Opera House Arts at the historic Stonington Opera House on Deer Isle plans grand reopening in early 2021 with restructured organization and upgraded facilities. Submitted photo by Heidi Kirn

STONINGTON — Opera House Arts is taking advantage of the pause in normal operations due to the pandemic to make upgrades to its historic building, retrofit technology and restructure the organization, with a grand reopening planned in early 2021. The organization’s first virtual Gala, now set for Wednesday, July 15, will celebrate the changes planned and showcase OHA’s talent, programs and connection to the community.

“So many individuals and businesses are suffering from this pandemic, and the performing arts in particular are at an existential crossroads as we look for safe ways to gather,” said William Anderson, Opera House Arts board of directors chairman. “This first-ever virtual gala represents a major change for OHA. Our goal, with the help of loyal supporters from living rooms around the country, will be to propel OHA into the next 20 years of excellence.”

OHA has paused its live programming, creating opportunities for the board of directors to reflect, reorganize and restructure. Much of the building’s technology was installed by the founders over the past 20 years and several aspects, especially the theatrical lighting and the soft goods framing the stage, are in need of updating. Additionally, some of the original roofing completed during the 1999 restoration is ready for replacement. “It’s time for some capital improvements we otherwise would not have time to make,” said John Rohman, OHA’s facilities committee chairman. “And the ‘new normal’ of our world is going to require new technologies that will allow OHA’s programming to reach wider audiences than ever before.”

During the organization’s hiatus, Producing Executive Director Per Janson will step down to pursue other opportunities. Over the next six months, OHA will complete a strategic planning process, while conducting a nationwide search for new executive leadership. “Per has led OHA for the past two years with dedication and grace, while accomplishing much for our organization,” said Anderson. “He’s done a wonderful job of attracting an increasingly diverse audience and making our spaces feel warm and welcoming to the entire community. We wish him ongoing success.”

“I am deeply grateful to this community and to the entire Opera House Arts family for the opportunity it gave me to serve here. I look forward to witnessing how OHA and this community continue to find new ways to thrive in concert with each other,” said Janson.

The virtual Gala on July 15 will showcase the same levels of creativity, energy and talent OHA audiences have come to expect. The online event, which will be free, will kick off a relaunch campaign to support OHA’s full-scale re-opening in early 2021.

Opera House Arts, founded in 1999 to restore the 1912 Stonington Opera House, is on the National Register of Historic Places and just completed its 20th consecutive season of programming theater, movies, concerts, educational experiences and community events. For more information, visit operahousearts.org.

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