Wanting to focus on her own artwork, Crystal Hartman looked for and found someone to take over management of Durango Open Studios, the tour of local art and artists she began in 2009. Arts Perspective magazine Publisher Denise Leslie stepped up and took the reins from Hartman, and this years version is expanded to include Durango, Bayfield, Ignacio and Mancos.
Beginning Oct. 15-16 and continuing the next weekend, the tour is expected to draw people from all over the region.
But theres more. A new program Leslie initiated in conjunction with DOS will add extra value and significance to the agenda. The Open Door Arts Education Fund was created to fill a void left by Colorados budget deficit, from which the arts have not escaped casualty. This year, the state imposed a massive net reduction of funding for schools, with the possibility of even greater cuts on the horizon. Around the nation, states have been cutting items such as after-school programs and extracurricular activities, including art and music.
As a result of such funding shortfalls many elementary, middle, and high school visual arts educators have voluntarily used their own money to buy art supplies for their classrooms.
To help them out, ODAEF will earmark a portion of revenue from Open Studio registration fees and from corporate sponsorships of the event. This is clearly one of those situations that can be called a win-win. Artists, visitors to their studios, sponsors of the event and the teachers and their students all will benefit from the concept.
I wanted to develop a way for Durango Open Studios to give back to the community, foster emerging artists and address some of the issues regarding the economy and the cuts for arts education in the school, Leslie said.
The concept is a simple one; a committee will review letters requesting funds on a semi-annual basis. Members of the review committee will be selected by ODAEF and will represent school districts from Bayfield, Durango, Ignacio and Mancos.
Kate Carr, a teacher at Riverview Elementary School, said shell be one of the first in line.
This sounds fantastic, she said. We are always trying to be creative with funding and resources. We would love to take advantage (of ODAEF) as much as possible.
As for the state budget cut, Carr said things could have been much worse.
We have to thank our community for supporting our schools and passing the mill levy last November. Without it, we would be in a much worse place, and programs like the arts would definitely be on the chopping block.
The first round of awards will be presented at the Durango Arts Center on Sept. 9 during the reception for the Open Studios taster exhibition, which will feature artists participating in the Open Studios Tour.
While the concept still is incubating, Leslie is optimistic about the programs success. The hope is to create a slush fund, as she puts it, to help with costs for art projects teachers conduct throughout the school year. The money will be accessible without a lot of red tape to go through. Shell require a letter explaining the project, why its important, and how much money is needed. With a stipulation that the money must be used for an arts project, teachers also will be asked to provide a photo or let ODAEF see the project(s) or visit the class while they are working on it.
At present, the total amount available is an unknown and depends on how much will be accumulated from the Open Studio Tour.
Well do our best to give them what we can, Leslie said.
Stew Mosberg is a freelance writer and has written about art regionally and nationally. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.