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Arts and Entertainment

Teen volunteers improve the community one art project at a time

Brenda Macon

Think teens can’t help out much? Think again.

This may not apply to their chores at home, but I’ve never met a more eager or caring group than the teenage volunteers in Durango. Whether they’re serving at Manna soup kitchen, hammering nails at Habitat for Humanity, or upcycling winter coats for those in need here at the DAC, they form a considerable part of the volunteer workforce pie and they deserve our love and gratitude.

Perhaps you’ve heard of Leadership La Plata, an established annual Durango Chamber of Commerce program that trains executives to be civic leaders through community engagement. But did you know that the DAC has been hosting a similar program for teens since the 1980s? It’s called GOAL, and it stands for Girl’s Opportunities of Art and Leadership. Created during a time when it was recognized that girls weren’t getting a fair shake in the classroom, an all-girls leadership program with a creative focus has helped hundreds of middle- and high school-age students find meaningful friendships. By meeting leaders in a variety of industries, and learning about pressing community issues, teens discover they are in a powerful position to give back, right in their own hometown. As part of the program, students make something to give to those in need.

In the early 2000s, the DAC created a similar program for boys, called BART. Now, students are welcome to join either program regardless of gender identity. These programs are thriving and are offered quarterly. Examples of these weeklong intensives include learning about food insecurity and planting a community food garden with handmade painted ceramic planters. Or learning about the needs of those in temporary housing and making them intricate handmade quilts as functional symbols of hope for the future.

Deena Carney, the DAC’s Visual Art Education director, began as a guest artist in 2008, offering lessons in ceramics and painting to the GOAL students. She helped them explore world art and culture. When reflecting on the most inspiring projects the students have created, she remarks on a community beautification project where the BART students designed and painted a new facade on a dozen downtown garbage dumpsters. “It was really hard work, and stinky, too – as often the dumpsters were full when they were being painted, but the students did an amazing job. You still see a lot of their work around town. When you can beautify something like a smelly old dumpster, you’re repairing a piece of our downtown, and giving a gift to the community.”

Students learned how to refurbish old clothing by learning graphic design, fabric painting, sewing, and embroidery.

“We live in such a throw-away society, and it was a neat lesson to learn that you can upcycle items into something useful and beautiful,” Deena said. “You don’t always have to have new things. These are lessons in mindfulness and appreciation.”

What are the benefits of being a GOAL or BART student? Once you’re in the program, you’re always welcome back. Alumni often return each year to help. The underlying themes of mindfulness, inclusion, and dealing with challenging situations engage students in building important life skills. Deena reflects, “They’re proud of their projects. Being part of such a supportive and kind community with lasting friendships may be their biggest takeaway. These programs are for everyone. Being around such wonderful mentors brings out the best in the students. I am forever proud of these kids.”

Please contact deena@durangoarts.org with questions or to help provide scholarship support for GOAL and BART.

Coming up next at the Durango Arts Center:

  • Durango Snowdown Adult Follies Performances*: Ends Saturday. DAC does not sell tickets for this event, check out snowdownfollies.org/tickets.
  • Felony Ever After: A one-woman play by Mary Quinn: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 17 and 18. Tickets $10/$15.
  • A Night of Improv, with Cindy Laudadio-Hill and Mary Quinn: Hilarity will ensue! 7:30 p.m. Feb. 24.
  • Silent Swanson Sunday: Vintage silent films accompanied by Adam Swanson on piano, all ages welcome. 2 p.m. Feb. 26. Tickets $10/$15.
  • “Reefer Madness, The Musical”: 7:30 p.m. March 17-18, 24-25 and 31-April 1; 2 p.m. March 19, 26 and April 2. A story about clean-cut kids who fall prey to marijuana, leading them on a hysterical downward spiral filled with evil jazz music, sex and violence.
  • Theater Season Passes, $70-$285.

Doors for all shows open half an hour before listed showtime.

Art classes and gallery events
  • Whimsical Wonderland, a community art exhibit featuring over 40 local artists. Free.
  • Mud Day Madness, begins March 27: 6:30-8:30 p.m. $325.
  • Figure Drawing with live model, begins March 28: 6-8 p.m., 10 classes, $225.
  • Art of Painting, begins March 29: 10 a.m.-noon, $250.
  • Magical Art & Happiness adult art classes begins April 6: 6-8 p.m., six weeks, $200.
  • The Artisan’s Market: open noon-6 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday.
  • Pots & Pints: Returns Friday (Feb. 3): 4:30-6 p.m., $30.
  • GOAL/BART: intensives begin June 5 and12, respectively. $275.

Questions? Email info@durangoarts.org

Donate, become a member for discounts and to be a patron of the arts, register for classes, buy tickets and keep in touch at DurangoArts.org and find things fast at 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.