According to mythology, each time a phoenix dies, it is reborn and rises from its own ashes. Drawing on the hope and inspiration of this mythological creature, the Durango Arts Center has named its latest art exhibit the Phoenix Art Project Community Exhibit.
The exhibit can be seen from outside the Durango Arts Center building through the windows on East Second Avenue. Executive Director Brenda Macon said the idea came about three months ago and that the purpose is to support local artists “who were creating prolific amounts of art during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Macon said staff members at DAC were trying to find ways to showcase art without inviting people inside, so as to adhere to COVID-19 social-distancing restrictions.
“So, we decided to utilize one of our best assets of our building, which is our windows, and to push our gallery walls right up to the windows and to put a call out to artists to share with us what they had been making and also to give us a brief statement of how they have been feeling during this time of social isolation, how has it impacted their creativity? What did they have to express to the world?” Macon said.
The call was answered enthusiastically from local artists. The exhibit, which runs through Friday, features 30 pieces of art that have been created in direct response to the global pandemic.
Macon and staff members at DAC said naming the exhibit after the phoenix was only fitting.
“Following that same cycle of re-emergence after a mega challenge, we thought our artists should be represented in a similar fashion,” Macon said.
DAC has posted contact information for each artist on the windows of the exhibit in hopes that community members will contact the artists directly if they want to purchase art. DAC is not taking a cut of the proceeds because one of the goals of the exhibit is to facilitate better buyer relationships for the artists.
Macon said she has been impressed with the creativity of the artists. She sees themes of “hope for a re-emergence that is going to be better than what we currently see in the world.”
Local artist Tad Smith has a piece featured in the exhibit titled “Split.” Upon looking at his piece of art – a human face – it is obvious that his main inspiration is Picasso. Smith said that the nose of the man is supposed to split the image in half to show the pandemic has created a split in our world – before COVID-19 and after.
Smith said he enjoys the inventive approach of DAC.
“I’d like to see more of it,” he said.
Artists of all ages were invited to contribute, and some artists younger than 18 are featured in the show.
“I’m very fond of the saying ‘When you change the way you look at something, the thing you look at changes,’” Macon said. “I believe that is the highest and best use of art in so many situations, especially right now. What these artists are really providing the community is a glimpse into an observation. They have taken time to really look at the world and boil it down to its best essence, and that’s what’s being reflected through so many of these pieces.”
When the exhibit is over, the pieces that have not sold will be listed on DAC’s website.
DAC during COVID-19In late March, DAC was forced to close its doors to the public and furlough its employees, which Macon described as “horrible.” However, it has received a loan from the Small Business Administration Paycheck Protection Program and “the minute we got that PPP money, everyone was back and ready to get to work,” Macon said.
The Phoenix exhibit is just one of many ways DAC staff members have found to interact with the community and showcase art during the pandemic. In the spring, when many students were not in school, DAC held a number of online art and theater classes that were popular. The classes will continue through fall and winter.
The Arts Center also pivoted its popular 10-minute play festival to be held online. In the past, tickets had been limited to the events, but Macon emphasized when the center put it online, it drew from a global audience.
“We were pleasantly surprised that it was an opportunity,” she said. “We may continue doing this even after COVID is over.”
Macon cited the support of the community as a reason the Arts Center has been able to continue to host classes, exhibits and programs. Donations from the community and grants have been higher than at this time last year, Macon said.
“We’ve been around since 1966 and that’s not been by accident,” she said. “It’s great to live in a place where people really do value the enrichment that comes from having an arts center. ... I encourage everyone to get involved and become a member.”
While DAC is busy trying to figure out the next exhibit and how to plan for the winter, Macon is not worried.
“I have discovered that you cannot stop creatives,” she said.