When the Durango Arts Center first began its Sweetheart of the Arts honor for people who have made significant contributions to the arts in our community, I thought they might quickly drain the pool of potential honorees. But six years in, I’m beginning to see that they’ve got an ocean full of candidates.
Our thriving arts community exists because so many people work to make it so. And it’s great that we take the time to say thank you to them.
This year’s honorees were jewelry designer, philanthropist and volunteer Carol Salomon; artist, musician, concert impresario and festival organizer C. Scott Hagler; and, for the first time ever, an organization, Durango Friends of the Arts. DFA has donated about $420,000 to artists and arts organizations since its founding in 1991. Caroline Todd, the organization’s first president, who is still active in DFA, accepted the award on the members’ behalf.
I know I have my work cut out for me when other guests say they don’t know how I can possibly capture the magic of an event, but I’ll give it my best shot.
The evening began in the Barbara Conrad Gallery, where the walls were hung with an exhibit featuring the honorees. Hagler is prolific, with ceramics, graphic design and representations of the many cultural offerings he has created since moving here, including St. Mark’s Recital Series, the Sacred Arts Festival, the Durango Bach Festival, the Durango Chamber Music Festival, leading to the creation of 3rd Ave. Arts.
Some of Salomon’s most beautiful necklaces were available for oohing and aahing, but we could probably have lined up many of the female guests to have an equally dramatic exhibit.
I delight in chronicling Durango Friends of the Arts, not only because of the programs the 130 or so members support every year, but because its fundraisers are among the most creative. It’s always fun for me to describe their events and their section included some of those chronicles as well as Todd’s carefully assembled scrapbooks of their activities.
Kudos go to the organizing committee, which included Terry Swan, Sydney Morris, Petra Hinke, Diane Panelli, DAC Executive Director Peggy Zemach, Jeannie Berger, Mary Puller and Lisa Mackey.
A huge spread donated by the Ore House, Norton Catering, Durangourmet Catering and the Lost Dog Bar & Lounge fueled partygoers. The DoubleTree Hotel donated its justly famous chocolate chip cookies, and the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory provided scads of decadent truffles for afters.
After lots of noshing and congratulating, the 160 or so guests moved into the theater to learn more about the honorees and fête them. A quartet of musicians from the San Juan Symphony greeted folks as they arrived, including cellist Katherine Jetter, violinists Nathan Lambert and Nolan Reed from the SJS Youth Orchestra member and Hayley Bair on viola.
Gary Ruggera had assembled a jazz quartet just for the evening that performed throughout the evening. Ruggera, who played the trumpet and flugelhorn, was joined by percussionist Jonathan Latta, guitarist Chad MacCluskey and double bassist Elizabeth Riordan. They were joined by the “Chanteuse of Second Ave.,” Alison Dance, whom many people have heard perform on summer nights on stage at her Cyprus Café. After charming the audience with Cole Porter’s “Night and Day,” and, of course, “My Funny Valentine,” she left the quartet to play in Salomon’s segment of the evening with “Baubles, Bangles and Beads” from “Kismet.”
Salomon is one of Durango’s great ladies – and her husband, Norman Broad, is no slouch. Swan, who once again ably served as master of ceremonies, joked that not only does he stand up straight and check his hair when Salomon comes in the room, his diction improves.
Terry Bacon did the honors for his dear friend Salomon, and he clearly thought a great deal about his remarks. He also reminded me of a great word for what Sweetheart of the Arts is – one can always count on a poet to come up with the perfect word – a sobriquet.
He ended by quoting Anne Morrow Lindbergh from her book Gifts from the Sea about grace and harmony. Since I can’t say it any better myself (hello, he’s a poet), I’ll share:
“Tonight we are honoring a woman who embodies this notion of harmony and grace, who has given boundlessly of herself and has contributed more to the arts in this community than we have a right to expect from anyone, and she does it because her central core is beauty and kindness and selfless generosity. Her inner core is grace.”
Bacon introduced Hagler by describing him as “a lover, giver, charmer, charismatic and incredibly kind man,” and he nailed it, if you also add phenomenally talented to the list. After playing him in “Embraceable You” by George Gershwin, the quartet turned the program over to Rochelle Mann, who came up with a clever way to honor her friend and collaborator of more than 30 years.
I mentioned earlier all kinds of ways Hagler has contributed to the arts in our community, but one of the biggest happened when he stepped in as interim executive director, without pay, for the DAC, bringing it back from the brink of closing its doors in 2009. Every single one of us who has ever enjoyed an exhibit, a class or a theater performance there owes him a debt of gratitude for that alone.
Using his name as an acronym, ably abetted by pianist Linda Mack and soprano Gemma Kavanagh in a truly hysterically sung punctuation (you probably had to be there), she talked about his being full of surprises (including being a certified Jazzercise instructor – who knew?), the ultimate collaborator, an optimistic, out-of-the-box thinker, a to-the-rescue kind of guy and truly humble man and performer who doesn’t care who gets the credit.
