Variety of art mediums on display on East Second Avenue Saturday; Durango Art Week continues through Sept. 24
About 90 artists had vendor booths splayed out along East Second Avenue on Saturday for the 29th Annual Durango Autumn Arts Festival, which kicked off the first Durango Arts Week.
Durango Arts Week, which began Friday, is a collaboration between the city of Durango, Visit Durango, iAM Music, the Durango Arts Center, the Durango Creative District and other organizations to highlight local artists and draw attention to the area art scene.
Paintings, graphite illustrations, pottery, jewelry, hats, handcrafted instruments and other artistic projects were on display. Durango area residents and visitors strolled the streets, gazed at creations and enjoyed the pleasant 60-degree weather as summer comes to a close.
Nick Kogos, Visit Durango’s marketing manager, said Durango Arts Week promotes 65 varying classes and events focused on theater, writing, painting, digital art, music, film and architecture. The classes range from introductory to intermediate and advanced lessons.
“ (The events are) geared toward all walks of life and abilities,” he said. “That was a big, big component of Durango Arts Week, is that we really wanted to make it accessible.”
He said turnout for the vendor fair on Saturday, the second day of Durango Arts Week, was strong.
“I cannot believe how much the community has rallied together to put this on,” he said. “… People really stepped up. This is the first year we’re doing it and there’s 65 events. It’s crazy. I’m excited for next year because it’s only going to get bigger and better.”
He said the dream is to turn Durango Arts Week into Durango Arts Month, which would take place each September or some time in the fall every year.
“We have high hopes of not just continuing this every year but making it into a big, big thing,” he said.
Some participating artists in Saturday’s event came from outside the Four Corners area. Santa Fe man Akeen Ayanniyi, a ninth generation Nigerian drum maker, was among them.
He said he handcrafts all his Yubari talking drums using wood, goat or cow skin and rope. And he is helping to keep his family’s Nigerian cultural legacy alive.
“I was born into it. I have no choice but to keep it going. I grew up doing all this, assisting my parents,” he said.
He said he’s played the drums all his life, and drumming and drum-making is his specialty.
Farmington man and artist Anthony Chee Emerson was set up on East Second Avenue to show off illustrations of original characters. He hoped to create educational animation about Navajo language, with the intent of preserving the language for generations to come.
He said he has four animation concepts he is working on in collaboration with San Juan College. They draw inspiration from life on the reservation and Navajo culture. They consist of anthropomorphic animals living their best rock n’ roll lifestyles.
One concept is The Band Called Shandiin; another is the Máii Crew, a band of singing coyotes.
Emerson said he’s gathered a group of advisors affiliated with San Juan College and other area organizations, and has met with Disney representatives about eventually creating a feature film or animated series based on his creations. He hopes to resume talks with Disney come springtime.
He has already written a seven-minute story that will serve as the basis for a script. The script will be translated into a Navajo-subtitled, English-narrated version and vice versa. Emerson will create a storyboard for the script as it’s being produced, then present that to Disney.
“We’re also trying to get Mountain Ute and Southern Ute and also the Jicarilla involved to help fund this so it can be done in their language too,” he said. “And then expand it from there, because there’s other language preservation grants and programs that can be done.”
Emerson wants to start a production company called Máii Productions that will foster his creations.
Emerson, who has practiced visual arts for 41 years, said he’d like to see San Juan College start its screenwriting program and a basic animation program to give students coming out of high school a track to explore their digital art talents. He also hopes many of those students will consider becoming educators in the digital arts.
Emerson said he and his wife take on every art project together.
For more information about Durango Arts Week, visit durango.org/arts-week.