Caulkins Family Makes Generous Contribution to the City of Denver's Newton Auditorium Renovation
Exquisite 2,400 seat lyric opera house will honor performing arts champion and family matriarch Ellie Caulkins
DENVER – Mayor John Hickenlooper, Director of Theatres & Arenas Jack Finlaw, and Opera Colorado board chairs Jeremy and Susan Shamos joined the George Caulkins family today to announce a major gift from the Caulkins family to Denver’s Newton Auditorium renovation. The Caulkins family, widely known for their philanthropic contributions to the arts and to educational institutions, has pledged $7 million towards the enhancement of the lyric opera house and adjacent public spaces now being constructed inside of the Newton Auditorium. A permanent tribute to Denver’s first lady of opera, the “Ellie Caulkins Opera House” will be one of the finest opera houses in the world.
“Words cannot express the gratitude that I feel for this magnanimous gift from the Caulkins family,” said Mayor Hickenlooper. “The awe and joy of future patrons who will experience first-class performances from Opera Colorado, the Colorado Ballet and other local and national performing arts groups in the Ellie Caulkins Opera House will surely convey the great significance of this gift to Denver’s performing arts community.”
Eleanor Newman Caulkins, known as “Ellie” to family and friends, is a steadfast supporter of the cultural enrichment of our city, state and nation. Her dedication to local and national performing arts organizations, particularly her significant work as a booster of opera in America, is passionate and tireless.
“There is no person in Colorado more deserving of this tribute,” said Jack Finlaw, Denver’s director of Theaters and Arenas and former board chair and CEO of Opera Colorado. “Ellie Caulkins herself is a community treasure, so it is fitting that this new jewel of an opera house be named for her.”
Ellie Caulkins has been a leader on the board of Opera Colorado since its inception over 20 years ago, playing a vital role in the development of the company into an acclaimed cultural institution. She served several terms as Chair of Opera Colorado’s board of directors and she has occasionally performed on stage as a member of the Opera Colorado chorus. Ellie’s dedication to the organization earned her the distinguished title of Opera Colorado’s Lifetime Honorary Chair.
“We applaud the Caulkins family’s civic spiritedness and this brilliant tribute to our dear friend Ellie,” said Jeremy and Susan Shamos of Opera Colorado. “This is ultimately a generous gift to the citizens that will in turn benefit ballet, opera, contemporary dance groups, chorales, and our great diversity of theatrical presenters.”
Ellie Caulkins also has a long and illustrious association with the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. She is a member of the board of the Metropolitan Opera Association and she has served as president and vice president of the Metropolitan Opera National Council, which encourages and supports opera singers across America through its annual nationwide audition programs. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate from the University of Colorado, Ellie has been involved locally with the arts, children and education since the 1960s. She dedicated her time and talents to Graland Country Day School over many decades and was named a Life Trustee to the Graland Board of Trustees. Ellie has also championed Children’s Hospital, serving on its board and on the board of the Children’s Hospital Foundation.
The Newton Auditorium, historically the cornerstone of the Denver Performing Arts Complex, is undergoing a major renovation funded primarily through seat tax revenues collected at city-owned facilities and the proceeds of a bond issue approved by Denver voters in 2002. The gift from the Caulkins family will be used to fund additional enhancements to the lyric opera house and adjacent public spaces inside the Newton Auditorium. The Ellie Caulkins Opera House is designed with natural acoustics and clean sight lines to the stage. All building elements, from lobby space, concessions and restroom areas to leg room in the seating areas, dressing rooms for performers, and the fly tower for sets and equipment, are designed to provide the best possible audience and artist experiences. The venue is on schedule to open in the fall of 2005.
The Ellie Caulkins Opera House will be the largest performance space inside of the Newton Auditorium. A 300-seat studio theatre and a founder’s room that can accommodate a small stage will also be housed within the building. The studio theatre will serve as a home for community groups and performers, fostering the growth of grassroots performing arts organizations. The founder’s room will be the building’s preferred social area, featuring a stage for small performances or presentations, and a full bar with service kitchen. The founder’s room will provide space for pre- or post-performance receptions and fundraisers.
The Caulkins family’s gift will be made to the City through a charitable foundation to be formed for the purpose of raising private funds to assist in the building of the studio theatre and backstage areas of the Newton Auditorium. The Division of Theatres & Arenas, working with this new foundation, intends to raise an additional $10 million from public spirited individuals, foundations, and corporations during 2004 to complete the funding needed for all of the finishing touches to the Newton Auditorium renovation.
The Denver Performing Arts Complex, Red Rocks Amphitheatre & Visitor Center, the historic Denver Coliseum, and the Colorado Convention Center are owned and operated by the City of Denver’s Division of Theatres & Arenas.
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