’ll get season tickets to those events.” 

There are different levels of support patrons can offer on the website Arbizu said that most of the events that the theatre brings in don’t bring in a lot of money, and there are quite a few bills to pay. If the Arts Society had paid recent performer Jenny Oaks Baker her usual fee, it wouldn’t have had any money left. Because Baker was generous in offering a lower-than-usual fee and the Arts Society supported generously, the whole thing worked. 

Arbizu calculates that it will take around $70,000 to upgrade the stage area to be able to handle the variety of entertainment professionals the Ford Theatre plans to bring to Afton. The SRAS has applied for a $35,000 grant to jump-start the process. The $70,000 won’t outfit the stage extravagantly, but it will provide the essentials needed for performances. 

If patrons want to “sponsor a seat” for $250, the Ford Theatre will put a plaque with the patron’s name on it. All donations and sponsorships will go to help with upgrades of the lights, sound, and bring all aspects of the stage up to industry standard.

Photo courtesy of Nina Munger will perform on her harp at the Ford Theatre. Tickets are available at the Star Valley Arts Society website.

The SRAS also has designs on upgrading the facade of the building. It estimates the cost at around $180,000. Arbizu is not sure of the level of community support for such an endeavor, but is hopeful it will be willing to help restore the historic icon.

Arbizu outlined the variety in the next artists coming to perform. Nina Munger, a local harpist who has performed with several symphonies in the region, both Idaho and often in Jackson, will be performing May 17 at 7:00 p.m. Arbizu sang Munger’s praises, “She’s wonderful. She’s the real deal. Very cool.”

On May 22, the Theatre will host a “battle of the bands” event. Arbizu said, “I’m stoked about this one. We’ve got a country band, an Irish rock band, and we’ve got an old-school, cowboy country/fiddle band, and they’re gonna face off and we’ll see who the audience picks as the winner.”

On June 12, Rodney Norman from dry bar (or clean) comedy will perform. Arbizu explained, “We’re working on making that a monthly event, and also putting in guidelines to make sure everyone knows what we’re expecting. We’ve had some really funny, funny guests. Rodney Norman is hilarious too. I think quite a few people in the valley will know him. He’s been in quite a few movies and on Broadway.”