Inspired by the crafting of the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act last year, Durango resident Daniel Hinds decided he wanted to paint a series of watercolors depicting the local watershed in its many seasons.
“It was making news, and it’s certainly a favorite area of mine,” he said.
But to turn the concept in reality, Hinds needed to purchase materials, focus his ideas and come up with a coherent plan.
He needed a boost, in other words.
That’s where the Durango Arts Center’s inaugural MicroGrants program came in. Hinds applied for one of the program’s 10 small grants for artists and was awarded with $250 last fall. The application process forced him to clarify his vision, the money helped him make it reality and the recognition gave him a confidence boost, he said.
“It felt like a big ‘Atta boy’ from the community,” Hinds said. “I think it’s a really great springboard for both gaining confidence, gaining legitimacy and feeling connected to the art community.”
The program is returning for its sophomore year of giving small cash grants to local and regional artists. The application process is open now; entries are due Jan. 30, and winners will be announced March 6.
The DAC will give a total of $5,000 to 10 local artists in the form of two $1,000 grants, four $500 grants and four $250 grants. Each grant also comes with a one-year membership to DAC.
DAC board member Tim Kapustka said the goal of the MicroGrants program is simple: Give artists boosts to help them continue to create and thrive in the Durango region. Investing directly in the artists, he said, will result in a more vibrant art scene.
“This is money that goes right to the artist,” Kapustka said. “It’s not filtered. There’s no agenda other than supporting the artists in this area.”
The program is the brainchild of Kapustka and DAC Executive Director Cristie Scott, who came up with the idea a year ago during a casual discussion at a party.
The program wasn’t budgeted, but that didn’t stop Scott and Kapustka; they were so amped that they spearheaded a fundraising effort and were able to raise $5,000 for the inaugural year.
“We just want to help artists stay afloat in little ways,” Scott said.
Nearly 30 artists applied for the first round of MicroGrants; a DAC panel reviewed the applications and awarded grants to 10 local artists.
One of the winners was Dan Groth, who used his $250 grant to help fund a week-long, mini-artist residency in Portland, Oregon. The residency allowed Groth to create a new batch of surrealistic pen-and-ink pieces and watercolor paintings.
“I really wanted to see what it was like to be a full-time artist for two weeks,” Groth said. “It was just a great, amazing, life-changing experience.”
Groth said the MicroGrants are a great way for local artists to get in on the ground level and hone their skills to apply for bigger opportunities.
The 2015 MicroGrants program is open to artists in La Plata, Archuleta, Montezuma, Dolores and San Juan counties in Colorado as well as San Juan and Rio Arriba counties in New Mexico. Artists working in visual, performing, musical, literary or video arts are welcome to apply.
Kapustka said the grant panel will be looking for proposals with clarity, a realistic scope and timeline and professional quality. He added that another benefit of the MicroGrants program is that it offers an opportunity for artists to sharpen their application skills.
Kapustka and Scott acknowledged that the grant amounts aren’t huge, but both said even micro amounts of support can go a long way.
“We need to help make this a fertile ground for artists to stay and thrive,” Kapustka said. “This is a small step.”