A 2015 survey of 24 local nonprofit arts and culture organizations in the Wood River Valley by The Americans for the Arts found that art organizations in Ketchum generated $29.3 million annually for the Valley’s economy. That’s a big chunk of change.
It was in recognition of the importance of the arts that Ketchum opened up its new state-of-the-art performing arts complex and community center at the corner of Main Street and 1st Street. The 25,000-square-foot space features a multi-configurable theater with seating up to 462, a studio space seating up to 49, a café and an outdoor plaza.
The Argyros, named for founding benefactors Julia and George Argyros, celebrated its opening weekend over Nov. 23 to 25, 2018 with performances by local artists, an outdoor street party and a community showcase of some of the performers who will come to benefit from the venue in its coming years such as Wood River High School’s Colla Voce and B-Tones choirs, Footlite Dance Centre, Sun Valley Ballet, Sun Valley Opera, Wood River Orchestra, thespians from St. Thomas Playhouse and The Spot, bands Old Death Whisper and Sheep Bridge Jumpers and even the famous musician Peter Cetera.
“The opening weekend over Thanksgiving went really well,” said Doug Rankin, The Argyros executive director. “We had 2,200 people see the building in its first weekend which is pretty amazing considering the size of the population of this town.”
Meet executive director Doug Rankin
After an eight-month national search for center’s executive director, Rankin found himself pulled out of semi-retirement and back into the world of directing theaters.
In 1986, Rankin became the founding president of the Irvine Barclay Theater, one of Orange County’s premier presenters of dance, music and theater. He created well-attended programs in all facets of the arts through 2016. He also was a founding executive director of the Woodstock Opera in Woodstock, Ill. He led the restoration and later the operations of the 1890 National Register historic property. It was this extensive background that made him the perfect candidate.
“I was living in southern California with my wife where we’ve lived for several decades when I got a call from a friend,” said Rankin. “I thought I was semi-retired.”
The friend lived in L.A. and worked in the entertainment business and told him someone else they both knew was helping The Argyros find its first executive. “I thought it sounded like an interesting challenge and one thing led to another,” Rankin said.
With that, Rankin and his wife picked up and moved to Ketchum, a town they weren’t familiar with but one that Rankin felt he could help in making its community theater, The Argyros, shine. “I moved from San Francisco to Woodstock, Ill. to restore an opera house, so I’ve had my experience moving from place to place and adapting the concept of the organization and its programming to what the neighborhood wants,” said Rankin.
And what the neighborhood wants is more space for the arts. The Argyros sits on the land formerly occupied by the NexStage Theater, a space that quickly became too small for the arts scene in Ketchum that entails a yearly film festival, movie screenings, ballet performances, the Sun Valley Summer Symphony, music concerts, play readings and more. “The role of The Argyros here is many fold,” said Rankin. “There’s a vibrant cultural community in Ketchum from the creative organizations to the symphony to the Sun Valley Center for the Arts to The Spot; a lot of things are going on all the time. The Argyros space will focus their efforts and the technology of the building itself will hopefully serve as a resource to advance and improve their ambitions.”
The technology of the building is another aspect worth noting. The Meyer Constellation sound system is considered the finest acoustics available today and is one of the very few installations in the western U.S. Numerous speakers and microphones have been installed throughout the main theater space while sound dampening pads have been installed in the walls to absorb the sound in the space. Contrary to other theaters which attempt to make the walls enhance the sound from inside, the Argyros system kills sound as it hits the walls so that the sound starts with a blank canvas and absorbs any talking and excess chatter.
“Then you turn on the Meyer System and you can transform this room into a cathedral,” said Mike Hoover, venue and events manager for the space. The system is self-learning with microphones around the space constantly listening and sensors in the space adjusting for temperature and humidity to change the dynamics of how sound travels through the space.
When asked the goals for the space’s initial year: “Survive,” Rankin said. “In style.” After a laugh he continued, “It’s a very new project and of a scale not seen before in this area. Our goals are to become a good partner with the creative community, run a professional house, meet certain budget goals, and make people happy and present good art.”
Presenting good art shouldn’t be a challenge. A look at The Argyros online calendar already shows concerts, performances and more booked throughout the next nine months that is a mix of community organization performances as well as Argyros Presents.
“The Argyros itself has launched its first wave of announced programs which includes classical, Broadway, jazz, dance and several others coming up as well as events with a strong local following,” said Rankin. Arts fans can mark their calendars for upcoming local events like Sun Valley Summer Symphony’s Winter Festival and The Arygros Presents events including the premier of Isabella Boylston and Friends, “When I Think of You,” her new collaboration with pop star Rozzi on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 9 and 10 and a special evening with singer/songwriter Rita Wilson on Saturday, Feb. 16.
For more information on upcoming performances visit theargyros.org.