O’Shaughnessy Expansion and Renovation Plan in Early Stages

By Beacon Staff

The O’Shaughnessy Center in Whitefish is in the preliminary stages of a roughly five-year renovation and expansion plan to make the facility more accommodating to the community.

In September and October, the Whitefish architectural review committee and city council green lighted “very preliminary” plans for the proposed project, according to Executive Director Carolyn Pitman. At some point, Pitman said a campaign will be launched to raise money.

The plan has three primary components: replacing the theater seats, expanding the lobby area and adding a larger community space. The community space would be two stories and located on the south side of the building.

“Those three projects could be done separately and we would envision that over the next five years we would be able to accomplish it,” she said. “It’s basically a five-year plan.”

But there is one other major transition that needs to be finalized before the O’Shaughnessy can dive into the construction project: hiring a replacement for Pitman. After 34 years with the cultural center, Pitman is retiring.

As of last week, she didn’t know the exact date of her retirement because it’s incumbent upon hiring a new director. The O’Shaughnessy is in the hiring process, she said.

The I.A. O’Shaughnessy Center opened in 1998 following a generous donation from its namesake, the I.A. O’Shaughnessy Foundation out of Minnesota. The center is home to the Whitefish Theatre Co., which is responsible for maintaining the city-owned facility. The building is leased from the city.

The Whitefish Theatre Co. is governed by a volunteer board of directors and relies on the efforts of community volunteers in addition to its small staff to operate year-round. The musical play “Seussical” is currently on stage, with remaining shows scheduled for Nov. 30 through Dec. 2, Dec. 7-9 and Dec. 14-16.

In addition to theater, the O’Shaughnessy Center hosts concerts and other events. It has a popular community room that “is in great demand as a classroom space” and is booked frequently for a variety of purposes, Pitman said, but the area isn’t always large enough.

“Many times we can’t schedule things in there because we don’t have the space to do it,” Pitman said. “With more space we would have more flexibility and we could hold events at the same time.”

There are currently 326 seats in the O’Shaughnessy. Pitman said the renovation would at least keep that number, if not add some. But most importantly, the new seats would function better and be more comfortable.

“These ones now have a lot to be desired in terms of comfort,” she said.

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