Picketwire Center for the Performing and Visual Arts
For 51 years, Picketwire Center for the Performing and Visual Arts cast and crew members have been mounting local theatrical productions from character driven dramas to large scale musical productions to original plays by local playwrights. Equally remarkable is the theater itself: an 85-year-old, restored stone building built by local men as part of the Great Depression's WPA.
While in La Junta, take the time to check out the Picketwire Center. Years later, you'll still find yourself saying, "Remember that night when we went to Picketwire?"
For more than a half century, the Picketwire Center for the Performing and Visual Arts in La Junta has been known for its dynamic and entertaining theatrical productions. Named for the extraordinary canyon that runs through nearby Comanche National Grassland, the Picketwire Center is famous throughout the canyons and plains. In fact, it is a common practice for people to travel several hours just to spend a single evening in a unique, wonderfully restored and repurposed historic building while watching talented and diverse actors perform for the sheer joy of the craft.
The building that houses the Picketwire Center has its own story. Built in the 1930s as part of the WPA during Roosevelt's New Deal of the Great Depression, the stones were quarried from local sources. Men, unemployed and—for the most part—unskilled in the craft of masonry were then hired through the WPA to build a gymnasium for use by the young students who attended school nearby. Under the tutelage of a few experienced and skilled stone masons employed by the government to oversee construction, the workers soon became "masters" in their own right as a lovely, functional and much appreciated gymnasium took shape beneath their hands.
As always happens, populations shift, neighborhoods change and, after several decades, the gymnasium was no longer needed. The building was abandoned until a woman by the name of Mickie Miller-Knight relocated from Texas. Miller-Knight, who had a background in theater, took one look at the vacant building and instantly saw within its walls the realization of her lifelong dream: to have a theater solely dedicated to producing live community theater.
No sooner did she announce her intentions than much of the La Junta community declared their support, and in 1968, after a combination of fundraisers, grant applications and donations, the doors at Picketwire opened for the first performance. More than 50 years and hundreds of performances later, the theater is still going strong.
With an occasional exception, the Picketwire Players—the acting troupe in residence—are volunteers; however, their lack of "professional" status does not detract from their talent in any fashion whatsoever. In fact, it's their devotion—along with their skill and love of acting—that adds a certain dimension to each production. Likewise, the theater, itself, functions solely on the efforts, dedication and commitment of volunteers, which is perhaps the greatest testimony to just how much the people of La Junta and surrounding towns—and those lucky visitors who know to jump on a good thing when they see it—treasure this gem on the canyons and plains of southeastern Colorado.
So, should you find yourself in the area when there's a play running at the Picketwire Center for the Performing and Visual Arts, do yourself a favor and buy a ticket. It's an evening you won't soon forget.