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Arts and Entertainment

Your unique artistic vision is worthy of celebration

Brenda Macon

It’s that time of year again. The holidays are almost upon us and I have but one simple message for you: A hand is not a turkey.

Do you remember the turkey-hand project? If you don’t feel like you’re good at drawing, or feel you have little in the way of artistic aptitude, you can probably blame this exercise. You’re not alone! Since the 1950s, well-intentioned teachers in America have been offering this kitschy exercise to young students – a rendering of a turkey made by tracing a hand on paper, cutting it out and gluing all of the parts together. The bright promise of this activity is clouded by the dark and quiet suspicion that this is not really “art,” nor does it embody the essence of giving thanks. Anyone with eyes can tell you that there is very little resemblance between a human hand and any fowl. What the turkey-hand delivers is an agreeable two-dimensional, easy-to-color form that can’t go wrong.

Did your turkey-hand look like Susie’s? Hers was better, right? We all felt that way! This was a game you could never win. You know it deep down in your heart that your vision guides your life, so it is with art. Your vision, yours alone, is responsible for that which you create. Same is not better. Same is boring. Yet the turkey-hand teaches us same is best and many of us spend decades unwinding this lesson and healing from the damaging thought that we are “less than” because our creative work did not measure up to some ubiquitous standard.

This may sound extreme that your creative power was limited by this one silly exercise. I was an art instructor for 15 years and heard so many stories from my students about why they stopped drawing when they were little. Often it was because, “Mom said that my sister was the creative one,” or “Nobody could read my handwriting,” or “My art teacher tore up my work as an example to the class on what not to do.”

Teachers, please wield your power to encourage with love and grace this November. Toss the turkey-hand materials and teach your students how to practice the art of observation with a well-crafted exercise. Check out drawright.com for some cool ideas by the legendary Betty Edwards, author of “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.”

Parents, if your child comes home from school with an art project that is more interpretive than realistic, instead of saying, “That’s nice, honey, what is it?” Use these words instead: “That’s cool! Tell me about it!” You might be raising the world’s next creative genius!

I am so proud of our art teachers here at the Durango Arts Center. They encourage the vision of each student and help refine skills based on the goals and objectives each person brings with them. Our teachers create a safe space for creative expression and there is no room for harsh judgment or negativity. After all, the process of making something can be a joyful one and your unique vision is worthy of celebration. Come join us for a class and heal that part of you who thought you were just the athletic one. Creative power is in you and it’s ready to be discovered. We hope to see you soon!

Coming up next at the Durango Arts Center:

Theater
  • 24 Hour Theater: Eight plays go from blank page to stage in 24 hours. 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. $15.
  • Cindy & Mary Present a Night of Improv, 7 p.m. Dec. 2. $10/$15.
  • Silent Swanson Sunday, Silent films with Adam Swanson on piano, 2 p.m. Dec. 4. $15.
  • “WE WILL ROCK YOU,” the Durango Youth Theater presents a musical featuring more than 20 hit songs by the legendary rock band Queen, Dec. 10-17, various showtimes beginning Dec. 9. $15.
Art Classes
  • Pots & Pints Ceramic Hand Building Happy Hour, 4:30-6 p.m. every Friday. $30.
  • Clay to Canvas, Art Classes for those with Parkinson’s: 1-3 p.m. (ongoing). $10.
  • Ceramic & Glass Ornament Painting, 5-7 p.m. Dec. 2 and 9. $35.

January classes are up for registration and begin on Jan. 10.

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.

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.