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Durango’s Arts and Culture Community

April 5, 2014 Destination North America No Comments Email Email

Durango, CO–A hidden jewel in the arts and cultural world, over a dozen galleries carry treasures from American Indians, Contemporary Western and Southwestern works of museum-quality art represented with sculptures, pottery, baskets, fine art photography and home furnishings.

 Art on Location

  • The Durango Arts Center – a 21-year-old nonprofit organization that is a showcase of our community’s commitment to the visual and performing arts and an artistic center of influence in the town, offering monthly fine arts gallery exhibits featuring local, national and international artists, art classes, juried-exhibits and live performances. DAC is the home of The Durango Performing Arts Company as the premier children’s resident theater group providing quality performing arts programming. 
  • The Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College is a state-of-the-art concert hall featuring an amazing array of musical productions including individual performers, dance troupes, opera, musical groups and Broadway musicals. 
  • The Strater Hotel houses the world’s largest collection of American Victorian Antiques, many of which decorate the 93 rooms in the hotel. The world-renowned Henry Strater Theatre is one of the oldest and most prestigious continually running theatres in Colorado, tallying almost 50 years of quality performances. This intimate and prestigious venue operates year round as a community space and theatre, welcoming live bands from around the nation and professional off-Broadway shows. As featured in National Geographic’s “Travelers Top Places to Stay 2009!”     
  • The Dance Center – Durango’s center for dance offering ballet, jazz, tap, hip hop, salsa, swing, tango and more for people of 151964_num457253_600x600all ages through classes and performances. 
  • Nightly live music— from classical to acoustic, musicals to street ensembles, dinner theatre to western chuckwagons, saloon crooners to outdoor fiddlers and orchestra to 70’s rock, Durango offers a wide selection of live music in a variety of venues. 
  • Stillwater Foundation–offers young and adult musicians the opportunity to learn and play original arrangements of global music on traditional and non-traditional instruments such as Caribbean steel drums, African percussion, guitar, bass, keyboard, woodwinds, marimba, vibraphone and many others. 
  • San Juan Symphony— The San Juan Symphony has brought 38 years of listening enjoyment to thousands of residents and visitors to the Four Corners region. Music Director Arthur Post, now in his eleventh season, has a rollicking fun season planned for 2012-13.  Lollapalooza! will kick off on September 29.  The season features four major concerts and runs through April 21, 2013. 
  • Durango Art Galleries—Durango is home to more than 14 commercial galleries, the Center for Southwest Studies and Art Gallery at Fort Lewis College and two Durango Art Center Galleries. The public participates in the artistic spirit of the town when the Gallery Association hosts their quarterly Gallery Walks as galleries set aside special nights to welcome the public after hours. Locals and visitors enjoy good food and conversation as they stroll the streets and visit the galleries. Artists open their studios for tours during Artist Open Studio.

Area galleries offer:

  • Contemporary fine art consisting of fused glass, sculpture, jewelry, watercolor, pastel, oil and mixed media paintings
  • A fascinating treasury of Indian arts, weavings and southwestern works of museum quality due to their authenticity
  • Contemporary western and American Indian artists are represented with sculptures, pottery, baskets and one-of-a-kind home furnishings
  • Fine art photography in both color and black and white with galleries presenting photographs from the local four-corner area and around the world
  • An allure of gold, silver, precious stones and bronze transformed into sculpture and custom jewelry. 

Public Art — Downtown Durango is dotted with numerous displays of public art. The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad stables “Whinny and Friends” a bronze trio of ponies sculpted by Joyce Parkerson. A walk down 2nd Avenue reveals the bronze sculpture work “Puck” by Elizabeth MacQueen and a 20-by-35 foot outdoor mural by Judy Baca–“La Memoria De Nuestra Tierra”. Down the street, Allan Houser’s sculpture “My Children”; a short cruise down the hill to The Durango Herald and you will find “The Basket Dance” by Glenna Goodacre. Enjoy the Animas River as the backdrop for “Parade Formation” by former Fort Lewis College art professor Mick Reber—a 30-by-10 foot steel abstract depicting three horse riders in Santa Rita Park. To commemorate the city’s 125th anniversary, the city commissioned a public artwork by La Plata County artist Bryan Saren. The steel and copper sculpture is made of 125 parts, one for every year the city has been incorporated and is located at the entrance of the Durango City Hall.  

Cultural Museums:

Durango is home to national treasures for Native American studies, including the Center for Southwest Studies at Fort Lewis College and the Southern Ute Cultural Center and Museum. The Animas Museum traces the birth and history of our mountain town while the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum brings the steam engine’s heritage to life.

