Change is afoot. Not just in the shift to cooler nights and the inevitable chime of back-to-school bells, but also within the creative walls of the 41-year-old Durango Arts Center.
I recently – as in nine days ago – stepped into the role of executive director of DAC; a position that is as diverse as it is demanding, as challenging as it is rewarding. While my first week on the job had me a little bug-eyed from absorbing the details and scope of leading such an important community organization, it ended quite beautifully with a reception Friday for our current, visual-art offering of contemporary photography in the Barbara Conrad Gallery, “Exhibit 970: Generations.” As I sketched out my notes for a welcoming address to the show, I realized this would be the first moment I formally greeted a crowd and introduced myself with my new title, and then it hit me: I have arrived at my dream job.
Ever since I decided to pursue a career in arts management, I have focused on the DAC executive director position as a long-term goal. I grew up in Durango, and while I left for college, travel and to peek beyond the curtain of a small mountain town, I always kept the notion in the back of my mind that, one day, I would return home, and DAC would be an ideal place to blend my passion for the arts, civic engagement and nonprofit management.
Arts management is one of those curious fields that requires a Swiss Army knife of administration – one that melds organizational and financial skills, knowledge of artistic disciplines, an awareness of community dynamics, a commitment to education and sensitivity to the artist and the artistic process.
You may wonder what is so dreamy about analyzing departmental budgets and espousing the importance of arts and culture at local forums. I truly believe Durango gains value from the arts: cultural, social and economic value. DAC, with its influential past and bright future, is a swirling hub for it all.
While the beauty of our natural landscape is enough to charm and fulfill us recreationally, it can also be said that Durango holds a particular cultural flair that distinguishes itself from any other town.
We are home to a growing populous of working artists, those who gravitate here to work and learn, collaborate and innovate. We are moving ahead with a masterful, long-overdue concept to re-imagine the Animas riverfront with STEAM Park, and The Durango Herald has amassed thousands of comments regarding a recent public-art installation. Fold that excitement in with more than 30 galleries and DAC welcoming more than 35,000 visitors each year, and it is clear our cultural identity is alive and well.
So, it’s a very exciting time for the arts in Durango, and I cannot convey just how thrilled I am to join in.
I will close with one last recollection I made at Friday night’s opening. I am by no means an accomplished public speaker and typically endure some round of nerves before stepping in front of a crowd, but on that night, I was completely free of butterflies or any tremble in my hands. Perhaps because, deep down, I knew I had been not only waiting for that moment, but also preparing for a very long time.
And I am finally ready.
Cristie Scott is executive director of the Durango Arts Center. She is also proud chairwoman of the city’s Public Art Commission.