On Saturday, he got the credit.
And what more can I say about Durango Friends of the Arts that I haven’t already written? Todd, whom the quartet played on with “Nothing but Blue Skies,” told the stories of young people’s lives changed and improved through such programs as Debra Greenblatt’s Dumpster Beautification Project, which helps at-risk youth; Jeff Solon’s Music in the Schoolhouse; and Take the Lead, Suzy DiSanto’s ballroom dancing after-school program that has our young people, as Todd said, “learning to waltz in blue jeans.”
In its first year, DFA gave away $3,000 to six organizations. During its last round of granting, it received requests from 30 organizations totaling $90,000. Members raised and gave away $45,000 in 2013.
The evening ended on a high note – literally. Half and Half, a barbershop quartet consisting of two women, Ricci Dawson and Carleen Utterback, and two men, Matt Kramer and Niles Bruno returned for an encore after their début in 2013. After wowing the audience with “Witchcraft” and “Java Jive” before singing the honorees out with the event’s theme song, “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.”
As Karen Thompson said, this was a fun evening even for people who didn’t know the honorees.
The evening, which is an important fundraiser for the DAC, brought in around $26,000, some thanks to the wonderful homages to the honorees in the program, some thanks to sponsors, such as the Bank of Colorado, which stepped up for the second year in a row, and some, of course, to ticket sales.
Salomon, Hagler and DFA join previous honorees Stanton and Pat Englehart; the family of Morley and Arthur Ballantine; artist, teacher, volunteer and curator Mary Ellen Long; singer extraordinaire Kavanagh, and conductors, musicians and Fort Lewis College alumnae Mack and Mann; and Judith Reynolds, Maureen May and yours truly.
I guess it’s once a sweetheart, always a sweetheart, but if I learned one thing this year, I learned that it is way easier to be a former sweetheart than the one currently enduring, uh, enjoying the limelight.
Congratulations to all of you for a much-deserved honor.
Celebrating chocolaty decadent birthdays (but shouldn’t every birthday be chocolaty decadent?) are Kristi Nelson Cohen, Emily McCardle, Gisela Lott, Greg Jameson, Robin Brodsky, Ryan Dugan, Ryan Johnson, Rachael Bennett, Rowean Crader, Wyatt Bartel, Mitch Guffey, Bobby Kraayenbrink, Virginia Peterson, JoAnn Sanderfer, Randy Black, Gary Steinbach, Brigitte Wahl, Miriam Bonkowske, Brenda Nelson, Jerry Maxey, Lu Leidy and Lisa Schwinghammer.
While I’m thinking about the arts, it’s a good time to think about another way the arts give to our community. (I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count all the ways – I guess that’s another story.)
La Plata Open Space Conservancy held its 20th Annual Snowdown Wine & Spirits Tasting and Silent Auction on Jan. 30. And for the organization’s 20th outing, some new twists were added.
The first being the craft spirits tasting. Guests enjoyed potables created by Honeyville’s Honey House Distillery, Mancos Valley Distillery, Silverton Montanya Rum and Wood’s High Mountain Distillery from Salida. Durango Wine & Liquor also coordinated a tasting of regional wines, including vinos from Sutcliffe, Guy Drew, Two Rivers and Colterris wineries.
The event is the ultimate art sale. Each year, the conservancy selects a featured artist and work, and this year, it was Milt Beens. Other artists whose work was selected and who donated all or a portion of the proceeds included Sharon Abshagen, Gardner Catsman, Susan Giddings, Rebecca Koeppen, Lisa Mackey, Jane Mercer, Judy Morgan, MaryAnne Nelson and Linda Pampinella.
The auction was expanded to include three-dimensional pieces and photographs. Sales were up 15 percent over last year, and Beens’ “Animas Valley” was the highest selling piece at $725.
Silent auction items included outdoor gear, outdoor recreation and other goodies. Overall, the evening’s proceeds were up 20 percent over 2013, another sign the recession is easing.
The conservancy currently protects more than 25,500 acres in seven counties in Southwest Colorado and Northwest New Mexico, including both private property and lands owned by the city of Durango and town of Bayfield.
Not all of the lands protected are open to the public, but, as open space conservancy Executive Director Amy Schwarzbach says, we all benefit from the “protection of open space, wildlife habitat, working family farms and ranches and historical and archaeological resources in our community.”
In 2013, conservation easements protected more land around Turtle Lake and along the Animas River south of town. In 2014, the focus is on protecting hundreds of acres of critical wildlife habitat near Bayfield and an area with significant archaeological resources south of Durango.
Visit www.lposc.org to learn more about this organization that is working to save much of what we love about our area.
The pressure’s on for these anniversary couples who are celebrating both their romantic holidays at one go – Randy and Jeanine Puskas and Lynn and Jo Weger.
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