By Abbie Digel Explorebigsky.com Editor

This article was originally published in the Winter 2012 edition of Mountain Outlaw magazine. Read the full version here.

BIG SKY – It’s school picture day at Big Sky’s
Ophir School. Teachers and students
sit on stools in front of cobalt blue backdrops
and smile for the camera. They’re
in the “gymnecafeterium,” the old
gym, now used for overflow classes and
as a small cafeteria and kitchen.
This space is set for a major renovation,
and by 2013 will take on new life as
the Warren Miller Performing Arts
Center. The renowned ski filmmaker
has embodied the lifestyle that Ophir
students embrace: dedication to hard
work and outdoor activities. He’s made
Big Sky his winter home for more than
a decade.
The vision for the new arts center grew
alongside plans for Lone Peak High
School in 2007, and support has been
strong. The facility will be available for
receptions, chorus and piano concerts
and other performances, placing Big
Sky among the ranks of resort towns
with prominent arts cultures.
With 302 seats, the space will be
similar to Bozeman’s Ellen Theater,
said Anne Marie Mistretta, the school
district’s previous superintendent
and secretary of Friends of Big Sky
Education. FOBSE, a foundation that
supports Ophir School district projects,
is organizing the fundraising.
Donations and seat sponsorship pledges
from the 2011 Strings Under the Big
Sky annual fundraiser, which usually
raises money for Ophir’s music
programs, were dedicated solely to the
new facility. That event, sponsored by
FOBSE, included musical performances
from Ophir students and the Muir
String Quartet, as well as a teary-eyed
speech from Mr. Miller himself.
Miller expressed deep gratitude that
the performing arts center would carry
his name. He was thrilled when FOBSE
asked if he would accept the honor.
“We’re very pleased for the school and
the community that this is going to be a
reality,” Miller said.
“This is our chance to honor him,” said
Loren Bough, president of FOBSE.
Miller and his wife Laurie also run the
Warren Miller Freedom Foundation,
a non-profit that educates students on
principals of entrepreneurship. Lone
Peak High School students have participated
in the program.
“Warren Miller’s lifetime of work wonderfully
reflects the values of our community:
the arts, education and skiing,”
says Jill Bough, a member of Friends of
Big Sky Education. Other key members
of the fundraising team are Doug and
Henrietta Gale, Marilyn Hill and Jolene
Romney.
Construction of the center began in
2008, but was discontinued when
funds came up short. Work should
resume in summer 2012.
“The clincher is that we’re already a
quarter of the way finished,” Mistretta
said. Repurposing the building will
consist of carpentry work, acoustics and
lighting. Prugh and Lenon Architects
and Martel Construction, Bozemanbased
companies, are in charge of
design and building.
There’s still plenty of work to do. The
improvements to the school—the gym,
weight room, science and technology
labs—were finished as part of the
original plan for the high school. The
remains of initial construction for the
performing arts center are in storage.
Mistretta worked with Prugh and
Lenon to hire Doug Brekke of Black
Box Design as a consultant on sound
and lighting systems, including baffled
walls and pillowed ceilings for acoustics,
and storage areas for instruments
and sets.
Offering Ophir students a well-rounded
education remains the top priority,
Mistretta says.
“We want our kids to have it all.”

friendsofbigskyeducation.org