Whether it was helping to found the Durango Arts Center, teaching hundreds of locals to express themselves through art or creating her own award-winning art, Margaret Barge made a lasting mark on Durango’s thriving art scene. She died Wednesday at the age of 88.
Also known as “Marge,” she was one of a group of artists, including Marty Healy, Lenore Hamilton, Sky Spaulding and Geraldine Johnston, who founded the Durango Artists Association in the 1960s. The association eventually merged with the Durango Fine Arts Council in 1973 to become the Durango Arts Center.
“I wrote the history of the arts center once, and then they lost it, and then I never wrote it again,” she said in 2014. “One of the earliest locations was in Rio Grande Land, and we moved it from place to place depending on what was available.”
Barge continued to be active with the DAC for decades. She won the inaugural outing of the Four Corners Commission and a second commission award a few years later as well as several People’s Choice Awards.
Barge became interested in painting in the 1950s, painting while her youngest son napped. She enrolled at Fort Lewis College as a nontraditional student when he was in junior high school, graduating in 1974 with a degree in art and education.
“She was a marvelous teacher,” artist Maureen May said. “She taught many children who continued with art and continue working in it to this day. She was a true artist and kept on learning and pushing herself, trying new techniques.”
Barge taught children in an after-school program for 20 years and in every local elementary school. But her pupils ranged in age from 3 to 80, including aspiring painters attending Elderhostels at FLC and participating in Colorado Trail Foundation classes as well as at private classes in her home.
“I hope my students left with a real sense of ease of thinking about art and applying it to their life,” she said. “I’ve heard of lots of people who stopped before they ever started because of bad teachers.”
Based on her reputation as a teacher in Durango, her hopes were realized, May said.