The Durango Discovery Museum is an interactive science + energy center in Durango’s historic Powerhouse with hands-on science + energy exhibits for all ages, historic interpretation exhibits, Sudden Science™ and Camp Discovery. Housed in the country’s oldest surviving coal-fired, steam-generated AC power plant, the museum promises to spark curiosity, ignite imagination and power exploration.

Visitors to the Southern Ute Cultural Center can expect to gain firsthand experience with Ute culture and tradition. More than 20 years in planning, the new 52,000-square-foot facility celebrates the living history of Colorado’s longest continuous residents. Dynamic multi-sensory and interactive exhibitions, along with rare artifact collections, are interwoven with texts, photographs, presentations and recorded oral histories – so that the story of the Southern Ute people will always be told and remembered. The museum is located in Ignacio, Colorado, headquarters for the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, 25 miles southeast of Durango. or 970- 563-9583.

Economics of Arts in Durango:  Arts & Economic Prosperity IV Economic Impact Study

In 2010, the nonprofit arts and culture industry generates $9,053,126 in annual economic activity in the Durango area—supporting 309 full-time equivalent jobs and generating $645,000 in local and state government revenues, according to the 2010 Arts & Economic Prosperity IV national economic impact study. The most comprehensive economic impact study of the nonprofit arts and culture industry ever conducted in the United States, Arts & Economic Prosperity IVwas conducted by Americans for the Arts, the nation’s leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts and arts education.

Here’s a sampling of our annual art-centric events:

  • First Thursday’s Art Walks

The Durango Arts Center coordinates First Thursdays Art Walk for participating Durango art galleries and other venues offering art.  The participating galleries are:  Durango Arts Center, Earthen Vessel Gallery, Gallery 530, Sorrel Sky Gallery, Toh-Atin Gallery and Wildshots Gallery.  Other venues offering art include:  Eno, Rochester Hotel and Bar, Steaming Bean and Steve Gates Architect. Join us on the first Thursday of the month from 5-8 p.m. Each gallery and venue offering art highlights a special artist while two of the venues also have bars and will feature drink specials.  The Durango Arts Center docents will provide tours of the participating galleries and venues offering art. 

  • Durango Film, February 29–March 3, 2013

An independent film festival featuring independent feature films, documentaries, animated films, shorts, experimental and new media works. Each year, southwest Colorado’s premier showcase for independent film grows into a deeper, richer experience. It’s our love of independent film that brings the festival back, bigger and better.

  • Ragtime & Early Jazz Festival, March 22-24, 2013

Be a part of the first-ever Durango Ragtime & Early Jazz Festival this March in Durango, Colorado. World-renowned performers will be Swingin It Up at the historic Strater Hotel for three entertaining days filled with live music, silent movies, dance lessons, after hours parties, and more!

  • Durango Bluegrass Meltdown, April 19-21, 2013

The Durango Bluegrass Meltdown is a weekend dedicated to bluegrass music as an American art form. The Meltdown features three unique, intimate main stages, a super jam, barn dance (Durango style), Saturday night Celtdown (for all you closet Celtoids!) and music flowing from bars, restaurants, coffee houses and downtown streets and sidewalks–all within walking distance.

  • Music in the Mountains, July 7-28, 2013

Deemed as one of the longest running classical music festivals in the southwest, Music in the Mountains is a three and one-half week celebration of music featuring orchestra, chamber and conservatory performances of classical and world music. The summer festival offers a host of concerts and events at picturesque venues in the spectacular San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado.

  • Showcase of the Arts, September 2013

Showcase of the Arts is Durango’s premier venue to feature the area’s variety of arts and entertainment. The festival was created to share our wealth of arts and cultivate a broader audience for all we have to offer in Durango. This performance, demonstration, workshop, display, showing or exhibit multi-day festival promises something for everyone.

  • Durango Cowboy Gathering, October 3-6,2013

A three-day celebration of cowboy culture honors the traditions of working ranch people in the American West with music, poetry, story telling and a motorless parade. The Gathering celebrates the life ways of rural people by creating the “campfire” around which anyone with an interest can come to share in the appreciation of the culture and traditions unique to the

Durango Open Studios, October 2013

Arts Perspective magazine presents the 4th annual tour and art sale from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. More than 50 artists from Durango, Bayfield, and Ignacio, Colorado invite you into their studios delivering and insider thrill and unique insight to their creation process.

Ask the locals or experience it as our guest–there is plenty of art to enjoy and encounter in Durango, Colorado.  The claims are accurate and it’s no longer a secret:  This Wild West town is a thriving center for the arts and a “real” art town.  For more information visit or call (800) 463-8726

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