Durango has many glamorous events, but few are both as elegant and heartfelt as the Durango Arts Center’s Sweetheart of the Arts.
The DAC switched it up a bit this year, holding it on Thursday rather than a Saturday near Valentine’s Day, but that didn’t keep the crowd away.
I remember thinking when they started the event that they’d eventually run out of people to honor, but as the years go by, I’ve started to realize that the reason we have such a vibrant arts community is because so many people give generously of their time to make it so.
The honorees this year were Sandra Mapel, Meredith Mapel and the Friends of the Art Library: Leesa Zarinelli Gawlik, Deborah Gorton, Louise Grunewald, Barbara Tobin Klema, Mary Ellen Long and Jane Steele.
Between teaching a whole generation of Durangoans to love reading and words and awakening people of all ages to the love of art, Sandra Mapel has spent a lifetime making the world a little more beautiful. Two participants in staging the evening, Ryan Lowe of the Ore House and arts center Executive Director Cristie Scott, were her students, and Scott actually got to travel with Mapel on a Durango High School Abroad semester. Throw in the fact that she sings in the Durango Choral Society, and Mapel is an artist herself.
The women who curate the Friends of the Art Library exhibits create intimate, distinctive, beautiful and challenging offerings from both local artists and artists from across the nation. If you’ve never taken the time to go upstairs at the Durango Arts Center to check out these shows, you have missed one of the gems of the Durango arts scene. And if you have, you know what I mean.
And every one of them is a talented artist in her own right. The exhibit created for Sweetheart of the Arts in the main gallery is up until Feb. 20, with some of the crème de la crème of their work, and it’s well worth a stop.
Meredith Mapel may have a day job as vice president of the family’s Durango-Farmington Coca-Cola Bottling Co., but she had a career in Chicago as an actress, with singing and dancing thrown in. I was tasked with writing a preview of “Love Letters,” staged as a fundraiser for the center, and sat in on a rehearsal where she, reading with co-star Durango Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jack Llewellyn, made me cry through the whole second act.
The evening began in the Barbara Conrad Gallery, where guests noshed on goodies while perusing creations from all the honorees. The crew from the Ore House prepared a superb and beautifully presented spread of hors d’ouevres, including rosemary-flatiron steak and braised pearl-onion skewers, grilled on site; jalapeño, Hubbard squash and bacon poppers; crab croquettes with rosemary aioli; hamachi and mango tartare in cucumber cups; snow-crab claws served with a choice of stout beer-mustard sauce and tarragon cocktail sauce; local squash, cranberry, pecan and goat cheese crostini; artichoke cakes with smoked jalapeño aioli; and mushroom-and-roasted-garlic bruschetta.
Cathy Alfandre donated her catering expertise in the plating of all the appetizers.
One of the fun parts of the reception was having middle school students in the Applause! program passing out appetizers. They were Samme Newcomber, Connor Fitzpatrick, Helene Brimhall, Julian Zastrocky, Rose Hatten, Riley Winckel, Mady Brand and Taegen Clifton. Their families should be proud of the poise they showed in navigating a crowded room with trays full of food.
At their tables, guests found chocolates courtesy of Animas Chocolate Co. and chocolate-chip cookies prepared by the students in the Manna Culinary Arts Program and underwritten by Pat and Ron Hoenninger. (I consider myself an aficionado of chocolate-chip cookies, and these were excellent.)
This event takes months to organize. Volunteers sell tributes for a keepsake program, behind-the-scenes folks organize entertainment, and this year, for the first time, there were videos for the three honorees, created by Eric Bulrice. Among the people commenting on video were Llewellyn, Ilze Aviks, Sandra Butler, Tim Kapustka, Stew Mosberg, Jen Pack (whose exhibit is in the library through February) and Chandler Wigton.
Former Sweetheart, Class of 2012 Linda Mack Berven presented piano musings while they were getting folks into the theater, Jason Lythgoe, the director of the Applause! program, presented a superb monologue of Shakespeare’s “All the World’s a Stage” and the Durango Women’s Choir delighted with “Embraceable You” and the now-required “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.”
Perhaps the star of the evening was Ellie Clark, daughter of Dr. Matt and Mary Lynn Clark, who recited a poem for Sandra Mapel about kindergartners and melting crayons. For Mapel, who thinks everyone should start their day with a poem and who loves color, there couldn’t have been anything more perfect.
As far as Kathrene Frautschy, development director at the DAC and former development director at St. Columba School, was concerned, Ellie’s reading was the sweetest part of the entire evening, as Ellie is a sixth-grader at the school. If you were one of the lucky people who got to see Durango High School’s award-winning production of “Les Misérables” last school year, Ellie also played the young Cozette.
The DAC roped in Ted Holteen to serve as master of ceremonies for the evening, an excellent choice. I liked the way having the MC as the only speaker on stage – at least until DAC Board Vice President Sydney Morris presented the closing toast – made the evening go more smoothly.
I’m sure I’m leaving out any number of people who participated in making the evening a success, but kudos to all involved.
In addition to Mack Berven, the 2016 honorees join past Sweethearts the Ballantine family, Durango Friends of the Arts, Stanton Englehart, Scott Hagler, Judy and Don Hayes, Gemma Kavanagh, Mary Ellen Long, Rochelle Mann, Maureen May, Debra Parmenter and Terry Bacon, Judith Reynolds, Carol Salomon, Mona Wood-Patterson and yours truly.
These folks will enjoy balmier weather for their birthdays – Peggy Hoffman, Jerry Maxey, Jane Maxey, JoEtta Galbraith, Devonne Vialpondo-Kinery, Melinda Johnson, Gary Steinbach, Brigitte Wahl, Eric Nedergaard, Miriam Bonkowske, Brenda Nelson, Joey Kloepfer, Lydia Orlowski, Lynne Rudolph, David Wylie, Karen Keller, Suzanne Parker, Christine Phillips, Kristi Householder, Emily McCardle and Madeline Shaline.
Stop by Durango Craft Spirits on Thursday and Brew Pub & Kitchen on Saturday to participate in Medicine Horse Therapeutic Riding Center’s fundraiser. If you’re going out for a drink anyway, it might as well be for a good cause, right? Both of these establishments (and Animas Brewing Co., which held its event Monday) are donating a portion of their proceeds on their designated day.
Be sure to tell your server you’re there for the fundraiser and look for the 3-D horse – take a photo with it, post in on Facebook, and you’re eligible for a $100 prize.
The nonprofit offers therapy to youth and adults with behavioral issues, at-risk youth, and clients with physical, mental and emotional challenges. It’s also an alternative to traditional therapy for clients coping with drug and alcohol abuse, veterans and their families, people with post-traumatic stress disorder as well as others dealing with physical abuse, violence or bullying.
Thanks to Malia Durbano for the heads-up.
To learn more or volunteer, visit www.medicinehorsecenter.org.
These husbands get to give roses for their anniversaries and get credit for Valentine’s Day, too, if they work it right – Randy and Janine Puskas, Thomas and Marna Burnett and Scott and Julie McCallister.
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