Local color
Creative District 'Art Brigade' to bring walkable, outdoor art to downtown

Local color

A chalk-board pyramid installation by Animas Craft Woodworks. One of the proposals by the Durango Art Brigade is to design a chalk drawing for the pyramid, which will be located outside Studio &. The artwork will be displayed for the month of October and artists will receive a stipend for their work and materials./ Photo by Scott DW Smith, Imagesmith Photography

Missy Votel - 09/03/2020

Attention yarn bombers, bump-out beautifiers and window bedazzlers: the Durango Art Brigade wants you to join its ranks. 

The Art Brigade will soon be storming downtown Durango with temporary public art projects, from gussied up newspaper boxes and murals to “pop-up” green spaces and whatever your wildly creative hearts can dream up. But hurry: deadline to submit your proposal is 5 p.m., this Fri., Sept. 4.

The goal of the project, which is a collaboration of the Durango Creative District, City of Durango, Business Improvement District and Local First, is threefold: to add some flair to downtown; help support local artists; and coax pandemic-weary folks out of their quarantine doldrums for some socially distanced art appreciation. And speaking of artists, those whose projects are chosen will receive a stipend for their time and supplies. 

“COVID has wreaked havoc on our economy,” Durango Creative District Director Hayley Kirkman said. “Although it was not nearly as bad as we thought it would be, a survey we did of local artists found that 80 percent reported lost income in April and May.”

Given that, Kirkman and fellow artist Elsa Jagniecki, who also serves on the City’s Creative Economy Commission, put their heads together. “We thought of ways we could use art to invite people back into the physical sphere and engage people through art,” Kirkman said. “We have a wealth of makers and creatives here, we wanted to give them a chance to share that.”

The two also looked at what other creative districts around the state were doing as well as last winter’s success with the empty storefront project. Eventually, they came up with the idea for the Art Brigade.

“It just made a lot of sense,” said Kirkman. “We see it as a strategy for economic recovery.”

The idea is to have artists submit their ideas via an application process, which will then go through a selection committee. The winning projects will be installed later this month and available for the public’s viewing pleasure for the month of October.

Right now, the Art Brigade has identified about 10 sites and potential projects (which is available on its website) although Kirkman notes these are merely suggestions. In other words, let the muse move you. “If something’s not on the list, artists can propose that, too,” she said. “This gives the opportunity for artists to go out and say, ‘I’m inspired by this space.’”

Another mission of the project is to involve local youth, whose artistic outlets may have been cut short or scrapped all together thanks to the pandemic. “Our second goal is to engage    youth,” said Kirkman. Right now, artist Debra Greenblatt, of4  Dumpster Beautification Project fame, is coordinating with local schools on ways to get kids involved. The plan is for artists to be assigned student volunteers to help in creating their masterpieces.

The selection committee will choose projects based on the following criteria:

• Compatibility with site;

• Engaging/interactive concept;

• Meets a reasonable budget;

• Project can be fabricated in two-weeks;

• Business owner/property manager supports concept.

Kirkman also said projects should be designed to be temporary in nature with an eye toward weather- as well as germ-repellency (i.e. projects that entail looking but perhaps not a lot of touching – although steps will be taken to ensure projects are sanitized for your protection.) However, she notes since this is the first time something like this has been tried downtown, it’s all a bit experimental.

“I don’t know what to expect. It will be interesting to have artists have these parameters and make these spaces more beautiful, colorful and interactive,” she said 

Looking ahead, she said she hopes it’s something that catches on, like the bump-outs, which seem to be well-received by locals and visitors alike.

“There’s so much benefit to promoting a pedestrian economy and seeing how vibrant it is down there,” she said. “I hope this project catches on and gets people’s wheels turning on what art can do for our community. Even if it sparks joy … it’s a huge benefit.” n

For info, go to duangocreativedistrict.org


Local color

An example of the modern crafting phenomenon known as "yarn bombing." TheDurango Creative District, along with the City of Durango and the Business Improvement District, is asking locals to come up with their creative best for the Durango Art Brigade, which will bring "pop-up" art installations to downtown Durango in October. All proposals – which will be reimbursed – are due Friday.