Art matters for Hayley Kirkman, and that’s pretty evident around Durango.
Murals popping up around town, first on the side of Durango Joe’s on College Drive and now behind Kroegers Ace Hardware facing Narrow Gauge Avenue, are the product of Kirkman’s work and her passion for art.
While society can be less than encouraging to children about pursuing a career in arts, Kirkman never deviated from her passion and her pursuit of making a career in the arts.
She grew up in Albuquerque and graduated from Fort Lewis College with a degree in graphic design.
“When I was young, I put on lipstick and kissed the wall all over,” Kirkman, 23, said. “My mother scrubbed them all off except one, and, 10 years later, she showed me the kiss mark and asked me if I remembered. I’ve always been a fan of making things colorful, rowdy and messy.”
Now, she is creative arts and special projects coordinator for Local First Durango, and the mural behind Kroegers likely won’t be the last around town.
Local First is seeking business sponsors for more murals and is seeking funding for more projects. The group is also exploring establishing a state-designated Creative District in Durango that would provide recognition for Durango’s community artists, help boost arts impact to the economy, and potentially bring in state money to support local arts.
“You’re told to believe from society that there is not a place for arts anymore – science and technology is what’s important. But I’ve learned that isn’t true,” she said. “Art has great importance. If defines our culture.”
The mural going up behind Kroegers, she said, is an example of how art can enrich.
“It shows the love for our community, and its vulnerability, all plastered up for everyone.”
Murals around town begin with an expression of interest from a business to Local First.
Kroegers employees approached Local First about an idea – to create a mural on its back-facing wall – that had been bouncing around the hardware store for years.
After a willing business is identified, Kirkman said a process begins to design a mural that works for the business, the space it occupies and the community at large.
A team of lead artists guide the mural, but Kirkman said it is important to involve the community, especially youth groups, to help finish murals.
Working with kids on the murals provides them with their first hands-on artistic experience. The broad swaths of colors on the unfinished mural behind Kroegers are by design. They give untrained youngsters an opportunity to participate, paint brush in hand. Later, more skilled artists will begin adding details to the mural.
At Kroegers, the mural will emphasize the environment and the landscape of the Southwest, and human activity will form the background.
Kirkman worked with Mountain Studies Institute and Southern Ute Museum to identify important plants and the traditional uses of them to integrate in into the mural. It is all done to reinforce the importance of the environment and the natural world to Southwest Colorado, she said.
Eventually, the mural project might even include a brochure that would identify plants in the painting and provide descriptions of the plants and their traditional uses by the Utes.
“You’d be able to get a brochure, and say, ‘Oh, number 10 is a yarrow plant.’ We’re not sure that (creating a brochure) is going to happen. We have all these ideas, and some come through and some of them you have to let go,” Kirkman said.
Local First also is leading an effort to obtain a state-assigned Creative District designation.
Monique DiGiorgio, managing director of Local First, said the designation would draw attention to Durango’s creative community and present a message to locals and tourists that the community cares about the arts.
Definition of participants in the Creative District would be broad, to include not only artists involved in traditional pursuits, but the culinary arts, craft brewers and architecture as well.
Stakeholder meetings have been ongoing to generate a proposal to the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade to get a Creative District designation.
On Oct. 11, Local First will hold a meeting at Durango Community Recreation Center to ask residents what they envision for a Creative District and to examine what has been done in Mancos, Telluride and Ridgway, three of 23 designated Creative Districts in the state.
“A Creative Arts District would create prosperity for the local economy and the world. We see economic development from a broad standpoint, not only from the local community but the planet,” DiGiorgio said.
Christina Kirkman, Hayley’s aunt, remembers “this thing” she did with Hayley when Hayley was about 9 years old: They mailed a drawing back and forth, adding details with each mailing.
“Hayley’s always been a creative individual. She’s always been hardworking and driven, even as a little kid,” Christina Kirkman said. “She knows what she wants, and she goes for it. The world hasn’t brought her down.”