Ascend the staircase in the Durango Arts Center, and enter the quiet, well-lit space of the Art Library. You may be surprised to see an unusual art exhibit hanging from its walls, above shelves lined with art-related books.
The Art Library, conceived by local artist Mary Ellen Long and former DAC Director Brian Wagner, began as a rough draft in 1998, when it coincided with the move of the center to its present location. The inaugural show was collaborative, featuring the collage work of Long and intaglio prints by Ron Fundingsland. During the next seven years, Long served as the sole curator of the Art Library exhibitions, which were primarily dedicated to books and their importance in our culture. In the early years, exhibits encompassed artists’ books, calligraphy, printmaking and photography.
Enlisting assistance from other artists to curate exhibits, Long eventually formed Friends of the Art Library in 2006. Known as FOAL, the group is currently comprised of volunteer artists representing various disciplines: Mary Ellen Long, Louise Grunewald, Deborah Gorton, Barbara Tobin Klema, Jane Steele and me.
The mission of the Art Library has expanded on its goal of art education beyond six exhibitions each year. A beneficial relationship with Fort Lewis College has resulted in the hosting of solo shows by its professors and adjuncts, which helps draw college students into DAC.
Along with featuring local, regional and national artists, FOAL coordinates with exhibiting artists and Sandra Butler – DAC’s education coordinator – to sponsor hands-on workshops in the center’s education studio. One important aspect of this creates opportunities for community members to access highly accomplished artists.
“Louise Grunewald’s 2009 workshop ‘Good Hues’ taught me a whole new way of approaching color to yield rich neutrals that had previously eluded me,” said Studio & artist Elizabeth Kinahan. “It opened up my eyes to a world of color mixing, and now I use that knowledge every time I sit down to paint.”
A visit to an Art Library exhibition can be enhanced by perusing its books, periodicals and other media given by generous donors. The acquisitions include out-of-print books and a selection from a former National Geographic photographer’s private collection. Membership to DAC comes with the privilege of checking out a book, while nonmembers may spend time exploring the material in the confines of the library, surrounded by art.
The final exhibits for 2014 feature two local artists. On view now through Nov. 1 is mixed media artist Deborah Gorton’s “Every Stitch Tells A Story.” Mariah Richstone will debut her photo collage work, “After,” with an opening reception from 5-7 p.m. on Nov. 7. Friends of the Art Library invites you to experience art in unusual forms, showcased in an intimate setting.
Enter the space. Be inspired.
email@example.com. Leesa Zarinelli Gawlik is a fiber artist and a Durango transplant after living abroad for 17 years.