Log In

Reset Password
Arts and Entertainment

Rhyme on the range

For the 25th year, Western heritage is preserved

For the silver anniversary of the Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering, look to the past.

“The old cowboy’s sense of place is strong, though he doesn’t own this short-grass country that encourages a man to love, to survive, to know, a land that nurtures abilities unappreciated in the modern world.”

Those words come from author Amy Hale Auker, who will host a writers’ workshop Saturday as one of the centerpiece events for the Cowboy Gathering. Her book Rightful Place won the Women Writing the West’s WILLA award for Creative Non-fiction and the Foreword Book Review’s Book of the Year in 2012. It is one of several events that will draw people who usually don’t make their way into town all at once.

The Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering was started 25 years ago by Durango hat maker Kevin O’Farrell, to preserve Durango’s Western culture and one of the lesser-known of America’s native arts. The simple gift of spinning a yarn around a campfire has evolved into a multimedia event of words, art and music in its 25th year.

“This genre is the highest form of performance art,” said Jeff Mannix, a local rancher and president of the Cowboy Gathering board of directors. “The poetry, music and stories are all created by a person who has truly lived the cowboy life.”

In keeping with the theme, Auker’s free workshop at the Rochester Hotel will be an informal gathering of writers and those hoping to be. She believes that writing in the West means leaving your desk to hunt the metaphors buried in nature. Guests are encouraged to bring writing materials and be prepared to work from process to product. Auker also will take advantage the Gathering to promote her new novel, Winter of Beauty.

One of the featured artists not of the oral tradition is painter Duke Beardsley from Denver. Beardsley designed “Socios,” the 2013 Fine Art Poster for the Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering. The bright, strong image depicts a cowboy and his horse, holding a calf on a rope outside the image. The title means “associate” or “partner.” Cowboys consider their horse a working partner in their job, and often is it their most prized possession.

Beadsley is a widely known Western artist who grew up working on ranches before he turned to fine art. His awards include the Colorado Governor’s Art Award, the 2011 Purchase Award at the Buffalo Bill Art Show, the Masters of American West Exhibition and many others.

Toh-Atin Gallery will host Beadsley on Saturday for “Behind the Canvas”, a discussion about the changes in contemporary Western art and the concepts he uses in his own work, including “Socios.” In a creative crossover, the cowboy poets of the Gathering will perform their own interpretation of the painting “Socios” using words and rhyme just down the street at Karyn Gabaldon Fine Arts. Both events are free.

On Thursday, several local galleries will piggyback on the Cowboy Gathering by featuring fine Western art for the regular First Thursday Art Walk. Sorrel Sky Gallery will feature the sculpture of Greg Kelsey. Karyn Gabaldon will feature outstanding Western landscape photography by Christopher Marona and will invite Telluride painter Nancy B. Frank to display her large Western oils.

Open Shutter Gallery will open the “Spirit of the West” photography show. Durango Arts Center will hold an opening reception a day earlier than usual for its latest exhibit, “The West Revisited,” a group show by Elizabeth Kinahan, Theodore Waddell and Eric Candee. The party also will feature the winners of the Cowboy Gathering’s Youth Art Show.

Keeping traditions alive is a goal of the Poetry Gathering organizers, who face challenges from the modern world in preserving the culture of the American cowboy. They encourage young performers in this art form; for the first time this year, there will be a special show of young performers. The performers in Saturday’s “Rising Western Stars” at The Hank will range from ages 6 to 18. They will put on their own show of cowboy poetry and music, without the help of adults.

Most of the kids in the show have been raised on ranches and will recite poetry and sing songs about their experiences. Hosting will be 18-year-old Kristyn Harris, who specializes in singing, songwriting, swing-rhythm guitar style and yodeling.

Auker sums up the weekend in her book Rightful Place: “The work done to grow meat for Americans and the lives of those who put it on the table. Cowboy poetry is often humorous ... but the joviality obscures the demanding work these men, women and children do. It is a culture that both liberates and suppresses, for animals, plants, weather, individuals, changing philosophies and the colors that bookend each day”.


If you go

For tickets, the full weekend schedule and more information, visit www.durangocowboypoetrygathering.org.

Thursday events

Poets In The Community: Special performances in schools and other venues. Call Karen Little at 382-8897.

CONCERT – Tim Sullivan Band: 4-7 p.m., Rochester Hotel, 726 East Second Ave., free, www.timsulllivanmusic.com.

“The Cowboy Life” with Greg Kelsey: 5-8 p.m., free, Sorrel Sky Gallery, 828 Main Ave. This Colorado rancher and award-winning bronze artist is a self-taught, true-to-life storyteller.

“The West Revisited” – Group art exhibit: Elizabeth Kinahan, Eric Candee and Theodore Waddell, opening reception 5-7 p.m., Durango Arts Center, 802 East Second Ave., www.durangoarts.org, 259-2606. Also will feature the winners of the Durango Cowboy Gathering Youth Art Show.

“COLORADO!!” COWBOY THEATRE: Western variety show with a twist, hosted by Lindy Simmons and Jack Blease, 7 p.m., $15, Durango Arts Center.

PREMIER PERFORMANCE – Don Edwards & Waddie Mitchell: 7 and 9 p.m. (two shows), $45, Henry Strater Theatre, 699 Main Ave., 749-2995.

Reader Comments