It felt like things were finally starting to get back to some semblance of normalcy in 2022 : Going to movies and shows didn’t feel super-weird as it had the last couple of years because of COVID-19, and the overall mood felt a little lighter.
And so it was a fun year for arts and entertainment, and we saw so many cool things people are doing locally.
So, without further ado, here are some of the year’s highlights (in no particular order). And here’s to a fun 2023 ...
It’s always amazing to find out what’s going on right up the road that you had no idea was happening. In this case, it’s Dexter, a 7-year-old Brittany spaniel who lives in Ouray. After being hit by a car as a puppy, Dexter learned to walk upright on his back legs, and as a result has become a social media rock star. He was in Durango with his mom, Kentee Pasek, this fall to march in the Durango Cowboy Gathering Parade.
It’s generally not great to be in an episode of “Unsolved Mysteries” – you’re either missing (or worse) or you’re talking about someone who’s missing (or worse). In the case of artist and 2017 Fort Lewis College graduate Kayla Shaggy, though, her appearance on Episode 5 of the Netflix reboot of the iconic show was pretty cool. Shaggy was commissioned to provide artwork – and appears in – Episode 5, “Paranormal Rangers.” Viewers are introduced to Navajo Rangers Stan Milford and Jonathan Dover, who in 2000 were assigned to the “Paranormal beat”: The two were tasked with looking into reports of possible Bigfoot, UFO and shapeshifter sightings and other paranormal activity on the 27,000-square mile Navajo Reservation.
“I love the show, I watched it a lot as a kid, and I really like the paranormal segments, especially the art. So getting to be a part of that, what a great experience,” she said.
Durango High School students got glamorous this year – with newspapers. Students in Kendra Bonnell’s Advanced Fashion Design class were given a challenge right out of the gate when class began in January: Pair up (or triple up) and create unique designs using newspaper. “I like to start each semester with an engaging/creative introductory project,” Bonnell said. “Because these students were in advanced fashion, I wanted to introduce them to the beginning stages of draping and have them access background knowledge from their previous fashion course by applying the elements and principles of design into their runway pitches for each outfit.
Fort Lewis College grads – and sisters – screened their debut feature film at Durango Independent Film Festival, held March 2-6. Sisters Isabelle (2019 graduate) and Annie Farrell (2020 graduate) screened “Route One North” on the big screen. It’s the story of two sisters who set off to track down their long-absent father after their mother refuses to give 16-year-old Bee (Annie Farrell) permission to marry her military boyfriend. In addition to playing the lead role, Annie Farrell co-produced the film as well, and Isabelle wrote and directed. The movie was shot in and around the girls’ hometown of West Windsor, New Jersey, and wrapped just as the COVID-19 pandemic began in earnest in 2020.
Don’t let it be said that Durango doesn’t enjoy its live performances. In 2022, two new theater companies took to the stage: Durango Arts Repertory Theater opened in March at Durango Arts Center with its production of “True West,” and Durango Theatreworks kicked off its summer season with “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” And it’s been full steam ahead for both.
Durango Bluegrass Meltdown returned after two years away because of the pandemic. Now in its 26th year, the Meltdown, like just about everything else fun and social, was off for two years thanks to the pandemic.
“The artists are just chomping at the bit to get back on the road – all of them are very, very excited to play festivals and just play live music in front of real audiences again,” said Jenny Hirt, the Meltdown’s board president. “We have a couple of artists, like AJ Lee & Blue Summit, for example, they were in Pagosa last fall, but they were one of the artists that were playing a lot of virtual concerts and stuff during the pandemic; everybody was just trying to keep up their fan base.”
Sorrel Sky Gallery has seen a lot in the 20 years since it opened on Main Avenue in downtown Durango: It opened amid the Missionary Ridge Fire, survived an armed robbery, the recession and the COVID-19 pandemic.
And for owner Shanan Campbell, hitting the two-decade milestone is nothing to sniff at.
“Twenty years later, it’s kind of just been like one interesting learning opportunity as I like to call them, after the next,” she said. “So when you say (20 years) is a big deal, it really is because the art business is not an incredibly easy business.”
Rare is the person who emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic unscathed. Whether being sick themselves, taking care of (or losing) sickened loved ones or dealing with all of the social, educational and financial fallout, just about everyone everywhere suffered through the unsettled past few years.
Then there are the front-line health care workers who dealt with – and are still dealing with – the worst the pandemic had to offer.
How do you honor those who have sacrificed so much in service for others?
For Durango photographer Todd Macon, that answer came in a conversation he had with his friend Dr. Kim Yeargin, who works at Mercy Hospital, about how things were going, and he offered the portraits as a morale boost. Those ultimately become “The Be Seen Project,” which features 20x16 black-and-white portraits. The portraits were taken in a space in a medical library Mercy offered for the project. Macon set up a backdrop, a studio strobe and a stool. Medical personnel were invited to sign up online for a time to have their photos taken, and they would meet with Macon for at least a half an hour. He would end up photographing 27 people.
If you spend enough time reading Stephen King’s stories, you’ll soon discover his characters actually eat: Not gonna lie – the fresh lobstrosities cooked over an open flame in “Drawing of the Three” sound pretty good.
“Castle Rock Kitchen,” by Theresa Carle-Sanders and with a forward by King, gathers 80 meals imagined from King’s Maine-centered stories and turns them into recipes you can whip up in your own kitchen.
This isn’t the first time Carle-Sanders has created a cookbook based on fiction: She has written two books inspired by Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander novels – “Outlander Kitchen: The Official Outlander Companion Cookbook” and the follow-up “Outlander Kitchen: To the New World and Back Again.”
“The biggest challenge was leaving behind the King stories that aren’t set in Maine, including ‘The Shining,’ ‘The Stand’ and his Dark Tower series,” she said. “The balance to that loss is the focus on Maine; it gave me an opportunity to write a fictional and a regional cookbook.”
And what Carle-Sanders came up with is a deep-dive into some of King’s iconic stories: Like “Cujo”? try making her “Dog Days French Toast Casserole.” There are “Hermits for the Road” bars based on cookies in “The Long Walk” – one of this reporter’s favorite stories, as well as “Crab Canapés” from “Pet Sematary” (my all-time favorite).
The Smiley Building opened a new spaces for artists this year – the 4,000-square-foot ArtRoom Collective was created for artists to create, sell and collaborate on their work. The space was converted from a fairly dark area to a room awash in natural light. Twenty work spaces have been partitioned in the room, each separated by windows repurposed from the building itself, said Charles Shaw, co-owner of the Smiley. The space features painters, photographers, graphic artists and more.
Be safe this weekend, and we’ll see you on the other side.