Local Treasures with Pia: Inland Northwest Opera

Spokane, Washington – We all know the ice cream truck, the farm truck, and the logging truck, but have you ever heard of an opera truck?

Part of the mission of Inland Northwest Opera (INO) – a recent Avista Foundation Grant recipient – is to make sure children and young people get to experience opera firsthand. As the COVID pandemic spread, shutting schools and venues, it got more and more difficult for Inland Northwest Opera to perform. And it was impossible to get into local schools.

“We were faced with the problem: how do we best get opera in front of kids?” said Melody Heaton, director of marketing for INO. “So, we built an opera truck.”

Considering that INO is a professional opera company, a member of Opera America, and presents professional opera singers in its annual fall performance, retrofitting a truck fell a little outside the usual curriculum.

But that didn’t stop them.

Heaton said an ordinary 16-foot box truck got a new floor and a custom-built staging platform that folds down. Drapes were hung and a sound system was wired up and it was ready to roll.

“We used our own skills and labor – it was a really cool project,” Heaton said. She did a lot of the custom painting of the truck.

“It really came together last year,” Heaton said. “It lived at our house for a while, in the backyard.”

The inaugural tour in 2021 started at the MAC in August and became a huge success. The truck stopped at libraries and schools, parks, and community gatherings.

“It really went so well,” Heaton said, adding that she hopes INO will be able to repeat the tour this summer.

“It allowed us to show that arts education doesn’t stop, even when the whole world stops,” Heaton said.

At Avista, we recognize our unique position gives us the chance to contribute in an impactful way and make a real difference in people's lives. Since 2002, the Avista Foundation has made grants totaling over $13 million to organizations that support vulnerable and limited income populations, education, and economic and cultural vitality. For more information on grant applications and geographical areas covered, please visit avistafoundation.com.

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