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Community arts center in Ignacio seeking permanent home

Dancing Spirit wants to move into corner lot, be more visible
Raymond Dunton looks at the pottery selection available for purchase in Dancing Spirit Community Art Center in Ignacio in 2019. (Durango Herald file)

It started in 2010 as a small artists’ cooperative and gallery space in downtown Ignacio.

Today, Dancing Spirit Community Arts Center offers a variety of art classes, after-school activities, healing ceremonies and even a pottery wheel that is accessible for people who have disabilities.

What the arts center doesn’t have is a location that is visible on Goddard Avenue, Ignacio’s main thoroughfare. It’s also short on space.

So the nonprofit center’s board of directors and staff members are trying to raise money to buy the old American Legion Hall in downtown Ignacio, which would become the center’s fifth location in its 11-year history, as well as what they hope would be its permanent home.

“The center is home for teaching and healing, and we’re growing into what the community wanted us to be,” said Kasey Correia, an accomplished ceramic artist and the center’s executive director, as well one of the four founding members of the center.

Kasey Correia, executive director of Dancing Spirit Community Arts Center, stands in front of the sculpture “Reaching for Your Inspiration,” which she helped design. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

The center offers after-school programs, take-home art kits, adult workshops, private studio space, pottery classes and healing through art sessions.

The gallery became a nonprofit in 2012 and has moved to various buildings on Goddard Avenue, where it was visible to walk-in and drive-by traffic.

The center has been located since 2015 in Ignacio’s ELHI Community Center, a former elementary school building that has been converted into an education and cultural center. While only a half block off Goddard Avenue, it isn’t easy to see while driving through town.

“The gallery is what suffered the most,” Correia said of the move off of Ignacio’s main drag. And without the pool of artists who sold their work at the gallery, the pool of potential teachers for art classes also was reduced.

The former American Legion building is on the southeast corner of Goddard Avenue and Pioneer Street, and today is used as a warehouse for a commercial kitchen supply company. Also on the corner are Ignacio Community Library and Farmer’s Fresh Market.

“We could support each other, and help support our town,” Correia said of the idea for partnerships with the other entities. “It’s a building that used to be a community gathering place. We want to bring it alive again.”

Kasey Correia, director of the Dancing Spirit Community Arts Center, talks about a welding sculpture created by Ignacio High School students. Ceramic hands created at the center are attached to it. (Melanie Brubaker Mazur/Durango Herald file)

In addition to education and performance space, community murals, a stage and space for art shows would be featured.

The building has 4,000 square feet of cavernous space, as well, while the arts center is currently spread out through several classrooms in ELHI.

An expanded arts center could also help anchor the new Ignacio Creative District, a geographically defined area of culture and economic activity. Colorado has 23 creative districts that are certified by Colorado Creative Industries, a branch of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade.

Certified districts get access to national promotional opportunities, technical and professional assistance, access to capital, marketing support, and connections with the Southwest Creative District corridor.

Margie Coates, another noted local artist and an instructor at the center, said she would love to have expanded space to teach pottery to her students.

The pottery wheel available for users with disabilities was purchased for a student who uses a wheelchair. She had difficulties operating a traditional foot pedal on a pottery wheel, so thanks in part to a grant from the La Plata Electric Association Round Up Foundation, the center purchased the wheel with a hand pedal. It’s the only publicly available piece of equipment of its kind in the Four Corners, Correia said.

Dancing Spirit has raised $10,000 of $100,000 needed to use as a down payment on the building, and the center is trying to secure a U.S. Department of Agriculture 40-year loan to pay for the rest of the purchase. Multiple agencies and businesses in Ignacio have written letters of support for the loan.

If the new home becomes a reality, Correia joked it will be “Kasey’s last big hurrah.” She is ready to retire from the day-to-day operation of the center and thinks a new director is needed to move it into the future.

After more than a decade of serving as a town trustee, Ignacio Chamber of Commerce board member and driving force behind the formation of the ELHI center, she’s ready to focus more on her artwork and spend time with her family.

“We could be the heartbeat of the town square,” she said of an expanded facility. “I hope the community can help us make it happen.”

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