Berthoud artist Lory Ohs to lead Wildfire Community Arts Center

By Shelley Widhalm

The Surveyor

Until Dec. 1, the Wildfire Community Arts Center opened its doors on a limited basis — mainly for classes and the drop-in U-Create Studio on Saturdays.

Lory Ohs stands inside the Wildfire Community Arts Center. Ohs, who previously served on the board and is an art club instructor, started Dec. 1 as the new part-time executive director.

The board of directors for the arts center, founded in 2002, realized that with a growing community, the nonprofit, all-volunteer organization needed to have regular hours and a leader to oversee its operations. At its November meeting, the board unanimously voted for Lory Ohs, one of the board members and an arts club instructor, to serve as the part-time executive director.

“We need somebody whose job it is to organize the volunteers and events and to be a presence in the building, so it feels like somebody is home,” said Elizabeth Kearney, board president and founder of the Wildfire Community Arts Center.

The arts center, 425 Massachusetts Ave., is now open 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday to Thursday, plus during art, yoga and dance classes, an after-school arts, dance and drumming program, and the art shows and events it hosts.

“We decided we’re at a crossroads and are ready to step up our game and bring this arts center to the community as much as we can,” Ohs said. “Berthoud is booming. I love the town, and I love the people. I really am glad for the growth and change. It’s good for all of us, and the arts center needs to keep up with it.”

Ohs will help plan events, handle communications and administrative tasks, and oversee the volunteers — there is a core of 15 volunteers and a total of 50 who help out with particular events and projects. She also will help organize and expand the art center’s membership from 50 to 500 members.

“We want to pursue a more organized membership program because we think that will get people invested in Wildfire, but to do that will take time,” Kearney said. “It’s become too much for a truly volunteer group to do.

Kearney summarized Ohs’ tasks as event, volunteer and membership management. Ohs will help grow the organization and increase its visibility, efficiency and responsiveness in the community, Kearney said.

Ohs also will serve as Wildfire’s central contact for other organizations, businesses and community members and will make new contacts and generate ideas for the organization.

“One of our main goals is to really reach out to the community and to have more community involvement with the arts center. How can I involve other community members and businesses to do projects and events with us?” Ohs said.

Ohs’ community connections and experience as an artist make her a perfect fit for the position, Kearney said. “Being an artist, she understands other artists and can communicate with them in a way they can get. It gives her an understanding of their situation that makes them more comfortable.”

Ohs, a 1975 graduate of Berthoud High School, mainly does murals and other large-scale paintings and is a pottery and jewelry artist. She taught art off and on for more than 30 years, operated a City of Longmont youth arts program for 10 years, worked in retail and owned several businesses.

“I always loved the arts,” Ohs commented. “I loved that you can be creative in your own way. It can be your own expression.”

Ohs considers the position to be a “dream job.” “I love to make art. I love to organize art. I live, eat and breathe art,” she said. “I get to be in touch with all of these artists. I can expand knowledge of art for others.”

Kearney encourages community members to stop in at the arts center to meet Ohs.

“She has such an amazingly positive outlook on stuff, which is really great when you’re dealing with volunteers and the public. Her attitude is the topping on the cake,” Kearney said. “People should stop by the arts center and see her.”

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