The Ariel Theater presented with the Local Musician Award
GALLIPOLIS – From high school performances to a musical theater dream, Lora Snow has spent most of her life sharing a love of the arts through performance and Ariel opera.
Snow, founder and executive director of the Ariel-Ann Carson Dater Performing Arts Center – also known as The Ariel Theater and The Ariel Opera House – was recently recognized for her work by the Ohio Arts Council.
Snow received the Ohio Arts Council Governor’s Award for Arts Administration in 2020.
âIt’s to run something, some organization,â Snow said. âThe Ohio Arts Council is quite a large organization, so it was quite an honor to be selected to receive the award. And a recognition of our artistic excellence that we have at Ariel.
The award is “one of Ohio’s most prestigious arts events” celebrating individuals and organizations who are exemplary artists or who have shown unwavering support for the arts and cultural development of Ohio, according to the Ohio Arts Council website. The award started in 1971.
Snow said she was thrilled the arts in a smaller area of ââOhio were recognized.
âVery nice to have the attention in the southeastern part of the state,â Snow said. âTo bring attention to Southeast Ohio and the kind of stuff that we produce here was an honor and a beautiful [notoriety] that it doesn’t have to be one of the big three metropolitan areas, that we can have quality programs worthy of state recognition right here in Gallipolis. And serving, as we like to say, the Ohio River Valley area on both sides of the river. “
Snow has always been involved in music. She said that in 1987 she had a vision to found an orchestra in town.
Soon Snow learned of an abandoned theater in town and a friend helped her open the doors so she could check out the building.
âI didn’t know the Ariel was there. There was no indication from the street that there was a theater there because it had been closed and unused for 25 years, âSnow said.
Snow said the moment she entered the building; she knew it was intended to house a symphony.
âI walked in there and it was just love at first sight,â Snow said. âI immediately saw that the acoustics were just spectacular, and I didn’t really pay attention to all the debris, to the presence of pigeons. I just fell in love with the place.
Snow wasted no time after his discovery of acoustic heaven. She quickly formed a board of directors, signed a lease and started cleaning up to make the place presentable in order to showcase her plans.
âPeople were polite, and they were you know, oh that’s sweet, but she’s crazy,â Snow said. âOne of my board members said after that, ‘Well, if the acoustics are so good, why not show everybody, do a show.’ “
So she did.
On April 1, 1989, the Ohio Valley Symphony debuted with its first performance.
âIt was spectacular,â Snow said. “I always think that as a professional I do a good job and sometimes I deserve to be congratulated, but there are that handful of times in life where you just turned in a golden moment and that’s it. . “
Snow said people jumped on board after the performance and started helping make her dreams come true.
Snow said her vision came from being tired of the bad way artists were treated by conductors and directors, a way that was accepted in the thought that artists performed better. She thinks The Ariel has helped prove that artists play better with kindness.
âI thought, they’re going to notice. The public will notice it, consciously or unconsciously, and they will, âSnow said. âAnd musicians appreciate being treated well. We are now attracting people from seven states and Canada to play in our orchestra. “
With parking nearby, an intimate venue with perfect sights and sounds, reasonable prices, and a good full show, Snow said, The Ariel is a perfect place to plan a trip.
âI think it’s very easy for big cities not to think of smaller areas like ours. And for something like that, it draws attention to the things that we have to offer, âSnow said. “We’re good enough and a worthy place for people to come who are real music junkies and love to listen to good music.”
She also said it was a great time to see the work everyone has been doing in downtown Gallipolis, including new businesses.
âAlmost everything on this block that we are in has undergone some kind of revival or revival,â Snow said.
In case anyone is worried about the correct pronunciation of the theater, Snow takes care of it.
âUnlike Disney, it is pronounced rel,â Snow said. “It was there before Disney, that’s what I always tease people.”
She may tease people about the pronunciation of the theater, but Snow knows the story of its construction.
âAriel has a number of different meanings,â Snow said. âAriel is also depicted as a water and air sprite, which we felt like ‘wow, that was perfect. Were they thinking that for Gallipolis being on the water? It was built by Ariel Oddfellow’s Lodge in 1895. Why they chose this name, I don’t know, but it is the name they chose for their lodge.
Snow said that although it is not considered a theater, at the time of its construction, opera was the preferred term, although opera was never performed.
“They [lodges] did not like the word theater, the theater was considered an unsavory word. What we know as a theater was called an opera. It had nothing to do with the fact that opera had never been presented on stage, that’s just what they called them.
Operas across the country have been built with a typical floor plan to maximize use, Snow said.
âThey integrated the operas into their facilities,â Snow said. âThe fairly standard configuration of the opera houses consisted of storefronts on the ground floor that provided daily income. A sort of banquet or meeting room on the second floor. Sometimes the opera house itself, with the theatrical seats, was on the second floor. The lodge room was on the third floor, if they could afford three floors.
While the operas followed a standard floor plan, Snow said The Ariel was unique.
âWe were lucky that ours was built behind the storefronts and not on the second floor,â Snow said. âWith fire codes, it’s a bit more difficult to deal with second-floor opera houses and how many people you want to sit there. Why they did it, I’m not sure.
Snow said that at one point the Ariel could seat around 1,000 people, but due to increased security measures and fire codes, the theater can seat 465 people.
Snow said the theater has stayed as true to its original state as possible. She found workers who know plaster to keep the original walls, lights similar to the originals, restore woodwork, match carpets and more. Plaster, said Snow, is one of the real beauties of room acoustics.
âIt’s one of the three elements of a really great acoustic room, with walls covered in really heavy plaster,â Snow said. The others are built in the 19th century and have parallel walls or a shoebox shape.
Before starting the theater project, Snow went out and interviewed hundreds of people in related fields to see what worked and what didn’t, what made a theater successful.
âThe one dominant theme that ran through almost all of their responses to me, successful ones had some sort of resident ensemble. It doesn’t matter what, âSnow said. âWell, I was thinking, we’ll have a symphony. “
But that was just the beginning of Snow’s thoughts as she believes all the arts go together.
âI’ve always had this holistic view of the arts,â Snow said. “How many times have you ever watched a dance program and there was no music?” “
The theater has launched several dance programs which have since moved into their own buildings as they have grown. Gospel shows, plays, participation in the National Tuba Christmas, and music lessons are just some of the things that have been and are currently being offered or underway at The Ariel.
During the COVID-19 shutdown, the theater adapted and switched to virtual classes, but soon returns to in-person classes.
Snow said that not only did The Ariel provide a place to enjoy the music, but also provide a place to enjoy the performance.
âSome people just like the fact that they got to study music for a little while and it gives them personal pleasure,â Snow said. âWe put them at their disposal. We have education programs in place to teach students. We go to schoolsâ¦ to make presentations. I proudly watch one of our very first baby violinists that we started in the early 90s in our street education program and she still plays there.
Snow encourages everyone to plan a visit to the Ariel very soon. She said there was something for everyone. All information about the show is available on the theater website. Snow said the practices are open to the public to enter and check out.
âI knew this was a big project and I knew it would happen and we would have great music and we have this great place to make that music and share it with the community,â Snow said. “It’s a real treat for me to be able to share this and to see people’s faces light up when they hear what we have to offer, it’s a great gift.”
Â© 2021 Ohio Valley Publishing, all rights reserved.
lora lynn snow
The Ohio Valley Symphony
Brittany Hively is a freelance writer and graduate of Marshall University, with a bachelor’s degree in public relations and journalism.