Generally, when one heads to Durango Community Recreation Center, it’s to get in a workout or a swim with the kiddos.
But not so fast.
On your way through the building, take a stroll to the east wing and check out the art that’s hanging up as part of the Community Art Display, which features exhibits of local artwork.
According to the rec center’s website, artists of all mediums are invited to display their artwork in the hallway. Artists must submit an application, and, if accepted, will have the space for a month.
Currently, Durango artist Dinah Swan is showing her pastels featuring wild animals. Her pieces will be up through the end of the month.
Swan got a bit of a late start in visual arts, although she’s always been an artist: A dancer and actress, she earned her Ph.D. in theater in fact, some of you may know her from her days teaching at Fort Lewis College.
It wasn’t until a painting class at Durango Arts Center needed one more student to sign up that Swan discovered that she really liked the medium.
“I said, ‘Well, great, I think that’ll be terrific fun.’ And so I signed up for the acrylic class,” she said. “And even though both of my parents were artistically talented, I had never had any training whatsoever. ... So in preparation for this class, I read Betty Edwards’ book, ‘Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.’ It convinced me that while not everyone would be very good as an artist, everyone could learn to copy images onto paper in some form or other, drawing or whatever, by training their brain. And so then I went to class and I did a painting of my dog.”
After that class, Swan continued with workshops and private lessons, ultimately deciding that working with pastels was what she’d do – and that landscapes weren’t necessarily her thing.
“I only work in pastels. I’ve gone through the other ones, but it just suits me,” she said. “I painted landscapes at first because that’s what everybody in the group did. And sometimes, I’d go outside with the plein air group, which was not very good for me – I would wander around for an hour not finding anything to paint. ... So I said I’m too distracted with nature, so I’m just going to stick to animals.”
While Swan’s professional track was a different form of art, the lessons she learned have carried over into her visual art.
“I have a Ph.D. in theater, and so I did have training in scene design and costume design, so I was dabbling around with shapes and colors for many years,” she said. “What a trip to find later in life that you can paint.”