Back to school

DAC art classes are tailored to busy adults

Joan Duff paints using watercolors while taking part in a beginning painting class at the Durango Arts Center on Monday. “The thing about watercolors is you get these surprises and you embrace them,” said instructor Christine Trout. Enlarge photo

STEVE LEWIS/Herald

Joan Duff paints using watercolors while taking part in a beginning painting class at the Durango Arts Center on Monday. “The thing about watercolors is you get these surprises and you embrace them,” said instructor Christine Trout.

In an attempt to disprove the “old dog, new tricks” adage – as it applies to the world of art, anyway – the Durango Arts Center is offering an abundance of adult art classes and workshops this winter and spring.

Yet there is more than a little truth to the cliche because it can be harder to learn anything, including art, as an adult. Barriers to adult education can be broken down into three categories: physical, attitudinal and structural. In addition, adults often face challenges that are not experienced by younger people. Unlike children, adult learners must juggle the education of their children with the cost of their own education as well as keeping a full-time job.

Attempting to combat those obstacles is Sandra Butler, Education Coordinator at the DAC. By offering adult arts programming, she hopes to inspire a somewhat reluctant population.

First, the physical barriers, manifested primarily through the lack of leisure time many adults have because of work and childcare responsibilities. Butler said she’s found that for men, in particular, work demands interfere with non-job-related education. Others cannot physically sit still and concentrate for two hours or lack the patience to practice their art.

Adult learners also may be timid and nervous. Unlike kids, who tend to love and be proud of whatever they create, adults know the voice of the inner critic all too well.

“I receive calls from adults interested in classes, but they are so nervous that they won’t be good enough,” Butler said.

Then there are structural barriers to learning, such as lack of transportation, limited local learning opportunities, the lack of facilities and equipment for implementing programs and the lack of necessary qualifications.

But with newly acquired space upstairs at the Arts Center since the Children’s Museum moved to its new Camino del Rio home, Butler has effectively scratched any structural barriers from the list.

The goal of the new adult art offerings are threefold. First and foremost, Butler hopes to attract new artists and emerging artists. To that end, Saturday workshops are scheduled with offerings like dying wool, origami albums and crochet. Here, the focus is on learning a new technique. A one-day time commitment, as opposed to six weeks, makes the workshops appealing to adults with a limited schedule who still desire to learn something new.

“It’s good to get out of one’s comfort zone,” Butler said.

Another purpose is to offer professional development for experienced artists. Classes such as painting portraits with Peter Campbell or Linda Smith’s colored pencil class require previous experience with oil paintings or drawing know-how. These classes not only provide growth opportunities but create a social environment where artists can gather and ideas can take shape.

Finally, Butler wants to support local artists.

“There are amazing artists in this town, and it is hard to make it. Giving these working artists a chance to teach and expose their talent helps artists network,” she said.

For the purposes of the DAC classes, an adult artist is defined as anyone 15 years or older. By this age, teens possess the dexterity and brain power needed to devote to the chosen medium.

As an exhibiting sculptor herself, with an upcoming show at the DAC with Joan Russell, Butler is a member of the arts community and well-versed with artists of many different genres. She is, however, open to new proposals for new art classes.

“Variety is important,” she said.

Coming Feb. 15: adult art education from the perspectives of students and teachers.

Karin L. Becker teaches composition at Fort Lewis College. Reach her at becker_K@fortlewis.edu.

A close-up of Duff’s lily watercolor. Enlarge photo

STEVE LEWIS/Herald

A close-up of Duff’s lily watercolor.

Instructor Christine Trout, left, and Janet Oliver evaluate Oliver’s watercolor painting of Sleeping Ute Mountain during Monday’s class at the Durango Arts Center. Enlarge photo

STEVE LEWIS/Herald

Instructor Christine Trout, left, and Janet Oliver evaluate Oliver’s watercolor painting of Sleeping Ute Mountain during Monday’s class at the Durango Arts Center.