Ouray Performing Arts Guild (OPAG) began in 1983 when a local group of citizens presented the idea of a Ouray Music Festival. An ambitious committee began raising funds and making plans for that event to happen in July, 1983.
Among the musicians invited to participate was pianist Daniel Epstein. The following year Mr. Epstein and cellist Susan Salm of the Raphael Trio formed the core of the 1984 festival, which included seven chamber music concerts.
In 1985 the OPAG Board of Directors deemed it appropriate to purchase a concert grand piano for use in the annual "Music in Ouray" series. Funds were raised by selling "Keys" (88 keys) for $50 each and community organizations and individuals purchased those keys. Funds were raised and the Yamaha Concert Grand Piano was purchased and it is currently housed on the stage at the Wright Opera House. OPAG also received a $2,000 grant from the Colorado Council in Arts and Humanities to help fund the growing festival. OPAG received its IRS Letter of Determination as a 501(c) 3 organization in 1985. That same year, the group won a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
OPAG's flagship annual summer chamber music festival, christened "Music in Ouray," continued to thrive with performers from New York and many chamber groups from the Southwest. "Music in Ouray" flourished until 2000 when attendance diminished and expenses for the 10-day, five-concert event with its multiple musicians caused a significant deficit in concert revenues.
A new Board of Directors terminated the existing "Music in Ouray" the following year, 2001, and expanded the mission of the organization to include other genres of music and areas of performing arts, and to embrace the county's youth. OPAG launched a huge fund-raising effort over the next five years to achieve these goals while gaining financial stability once again.
Expanded programs and concert offerings in classical, folk, vocal and jazz music as well as dance, opera, theater and poetry appealed to a larger, more diverse audience. People under the age of 35 now make up about 25 percent of a typical audience. Previously it was less than 5 percent. The organization changed its name to Ouray County Performing Arts Guild (OCPAG) to embrace all of Ouray County.
It was deemed in 2005 that a second piano to be housed in the 4H Event Center in Ridgway would be desirable. Kelvin Kent launched a fund raising effort and $37,000 was raised to purchase a second Yamaha Concert Grand Piano. The county agrees to house this piano and oversee its use supplemental to OCPAG's use. The Ouray County Chorus uses this piano for its two concerts each year.
OCPAG is now a stable, respected non-profit in Ouray County, successfully presenting 10-15 performing arts events each year. We have given over $50,000 in scholarship aid to our youth, and we maintain a stable supportive membership base.