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Arts and Entertainment

Local arts and the economy: It’s all connected

Brenda Macon

You may have 99 problems but art isn’t one of them. There’s rent to pay, medical bills, the cost of eggs, the 4 feet of snow in front of your door that slid off of the roof, your dog’s limp, and your 30-year-old brother who won’t get off your sofa to pick up a shovel. Welcome to 2023!

I fully appreciate where you are coming from. It’s a good time to set intentions, so I’m going to put my wish out there: I wish that we could stop having to justify the economic importance of the arts.

When a lack of affordable housing and a soaring cost of living are covering us like wet bed sheets, it can feel counterintuitive to consider using community resources to fund the arts. But it makes sense and here’s why: If arts and culture are well supported in any community, there will be a healthy financial base for health and human services. A community energized by special events and a thriving art community will be more prosperous. Our local nonprofits have grown but have traditionally frugal roots. We are tight with a dime and we can make 20 out of one. This also applies to our patrons: people who come to the DAC, the Powerhouse, San Juan Symphony or to Music in the Mountains. These patrons “invest” their entertainment into community dollars. For the sake of numbers, an arts patron turns one dollar into 30 more dollars when they stay downtown to grab a bite, shop at a store, or make a reservation at the Strater for the night. Those 31 dollars are taxed, and that taxable money goes to the city and county coffers to spend on other important services such as road maintenance and snow removal services.

The arts are a driving industry, an essential part of our community. Without it, the house of cards that is our local economy is less stable.

The DAC had a part in helping to pass the 1-A ballot last November (see 1-A, “The tax locals don’t pay,”), and from time to time, we bite our nails while City Council debates the idea of reallocation of these funds to other things. We supported this plan because it was the best source of sustainable funding we could think of. Just imagine what we could do if we knew we had enough to pay our bills, support our staff and pay the $100,000 a year it takes to maintain our downtown building that is a creative refuge and community gathering spot for so many. Yet, there is no guarantee that tomorrow the funds will still be there for those organizations and artists who have hung their hat on this promising idea of an established source of arts and culture funding.

We are so grateful that we had a one-time allocation of lodger’s tax funds this year. The DAC used it to fix the theater roof that has been leaking for at least eight years. The children no longer have to huddle around cold rainwater buckets backstage, and this will certainly be appreciated this weekend during the Kid’s Snowdown Follies. Being safe and dry is a gift and we are forever grateful – or at least as long as the warranty on the roof lasts. In this pandemic, with mounting expenses, there isn’t much of a safety net for large-ticket repairs, and there is still plenty more to do.

Durango’s art institutions are good at multiplying things – dollars, ideas and inspiration.

If anyone asks you (especially our local leaders), please help us and those we serve by explaining that all arts and culture nonprofits are worthy investments for building a truly thriving community.

Coming up next at the Durango Arts Center:

  • Kid’s Snowdown Follies Variety Show: 7 p.m. today (Jan. 20); 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday. Tickets $15/$10.
  • Durango Snowdown Adult Follies Performances*: Jan. 27-Feb. 4, various show dates/times. (*DAC does not sell tickets for this event, check out snowdownfollies.org/tickets.)
  • Felony Ever After, A One-Woman Comedy Show by Mary Quinn: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 17 and 18. $10/$15.
  • Devise & Conquer Improv: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 24. $10/$15.
  • Silent Sunday Films with Adam Swanson live on piano: 2 p.m. Feb. 26. $10/$15.
  • “Reefer Madness: The Musical,” March 17-April 2, various showtimes. $15/$25.
  • Theater Season Passes: $70-$285.
Art Classes & Gallery Events
  • Pots & Pints: Every Friday from 4:30-6 p.m. $30.
  • Mud Day Madness, begins Mar. 27: 6:30-8:30 p.m. $325.
  • Figure Drawing with live model, begins Mar. 28: 6-8 p.m. Ten classes, $225.
  • Art of Painting, begins Mar 29: 10 a.m.-noon, $250.
  • Magical Art & Happiness adult art classes begin, Mar. 31: 6-8 p.m. Six weeks, $200.
  • The Artisan’s Market: open noon-6 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday.
  • Grand opening for new exhibit “Whimsical Wonderland”: 5-7 p.m. Jan 27. Free.

Questions? Email info@durangoarts.org.

Donate, become a member for discounts and to be a patron of the arts, register for classes, buy ticket and keep in touch at DurangoArts.org or https://linktr.ee/durangoartscenter.

Brenda Macon has been executive director of Durango Arts Center since 2018. Her background includes executive leadership training, business and art instruction. She celebrates the inspiration, joy and meaningful engagement that the arts bring to our town.