Furniture as Art
Durango art community rallies around public radio

Internationally recognized fiber artist Ilze Aviks admires the finishing touches of her “happy place” ottoman, which will be auctioned off at tonight’s Furniture as Art auction, a fund-raiser for KDUR./Photo By Stephen Eginoire.

by Jules Masterjohn

Kind circles, la luna, de la sol, yin & yang, the earth

Durango, between a rock and a beautiful place

U and I


– Scott DW Smith, local photographer

Calling all art fanatics, calling all art fanatics! The KDUR auction is TONIGHT, Thurs., March 19, at the Durango Arts Center. In its eighth year, the annual event draws more than 200 enthusiastic community members to celebrate creativity and purchase functional artwork by local artists, thus, raising funds to support community radio.

Ellen Stein, development director for the Fort Lewis College radio station, described the evening as “Durango’s most vibrant entertainment and social event.” Many would agree. If you have never attended, this is the year to start. It will be the last one hosted by KDUR’s longtime and outgoing station manager, Nancy Stoffer. Not only is she the mother of the event, for many she is the reason they participate, both donating art and attending the usually uproarious evening. One of this year’s participating artists, Ilze Aviks, explained, “Who can say ‘no’ to Nancy? It is such a treat to contribute somehow to such a great community asset. And, the auction itself is so fun, festive and celebratory.”

Stoffer is moving on – to where, she is not sure. Having developed and perfected a unique stage persona to host the event, she could be bound for the stand-up comedy circuit. Or perhaps she’ll be off to host a national syndicated radio show spotlighting her penetrating interview skills. It seems likely that creativity and artists won’t be far from her scope in whatever endeavor she pursues.

Auction attendees will be able to bid on this ornate table by sculptor Preston Parrott./Photo By Stephen Eginoire.

Though Stoffer doesn’t make visual art, she understands the workings of the artistic mind.

It’s not only artists’ allegiance to Stoffer that has local “creatives” feeling honored to spend countless hours making a piece to donate to the fund-raising event. The radio station, KDUR, also embodies values that many artistic types find important. Returning participant and photographer Scott DW Smith offered, “Being an alum of FLC and a listener of KDUR since my college days nearly 20 years ago, I love the wackiness of college radio. Just like Colorado weather, if you don’t like

As an adventure photographer, Smith spends most of his time outdoors. His contribution to this year’s auction is inspired by nature. Basically “a flower pot,” Smith’s work is comprised of three slabs of sandstone that interlock to create a bonsai water basin. Smith adds, “It could also work very well as a dog bowl.”

Nationally recognized fiber artist Ilze Aviks’ work often challenges the viewer to rethink comfortable socio-political concepts. For the auction, she has hand-painted an ottoman. “I wanted to make something really functional. I like the idea of an ottoman: it’s the place you put your feet when you’re resting. So, it’s a ‘happy place’ for down time. I’ve used ‘happy’ imagery: bows and ribbons.

Returning artist Bryan Saren, too, has stuck close to his chosen medium for the KDUR assignment. He fabricates with metals to create functional as well as art objects. “My process starts with looking in my shop to see what materials I have on hand. I try to let the junk that is lying around dictate in what direction I am going to proceed. I then try to put all these pieces together into a form that is simply pleasing to the eye ... well, at the least to mine.” His contribution this year takes the shape of a 5-foot high, elegantly curved floor lamp.

An event veteran, Saren usually needs a reason to make art. “It used to be for a grade in school, now it is for events like this, or a show, or a commission. The process is very therapeutic for me. We artists need these events as much as KDUR needs the funds.”

In a moment of forced reminiscence, Stoffer recalled the pieces that have brought in the biggest bank. “Maureen May’s ‘Power Chair,’ followed by Bryan Saren’s ‘Orb,’ and then, Mike Brieger. If we could just auction off Brieger, we’d never need another fund-raiser.” This year, more than two dozen magnanimous artists have coalesced their visions by transforming furniture into art or vice versa.

Each year, there are surprises, according to Stoffer. “Marti Bourjaily’s flying pink boa chair came in out of the blue and was a real conversation stopper. And, I don’t remember who made it, but there was a giant martini glass made from an inverted picnic table umbrella that was pretty unique.” These were just a few of the outrageous works to grace the auction runway in past years.

Artists like to mix it up, so alongside their wackiness, seriousness resides. Like Saren, Smith finds deeper purpose in his contribution. “Radio, music, news, sculpture, painting, photography – whatever the medium – KDUR has soul, Furniture as Art has soul, Durango art has soul, and we all need to support the soul … As artists, we get nothing more than the reward of knowing we are part of the soul of this community.” •

Contributing artists to this year’s Furniture as Art include: Ilza Aviks, Mike Brieger & Andy Barber, Bill Bowlby, Dave Claussen, Sam Cook & Elizabeth Kinahan, Amy Felker, Deborah Gorton, Debra Greenblatt, Miki Harder, Kathy Hobal & Emily Lloyd, Tim Hunter, Tom Kipp, Mary Ellen Long, Maureen May, Carol Ozaki, Preston Parrot, Lisa Pedolsky, Bryan Saren, Dave Sipe, Scott Smith, Andy Snow, and Susan & Jeff Wise

Scott Smith’s sandstone slab bonsai stand, seen here on display earlier this week at Nature’s Oasis, is one of the more than 20 items to be auctioned off Thursday night./Photo By Stephen Eginoire.



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