Holiday boutique exhibit returns to Durango
|One of artist Debra Gorton's "Funny
Bone Tribe" dolls./Photo courtesy Durango Arts
Plagued by funding cuts, expensive materials and changing
tastes, it’s a wonder any artists make enough money
to support themselves, let alone continue their work.
So when opportunities like the Durango Arts Center’s
“Spirit in Hand” holiday boutique come along,
many take advantage of it.
“This is part of our mission, to support the local
community,” said Jules Masterjohn, the center’s
exhibits and program director, and an artist herself.
Many shoppers also appreciate the boutique as an opportunity
to buy handcrafted holiday gifts.
The juried exhibit, which starts Dec. 16, showcases a
variety of work from 21 regional artists that includes
original jewelry, painted silk and ceramic tiles. This
year, all who submitted applications for the exhibit were
accepted. However, not everything everyone submitted was
selected, so no artists are duplicating each other’s
Durango Arts Center has held an annual holiday art sale
for about a decade, but three years ago, Master-john took
over the production of it, calling it “Spirit in
Hand” and turning it into a juried display. The
first year, Spirit in Hand was held for five weeks during
the holiday season following the Sept. 11 attacks. It
was a huge success, bringing in $14,000.
Last year, the sale brought in about $7,500.
“When we looked at that, we went ‘Whoa!’
The economy’s different for us to have a five-week
commitment,” Masterjohn said. ”We thought
we’d try it differently and see how it works out.”
This year, the show will only be eight days long. Already,
some would-be customers have come in asking when the sale
is going to start.
“It’s a good confirmation that the community
looks forward to this,” Masterjohn said.
The holiday sale is the one time a year that the center
turns into an out-and-out retail venue, Masterjohn said.
The rest of the year, the center focuses on displays of
artwork with the aim of educating visitors, she said.
|A handmade ceramic tile titled
“Warm Hands” by artist Steve
Durango Arts Center
For Spirit in Hand, artists were asked to submit only
original pieces in a price range of $15 to $350. Deborah
Gorton’s “Funny Bone Tribe” dolls will
be on hand, including one grinning doll with wild, orange
curls. Steve Baranowski will display his ceramic tiles
decorated with scenes, often from nature.
Others will be selling ceramics, woodwork, solar etchings,
music, paintings and photography.
Peggy Maloney, an art teacher at Fort Lewis College who
has exhibited in Spirit in Hand before, has submitted
jewelry for the show. Her pieces are done in various metals
and other materials including ceramic.
“I’m interested in the idea of beauty and
of creating arrangements in an improvisational way,”
A submission also came from Debbie Wyckoff, a weaver
who makes hand-woven scarves of various materials, such
as chenille, silk and cotton.
Wyckoff, who has been weaving for 25 years 4 and also
teaches the craft, makes colorful, large scarves. She
also has exhibited at the boutique in the past and said
she likes the variety and caliber of the holiday show.
“It’s a really nice quality show because
it’s a juried show,” she said. “It’s
quality artists that have to be accepted.”
But not all the artists are experienced in the Spirit
in Hand show. This year, a group of young artists will
be selling their wares at the boutique as well. The group
of four, ranging in age from 17 to 19 and known as the
Hawk Hill Artisans, will display their blown glass.
|A necklace by artist
Peggy Maloney. /Photo courtesy Durango Arts Center
“I’m really excited. This is our first exhibit,”
said Grace Kruse, a member of the group along with her
brother Cuatro and friends Nik Holley and Andy Glover.
“It means a lot. It’s cool that we’re
so young, and we’ll have the only glass in there.”
The group, which just built its Durango studio last summer,
will be selling blown-glass ornaments, animals, paperweights
“It’s our passion,” Grace Kruse said.
“We just hope people will see and respect our work.”
Getting the Durango public to support local artists might
not be so hard, but getting governmental support for art
is difficult, especially in Colorado, Masterjohn said.
Durango, however, is a little bit different from Colorado
or the country at large.
“There’s a really strong community of artists
and craftspeople here in Durango,” she said. “I
think it attracts people because there is an interest
in the arts. More and more people from the East Coast
and the West Coast are moving here – people from
larger cities with a level of experience and expectation
for the arts, and they’re bringing that here.
“If you look at our community, there’s strong
support,” she continued.
An arts-advocacy group, Citizens for the Arts in Pennsylvania,
ranked Colorado 46th in the nation in per-capita spending
by government art agencies on art in fiscal year 2002.
The group used 2000 census data.
According to the group, Colorado, with more than 4.3
million people, spent just 44 cents per capita, the same
amount Arkansas spent on its 2.6 million people. The group
ranked Hawaii number one, with its population of 1.2 million
people and its spending of $5.26 per person. Last on the
group’s list was Texas, which spent just 28 cents
on art per capita with 20.8 million residents.
“All the states are having a really hard time,
and something’s got to go. I understand there’s
a dilemma,” Masterjohn said. “The problem
is the arts are part of the spirit of our culture. If
you continue to devalue that, it affects what people value.
Art opens our minds.”
Still, the stereotype of the struggling artist persists,
largely because many artists are struggling. People can’t
support themselves through art and often have to take
on another full-time career to make ends meet.
“For many of these people, this is something they
do because they have to make things. They’re moved
to; they must,” Masterjohn said.
And the Spirit in Hand holiday boutique is a way to support
artists doing new and interesting things.
“To me, as an artist, I really like the way the
community is supporting the arts,” said Gorton,
maker of the “Funny Bone Tribe” dolls who
will also have mixed-media collages on display. “It’s
nice to have a venue where local artists can show their
work. And when I do venues where I get feedback from the
community, they say they want to support local artists.”