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Arts and Entertainment

Art education impacts quality of life

Brenda Macon

For many Durango kids, happy childhood memories have their roots at the Durango Arts Center. If you’re not a kid or a parent, then be glad that someone is teaching the next generation to be well-rounded, articulate, interesting people. We serve as many as 1,000 kids a year. Characteristics befitting people who grow up with access to art, music, theater, dance and so on include confidence, intuitiveness, compassion and great aptitudes for problem-solving. Such people share a deep resonance for meaningful experiences that connect and integrate diverse interests.

For more than 20 years, second- to 12th-graders have been enjoying the DAC after school classes. Students tap into their creative power in visual art and theater and make lifelong friendships. Like soldiers of inspiration, DAC instructors once traveled to the district elementary and middle schools each day, cars packed with art supplies. The pandemic required a pivot entirely to our downtown location. It didn’t seem to matter to the kids – they found their way to us without a problem. Now we provide the perfect place to make a big happy, gluey, glittery, fabulous mess.

“I’ve seen how art improves their motivation, concentration, confidence and teamwork,” said Deena Carney, the DAC’s visual art education and gallery director, who has been teaching for 26 years. “Our classes make fun a priority. Our students build skills and explore a variety of media, and they do it in a collaborative and nonjudgmental environment where they feel safe. This is so important.”

All supplies are provided and she is glad to offer need-based scholarships. Deena is a patient soul who never gets ruffled by a mess or by a student having a bad day. Always equipped with a patient smile and a warm greeting for each child, she cares deeply about sharing her love of art with them so they can experience the joy of it, too.

Aren’t kids getting all of this in school? Sadly, no. Because of the state Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, Colorado public school students are being allocated less each year for the creative classes many adults grew up with: art, choir, band, theater, dance, orchestra. The National Institutes of Health and other agencies have shown that a correlation exists between having access to creative pursuits and increased optimism, a reduction in anxiety and overall well-being. Arguably, cutting state funding will only exacerbate the mental health issues plaguing our post-pandemic generation and they need art now more than ever. The DAC is gladly picking up the slack and making sure that current and future generations have access to these important experiences. It’s imperative that we continue inspiring young people to build, create and share. It’s important for their future – and for ours.

In the theater
  • “The Odd Couple, the Female Version”: 7:30 p.m. Sept. 29-30; 2 p.m. Sept. 30-Oct. 1. Tickets $20/$10.
  • Adult Improv Showcase Class: Four weekly sessions begin Sep. 27, 6:30-8:30 p.m.; show date Oct. 20. $100/$60 for student, teacher and service discount.
  • 10 Minute Play Festival: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 13-14; 2 p.m. Oct. 15.
  • Silent Sundays with Swanson: 2 p.m. Oct. 22.
  • Rocky Horror Show: 7 p.m. Oct. 27-29, 31 and Nov. 3-5; 10 p.m. Oct. 28 and Nov. 4.
Art classes and gallery events
  • Call to Artists for submissions: The Night Gallery, A Terrifyingly Creative Community Exhibit, see website to submit work.
  • Artisan’s Market: open noon-6 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday.
  • Adult and youth art and theater classes fall online registrations now open.
  • After school art classes for second to 12th grade students. Scholarships available.

Email info@durangoarts.org Buy tickets, donate, become a member and register for classes at DurangoArts.org.

Brenda Macon has been executive director of Durango Arts Center since 2018.