This award honors a Chamber member business or organization that has a long and distinguished tenure in the community (20-plus years): an organization that demonstrates consistent service, continually invests in the community and demonstrates sustained quality performance.
The nonprofit WYO Performing Arts & Education Center in the heart of downtown Sheridan offers a wide variety of live performances, student classes, rental space and like activities. The 483-seat capacity WYO Theater was originally built in 1923 as a vaudeville theater called the Lotus. Through the years, it has undergone many changes — in name, décor and use. When the doors of the theater closed March 1, 1982, a group of dedicated citizens, through the “Save the WYO” campaign, began the process of raising funds to see that the building would remain standing.
In March 1983, the city of Sheridan purchased the building and began leasing it to Save the WYO, Inc.
During the next six years, more than $1.2 million was raised to renovate the theater. In November 1989, the doors of the newly renovated facility opened once again, making the WYO the oldest operating vaudeville theater in Wyoming.
Twenty-five years later, with support from many, including a $2 million grant from the Wyoming Business Council, the WYO and Sheridan College rebuilt and remodeled the adjoining “Perkins Building” into the Mars Theater and lobby area with spaces for costuming, classrooms, dressing rooms and remodeled lavatories. It also expanded the mission by renaming the combined facilities “WYO Performing Arts and Education Center.”
Finally, in 2016 (two years after the completion of phase one), the city of Sheridan, in collaboration with the WYO and Sheridan College, received a $2 million grant from the Wyoming Business Council to embark on the final phase of the expansion project. As of October 2019, $3.2 million has been raised toward a $3.7 million project to expand the lobby, add a grand staircase, create a dance studio, add wing space stage left, include a green room, new office spaces for the WYO staff, two dedicated college classroom spaces, a large rehearsal and event space and two small artist studios. The majority of construction has been completed, with the studio and college classroom spaces remaining.
The WYO has continued to offer a wide variety of arts opportunities over these last 30 years, offering space to local organizations and traveling performance groups from throughout the U.S. and beyond. In addition, the organization works with arts groups, schools and the Sheridan County YMCA to expand cultural opportunities in the area. Another service the WYO offers is selling tickets on behalf of organizations such as the Civic Theatre Guild, Downtown Sheridan Association, Sheridan High School and others.
The WYO offers a professional space for activities as varying as weddings, lectures, amateur performances, dance lessons and receptions, serving as a gathering place for individuals of all incomes, backgrounds and ages.
During the 2018-19 season, the WYO served 20,840 patrons, 3,920 of those students attending one of nine free student matinées. The WYO presented or hosted 20 free outreach events in 2018-2019, offered 2,749 free or discounted tickets to those in need and logged 7,000-plus volunteer hours. In 2019, the WYO celebrated its 30th anniversary season and is launching a new five-year strategic plan that includes additional/improved patron and student experiences.
This content was provided by Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce for the 2020 Community Guide, a magazine created by the Chamber and The Sheridan Press. Pick up a free copy at The Press, the Chamber or in magazine racks throughout Sheridan County.