Community art centers are research-and-development labs for the arts.
Environments that encourage dynamic learning, experimentation and creative play often mirrored in the sciences, and well-esteemed R & D labs that even borrow artistic language to describe their purpose. Take Avery-Dennison, the global manufacturer of adhesive labels and specialty medical products, who “use R & D centers as a think tank and collaborative meeting place to inspire, create and imagine the possibilities.”
Arching our memories back 20 years in the Durango Arts Center’s storied history, we are reminded just how fortunate our own community is to have salvaged a space for creative R & D. The majority of patrons who pass through DAC’s East Eighth Street doors have no inkling that the facility once held a very different purpose as a car dealership. Built in 1927, the Hocker Motors Building (later occupied by Pat Murphy Motors) is one of a few remaining post-Victorian commercial spaces in Durango. Slated for demolition in 1996 to make way for a municipal parking lot, the city of Durango and DAC partnered to purchase and restore the 14,400 square foot building instead.
Seeded with an initial investment by the State Historical Fund and bolstered by a capital campaign that would cross the $1.1 million threshold in 2016 dollars, the car dealership transformed into a bona fide art center, complete with a theater, gallery, library, dance and education studios. Durango architects R. Michael Bell and Rick Feeney, along with project coordinator William Vega and countless other community members, engineers and donors collaborated to realize the project.
Today, DAC stands proudly in service to the community that envisioned its success. Although the roof has grown delicately thin in spots and the breadth of programs now offered challenges the square footage available, the Hocker Motors Building has been an invaluable gathering space for creativity and artistic growth over the past 20 years.
We invite you to stop by, tour the space and join in the arts development of your community through numerous art-viewing and art-making opportunities coming up in the next few months.
Opening April 22 in the Barbara Conrad Gallery is “Under Pressure: The Art of the Hand-Pulled Print,” an exhibit of 25 artists exploring fine art printmaking methods – from the oldest-known technique of relief printing, to intaglio, planographic and contemporary processes.
Register now for summer workshops with visiting artists before these special offerings fill. Highlights include plein air painting with Bill Cramer; indigo dyeing and katazome with textile master Akemi Nakano Cohn; and monoprinting with Navajo contemporary printmaker Melanie Yazzie. Local notables John Grow and Peggy Lynch will be offering acrylic and watercolor sessions respectively.
Youth art camps are available for children as young as 4 with Preschool Play, Wee Glee and Lil’ Thespians. Elementary ages can learn to draw, travel the world through art, play with clay, hone their crafting skills and explore theatrical elements through Voice, Acting and Movement. For adventurous young performers seeking to deepen their experience in performance, DAC is offering four camps in both musical and non-musical theatre: “Wind in the Willows,” Roald Dahl’s “The Fantastic Mr. Fox,” “Scruff Turbo & the Children of the Future” and Monty Python’s “Spamalot Young@Part.”
Teenagers are one of our favorite age groups at DAC. We offer Spot On, a year-round program of song and dance. The highly regarded Girls’ Opportunities in Arts and Leadership (G.O.A.L.) and newer companion program Boys Art (BART) focus on arts development in ages 12 to 15. Teens 16 and older are eligible for adult workshops and are also invited to volunteer alongside faculty to share in the art-making experience.
Contact Sandra Butler, education director, for information about camps and scholarships availability at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn more about summer camps and adult workshops, exhibits and theater at www.durangarts.org.
Cristie Scott is executive director of the Durango Arts Center.