It’s going to be nice when the first couple of sentences of an A&E story – or any story, for that matter – don’t start off with something to the effect of: “Because of the COVID-19 lockdown ...” or “In the face of COVID-19 restrictions ...”
We’re getting closer, folks.
An example of this is the reopening of Durango Arts Center, which has been shuttered since mid-March, pretty much when life as we all knew if went off the rails.
Now, DAC is coming back, albeit slowly, said Executive Director Brenda Macon, who added that the Arts Center was able to keep its staff going by jazzing up the place in downtown Durango during the shutdown, including a completely redone dance floor, a fresh coat of paint and a new custom-made kinetic sculpture by Jeff Wise in the DAC’s entrance.
“We have a really cool new sculpture we just installed and the building has never looked better. It’s so weird – we’ve been closed technically since March 13, since we were given the mandate to shut down,” she said. “But we got the PPP funding and another nice SBA loan, and so we’ve been able to keep our staff going. And they’ve all been working so hard behind the scenes so that when we’re ready to reopen, we’ve got it all lined up.”
Macon said that reopening DAC is going to be a bit of a slow roll to a full opening, a gift DAC has been given as a result of the funding the center has received, so the heat is off to hastily fling open the doors.
“It’s given us the ability to take this nice and slow and go with the pace that we feel is prudent with respect to COVID,” she said. “Just like lots of places, our staff, our constituents, our patrons – we have a lot of people who are immunocompromised and we just have to be really careful about what we’re doing.”
As part of the slower-paced reopening, the Arts Center will start by offering a Summer Theater & Arts Exploration Camp for middle and high school students starting July 6 and going through the end of the month.
There will be two two-week sessions that will be held in small groups to be able to maintain social distancing and other safety protocols. Groups of 20 kids will be split into two, with one group doing theater in the morning, and the other doing art. The groups will then switch in the afternoon.
“It’s a nice full-day camp offering so the working parents have an opportunity to get their work done during the day, and we’ll keep the kids good and busy and have them have a lot of fun,” Macon said. “We’re planning on doing quite a bit out of doors as well, because we’ve been told that is safer. But in the meantime, we’ve got all the social-distancing protocols, and the kids will be asked to wear masks and so will the teachers.”
After the camps are over at the end of July, next up for DAC in August will be a gallery show with the theme of COVID-19.
Macon said the center will be putting out a call to artists for the exhibit soon. She said the hope is for a multimedia event that’s very interactive.
“We’re excited to talk about, really what we’re trying to do is craft a narrative of what the power of creation really means in the face of the destruction of a pandemic era, and really highlighting that we are still amazingly creative human beings,” she said. “That’s where resilience in a community truly comes from – when you’re face to face with something as dire as COVID.”
The fact that DAC has diverse offerings for the community, including the camps, exhibits and other classes including theater and arts, has helped the Arts Center be able to weather the viral storm of the past few months where other arts organizations around the region and the country have not been as lucky, Macon said.
“The whole thing with arts organizations right now is just staying relevant to the community and doing things that matter to people the most. If you don’t pivot and adjust in this time, you might not make it,” she said, adding that every day, there is news of places closing their doors for the upcoming season or even for good.
“What I want is for the DAC to be recognized as a place for celebration and community and connection – we want everyone to know that we’re their home for creative expression and experiences and education,” Macon said. “So when you talk about the resilience of a community in the face of something like this, that’s the importance of the DAC, that we’re the hub, we’re the home for that.”