Pulling out the creative stops

LUCAS HESS/Durango Herald - Durango - 04-14-12
I am very excited to be using this, says Dutch Rosseau after attempting to successfully make his way through the newest station that imitates the process to start and run a power plant at Durango Discovery Museum. The new station was officially unveiled to the public during the Spring Benefit event Steampunk Stomp on Saturday. Dutch is the son of Sarah and Matt Rosseau. Enlarge photo

LUCAS HESS/Durango Herald - Durango - 04-14-12 "I am very excited to be using this," says Dutch Rosseau after attempting to successfully make his way through the newest station that imitates the process to start and run a power plant at Durango Discovery Museum. The new station was officially unveiled to the public during the Spring Benefit event Steampunk Stomp on Saturday. Dutch is the son of Sarah and Matt Rosseau.

The title of the event – the Steampunk Stomp – was just enough to befuddle your Neighbors columnist. But when someone described steampunk to me as how the Victorians imagined the future would be, ā la Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, I got it.

And so, too, did the attendees at the event, a fundraiser for the Durango Discovery Museum that was held Saturday night. My fellow guests invented, thrift-shopped and otherwise scrounged the components for some seriously cool outfits. It was truly a sight to behold.

A few favorites? My colleague Karla Sluis, who created wings with silver plastic knives for feathers with a centerpiece of clocks and cogs. (Cogs were a popular motif.) She said it was “because time flies.” She wore the wings on a blue-and-black lace corset accessorized with a black feather hat sporting a sparkling pin that used to be her great-grandmother's, so a true piece of Victoriana sealed the deal.

One young man glued metal washers in a pattern on his tie, many sported some kind of futuristic goggles – often on top of their head or hat, because they were difficult to see through – and many more went Victorian with a twist.

Haz Said, who handles marketing communications and visitor experience at the museum, came complete with a black fez and walking stick looking mysteriously like an adventurer to remote foreign lands.

And Andy and Abby Snow, the owners of Nini's Taqueria, were splendid, he in a red plaid kilt and sporran with a doohickey (boy, have I been waiting a long time to use that word) he created with a gun barrel found at a thrift shop and a lot of bits and pieces from his shed, including a bicycle horn, then spray painted gold. She took a modernistic look at Victorian, with a wide belt reminiscent of a corset, dramatic large picture hat and elegant walking stick.

Beth Lamberson floated the idea of a Steampunk Snowdown for 2015 – the next year up for a theme choice. I like it. It's a great combination of honoring our Victorian heritage and a theme that's wide open for creativity.

That's also why it was a perfect theme for the museum, with its equal parts historical heritage, opened in 1893, at the end of the Victorian era, and the way it has always been looking forward, both then and now.

Said tells me they're looking at a Steampunk event for 2013 in conjunction with the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, and because steampunk is an actual craze in some parts of the country, including the Pacific Northwest, it could be quite a draw.

The Strater Hotel's 1887 Catering did its usual wonderful job.

The menu included an elaborate display of gourmet cheeses and juicy, ripe fruit; chopped salad with Turtle Lake sprouts, field mix, hard-cooked eggs, roasted corn, black beans, tomato and jalapeņo ranch dressing; New York strip sliders with chili-cilantro aioli and fontina cheese; bite-sized Sunnyside Meats bratwursts with a dollop of Honeyville spicy mustard; shrimp satay skewers with curry-peanut sauce; and tuna tartar with ginger-lemon oil and wasabi in a spoon. A uniformed chef prepared Asian noodles with chicken, pork, hoisin sauce and julienned veggies. And for sweets, how about bite-sized brownies topped with peanut mousse, a Meyer lemon-vanilla panacotta with pomegranate drizzle and chocolate-covered strawberries?

Guests at the party were the first to try out the museum's new exhibit. I'm happy to say I only blew up the plant once while turning on the generators and synchronizing them in a simulation of how the old Powerhouse worked. The exhibit uses touch screens, but is set up in a display using real, historical knobs and dials, including some from the Powerhouse's own heyday as an electricity plant.

Julie Levy was on hand from BP America in garb evocative of the Wild West – another steampunk theme – because her company funded the exhibit.

Every fundraiser at the Discovery Museum reminds me a bit of a three-ring circus, with something happening around every corner. The Steampunk Stomp was no exception.

Young women with glowing hula hoops and twirling lights over here, a tarot-card reader over there ... hey, what's that across the way? A bona fide flash mob dancing to Gotye's “Somebody that I Used to Know.” Way cool. Oh, and there's a chef making Asian noodles around the corner, a silent auction in the Spark Shop –well, it was a fundraiser, after all.

I've heard people say they don't understand why the museum is “always” raising money. The museum doesn't receive local, state or national funding for operations, and the staff and board understand that a place whose whole mission is to inspire “Eureka!” moments in visitors of all ages requires rethinking and reinventing yourself frequently. The new exhibit is a case in point.

The museum is in the middle of meeting a challenge grant from the Gates Family Foundation in Denver. If the board and staff raise $600,000, the foundation will kick in $100,000, much of which will go to spiffing up old exhibits – and I mean old only in that they've been up for about a year – and creating new ones. They're already almost half way there, which is exciting to see.

My personal feeling is that the Discovery Museum at the Powerhouse is already one of our community's most valuable gems, and it's only going to get better.

If you'd like to learn more, visit www.durangodiscovery.org. And if you haven't stopped by to check it out, what are you waiting for?

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Waking up to fresh snow on the La Plata Mountains for their birthdays in the middle of April are Eric Copeland, Christopher Leach, Michael Benner, Angelia Cook, Thomas McCullough, Robert Wagner, Dean Brown, Ida Kolb, Sophia Raymond, Duane Smith (who, based on current performance, apparently isn't going to enjoy the Cubs winning the World Series for his birthday yet again this year), Al Studer, Gary Conrad, Karin Kingsley, Beth Green and Allan Green.

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I'm continuing to hear great things about Mountain Middle School, a project-based learning charter school that is coming to the end of its first school year.

As a charter school, it too, needs to raise money for facilities and all the expenses that go with being a start-up.

On Friday, they're holding a fundraiser that anyone can enjoy. It's called Burgers and Books, and it works like this. Go to www.mountainmiddleschool.org and click on the Wendy's coupon. Print it, and take it to Wendy's between 5 and 8 p.m. Ten percent of all sales to folks with the coupon will go to the school.

And don't pick your food up via the drive-thru – inside the restaurant, they'll be having a used book sale. Burgers and books. Get it?

Hydi Verduzco's son Easton told his mom that he'd heard the seventh grade was supposed to be the worst, and he's loving it at MMS.

I was talking to her at East by Southwest's 10th anniversary party Sunday night. She and her husband, Sergio, had a lot to celebrate, including their new(er) Golden Triangle's success.

The couple's older son, Trevin, is a junior at Animas High School, which is in its third year with project-based learning. As part of the Verduzcos' contribution to healthy eating at the schools, they provide bento-box lunches one day a week at each school for $6 – essentially at their cost.

The party was great – live jazz music, sushi, sushi and more sushi, mussels, satays, potstickers, wonton-wrapped shrimp ... and time for the couple's many longtime customers and friends to wish them well and many more years.

They used to hold this party every year, but in recent years, they have put on extraordinary meals as fundraisers for areas hit hard by natural disasters, such as Haiti and Japan instead.

It was great to enjoy a reprise to celebrate their first decade in Durango.

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Holding tight onto their umbrellas so they don't pull a Mary Poppins for their anniversaries are George and Aurora Rose, Barry and Phyllis Stone and Bill and Marianne Griffin.

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