Cortez Cultural Center turns 25

Facility offers unique programs, is a ‘catalyst for culture continuity’

Keywords: Poll question,
Norman Roach performs at the Indian dances in the courtyard at the Cortez Cultural Center. Enlargephoto

Journal/ Sam Green

Norman Roach performs at the Indian dances in the courtyard at the Cortez Cultural Center.

For people searching for something unique this summer, there’s no need to look too far.

The Cortez Cultural Center is the spot. The center showcases Native American dancers six days a week, offers educational programs, art exhibits and a museum gallery epitomizing Southwest history. Every month, the art gallery features a new local artist totaling 16-17 different galleries each year.

All of those things are nearly the tip of the iceberg of what the center has to offer.

“It’s a great draw for tourism in our area but it’s also an important opportunity for people to be able to appreciate Native American cultures, in some cases to actually be able to interact with the Native American dancers,” said Shawn Collins, the executive director of Cortez Cultural Center.

“Our mission is to provide a forum for our community’s artistic, cultural, educational, and scientific needs,” Collins said. “We are a catalyst for cultural continuity, respect and innovation.”

The center aims at collaborating with the eclectic culture of the Southwest, which is home to vivid Native American history, early pioneers and rich agriculture.

“Our emphasis is on Southwestern culture, currently we invite dancers from the Four Corners states to perform,” Collins said.

Variety is key to attracting visitors.

“We have such a variety of programs that draw people young and old from different cultures in order to appreciate other cultures, so we have both locals and visitors coming to this area,” Collins said.

ABOUT THE CENTER

The center itself, which strives to represent the culture of the area, has a pretty rich history itself.

In 1987, a task force was formed around the desire for a center that would offer art and culture to the Cortez area.

The desire arose from the interest of bringing educational programs to Southwest Colorado. The Cortez Cultural Center now stands as the primary regional location for cultural and historic exhibits and programming.

When the center was first formed, it was known as the “CU Center,” an affiliation with the University of Colorado.

Under that affiliation, the “CU Center,” provided educational programming, lectures, and travel logs, according to Collins.

About 15 years ago, the University of Colorado affiliation dropped off, and the Cortez Cultural Center was born.

The center became an “independent, not-for-profit business,” and broadened its services to offer a place to absorb the culture through the art gallery and museum.

“We’re celebrating our 25th year as some sort of organization doing this in this area,” Collins said. “No one provides quite the services that we do.”

The Cortez Cultural Center also owns and operates Hawkins Preserve, an oasis for reconnecting with the nature of the Southwest.

The 122-acre natural and cultural preserve is located within city limits and is open to the public for hiking, biking and exploring from dawn until dusk.

“It is a great opportunity to get away from town without ever leaving town,” Collins said.

Hawkins Preserve is utilized by the center to host a variety of services and educational opportunities.

Last year native plant master courses, astronomy courses and archaeology courses were offered at Hawkins Preserve through collaboration with the Colorado State University Extension Office.

In the 1990s, Hawkins Preserve was donated to the Colorado University Center of Cortez, now the Cortez Cultural Center, by Jack Hawkins, a radio station owner and land developer in Cortez.

The Preserve is a valuable asset for the residents and visitors of Cortez because of the “environmental setting, the diversity of plant and animal species represented across several biotic communities, the historic and prehistoric cultural resources, and the accessibility of these resources to the preserve’s visitors,” according to the Cortez Cultural Center’s website.

The Cultural Center is also home to several conference rooms that are available to the public as well.

“To help out other organizations while getting people into the center so they can see what it is that we have and appreciate it, is a great way to collaborate with the community,” Collins said.

Currently the Archaeology Society hosts their monthly events in the gallery and yoga classes are offered at the center as well.

Working everyday at the Cortez Cultural Center has been rewarding for Collins.

“I’ve really enjoyed seeing people come into the center look around and see that we’ve changed things,” she said.

Reach Paige Blankenbuehler at paigeb@cortezjournal.com

Ramona Roach dances outside the Cortez Cultural Center for the nightly entertainment during the summer months. Ramona and her husband, Norman, have been dancing at the Center for the past seven years. Enlargephoto

Journal/ Sam Green

Ramona Roach dances outside the Cortez Cultural Center for the nightly entertainment during the summer months. Ramona and her husband, Norman, have been dancing at the Center for the past seven years.