JOSH STEPHENSON/Durango Herald
JOSH STEPHENSON/Durango Herald
With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, volunteers and staff members at Durango Arts Center are busily preparing for the Sweethearts of the Arts gala, its annual signature fundraising event in its fifth year.
Saturday, the center will honor three local art lovers; Ann Butler Maureen May and Judith Reynolds, for their longtime and far-reaching contributions to the arts. Each of these talented women offers a unique voice to our area’s cultural climate: Butler and Reynolds are regular arts and culture writers for The Durango Herald, and May is best known as a prolific visual artist.
“I appreciate how each of these women has helped us think differently about our world,” said DAC Executive Director Peggy Zemach. “Ann Butler entertains us with her witty columns about all our goings-on with humor and clever insight. Maureen May is a talented actress and multimedia artist. Judith Reynolds, a talented cartoonist and reviewer of the arts, is an overall Renaissance woman.”
In addition to their roles as arts advocates, these women share another attribute – humility. Each was hesitant when approached by the DAC to receive this year’s honor. None claim public recognition as a desired consequence of their contributions; giving of one’s talents has its own intrinsic rewards.
“It’s crazy to honor me when I just get to have so much fun and call it work,” said Butler, a full–time staff writer and columnist for the Herald. “The fact that I can look behind the curtain, interview artists and performers and find out what’s gone into a piece or performance, and share it with my readers, makes this one of the coolest gigs around.”
Reynolds, an art historian, political cartoonist and contributor to the Herald, echoed Butler’s sentiment,
“First of all, I don’t deserve the title ‘Sweetheart of the Arts.’ I could name dozens of people in the community who should be honored this year and in the next decade,” she said.
May is a visual artist and thespian who also plays a mean fiddle, and works a day job as a paralegal. She said she was bewildered at the DAC’s choice of her as a Sweetheart. She also serves on the center’s board of directors.
Regardless of the reluctant Sweethearts’ own feelings about their honor, accolades continue to gather around them. Terry Swan, DAC board president and master of ceremonies for the event noted their collective humility.
“Not much ego can be found in any of them,” Swan said.
He also recognizes the important roles each plays in the community.
“Ann has done so much for the nonprofit art community with the attention she gives to our organization, keeping the ‘neighborhood’ appraised of our events. Durango is privileged to have an arts critic of Judith’s caliber in a town our size. Maureen has an established reputation as a wonderful and avant-garde artist, and a fabulous actor.”
Butler, May and Reynolds join the ranks of past Sweethearts Stanton Englehart, Morley Ballantine/The Ballantine Family, Mary Ellen Long, Rochelle Mann, Linda Mack, Mona Wood-Patterson and Gemma Kavanagh.
Swan has been working with a volunteer committee since July to plan the evening’s festivities and is excited about this year’s event.
“The committee has been very focused on broadening the event’s appeal from simply another fundraiser to becoming one of the most anticipated events of Durango’s social calendar,” he said.
The Sweethearts of the Arts gala will begin in the Barbara Conrad Gallery with appetizers and wine to celebrate the opening of an exhibition of work by Butler, May and Reynolds that will be displayed through Feb. 16. The exhibition includes several of Butler’s “Neighbors” columns, enlarged and mounted on the wall; a selection of May’s paintings, drawings and monoprints in various styles from realism and abstraction to more conceptual works; and a retrospective (of sorts) spanning Reynold’s artistic career including an ink drawing she made at age 17, drawings, political cartoons, her signature self-portrait caricature and perhaps some ceramic works from her college days.
The party will move to the DAC Theatre, where each of last year’s Sweethearts – Mann, Mack, Wood-Patterson and Kavanagh – will perform in honor of this year’s class. Rumor has it that this is not to be missed. After the performances and presentations of the honorees, the event will move back to the gallery for chocolate desserts, coffee and mingling with the Sweethearts and the rest of us lovers of the arts.
Jules.Masterjohn@gmail.com. Jules Masterjohn is a freelance writer and is the editor and publisher of Stanton Englehart: A Life on Canvas.