The Paint Brush Manifesto
Envisioning a stronger and revitalized Durango Arts Center

by Jules Masterjohn

It was the dark of night, and I was running through a thick pine forest, being chased by all that is unknown in this world. In my fear and haste, I tripped on a tree root, banged my head on a moss-covered rock, and tumbled down an embankment. Inches from a rushing river, my fall was stopped short by a thicket of red willows. Confused and frantic as I watched the goblins of uncertainty descending toward me, I grasped at a thin clump of willow. To my surprise, the willows in my hand were transformed into a well-used paintbrush. As this happened, I was instantly elevated above the scene, and I knew I was holding a magic wand.

Fantasy and imagination can be useful when envisioning the future. With a spirit of serious fun and the magic wand in hand, we can call upon the forces of nature to assist us as we manifest a revitalized vision for the struggling Durango Arts Center.

The paint-covered wand prompts me to be reminded that as Southwest Colorado’s only nonprofit arts center, the DAC has been instrumental in fostering growth of all arts within the region. One could venture to say that without the DAC, much of what we identify as the art scene, might not exist. But that involves a crystal ball, and I have only been given a magic wand.

Established roots and history alone cannot guarantee the continued success of the organization. A judicious board of directors is foundational for a strong DAC. With a gentle wave of the once-willow wand, all current and future DAC Board of Director members will become wise beyond their years. In support of the difficult work of a board of directors, a three-tiered model of service will be adopted. This new structure states that a board candidate must be a fully active DAC volunteer for one year before board service is considered. Once accepted as a board member, the individual will serve a two-year term. After the term expires, the board member will become a nonvoting advisor or mentor to the board, therein adding continuity and stability to the organization.

With a second swish of the magic wand, the organization’s management structure will convert from a singular executive director to an administrative team of two. This duo will address, through their demonstrated experience working in nonprofit arts management, both the fiscal and artistic needs of the DAC. One director will care of the business component, and the other will shepherd the creative aspect. Each will offer a skill set that supports one another and the entire organization.

Thirdly, the wise wand instructs that the DAC develop a curriculum-based visual art education program for all ages. The DAC will not only showcase the arts through the gallery, it will also educate in the arts, offering historical and cultural context within these studies. A broad set of courses that address the development of skills, from the most basic to the advanced in many art media, will be offered. The DAC will become an art school, providing revenue for itself and opportunities for skilled artist/educators to pass on their knowledge.

Fourthly, the powerful paint-encrusted scepter directs the DAC to present museum-quality exhibitions that highlight cultural and contemporary arts. Exhibitions of this nature will be made accessible to new audiences through docents, educational materials, and concurrent lectures and workshops. The DAC will continue to be a place for local and emerging artists to share their work. Visual art education, both in the studio and in the gallery, will be at the core of the organization’s mission.

Lastly, the merciful magic wand will dissolve any parochial or territorial attitudes held by those in service to the DAC.

Art happens. From coffeehouse walls to downtown alleys, the human desire to communicate through visual imagery will survive in Durango. Whether it thrives or not is our responsibility. •

This week at the DAC is a free lecture, “Artists’ Books, A Wealth of Approaches” by well-known book artist Carol Barton, on Fri., May 29, at 7 p.m. in the Barbara Conrad Gallery, 802 E. Second Ave. Barton will also be offering a workshop on Saturday and Sunday, focusing on Pop-Up Book Structures. Call 259-4363 for more information.



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