With her bright smile often accentuated by scarlet lipstick, Hayley Kirkman (Art, ‘17) blends art into the tiniest details of her life. Growing up in Albuquerque, she remembers her Aunt Christina splaying out art supplies and encouraging her to experiment. A decade later, Kirkman recalls being in the Art & Design building at Fort Lewis College when her professor, Chad Colby, did the same thing with oil paints.
“He told me to ‘have at it,’” says Kirkman. “That freedom to just have fun opened up a whole new world for me. Definitely the most pivotal moment of my tenure at FLC.”
When Kirkman first came to FLC in 2013, she declared a major in Mathematics. She appreciates “having clear, logical steps that lead to one answer,” but after a year of study, realized that she didn’t want to spend the rest of her life behind a desk. A friend recommended graphic design, what Kirkman describes as “a sought-after trade that blends visual art skills with marketing skills.”
While she studied full-time and volunteered with FLC’s Environmental Center, Kirkman focused on building her portfolio, making posters for friends’ bands, and redesigning logos, “just for fun.” She was also president of the on-campus Creative Collective Art Club, where she says she first honed her leadership and budgeting skills. Kirkman was selected as the Outstanding Graphic Design Senior of the Year by the Art & Design faculty, who signed a Swiss graphic design coffee table book that Kirkman cherishes to this day.
In 2017, Kirkman chose to do a mural on the wall of the Everyday Gas Station at 8th Avenue and College Drive for her senior project. When the mural received heavy coverage by local media, Local First Managing Director Monique Digiorgio took notice and called Kirkman to see if she was interested in creating another mural. Thanks to Kirkman’s design and marketing skills, this part-time gig eventually led to a full-time job with Local First, a Durango nonprofit serving the locally owned, independent business community.
A year after she graduated, Kirkman was tasked with applying for a grant on behalf of Local First to make Durango one of Colorado’s 25 official creative districts. Kirkman led the stakeholder process, facilitating 30 meetings that year and coordinating hundreds of participants.
“It was humbling and scary, but I found that stepping into that power felt good,” says Kirkman, who now serves as the Durango Creative District’s executive director. “I take so much pride in Durango and what we’ve already done, and I want to grow with it. But there’s work to be done.”
When she isn’t developing Durango’s thriving arts and culture scene, Kirkman keeps busy sculpting monsters for the new Meow Wolf Denver exhibit, a project she’s collaborating on with Lexis Loeb (Art, ‘16) and their former professor, Colby.
“I’m a dabbler, always crafting something, spray painting, refurbishing furniture, doing pottery, cooking, or dancing,” says Kirkman. “I feel like I need to constantly be trying new things. I have so many ideas for my life and my art, and I only hope that there’s enough time to try them all out.”
Born and raised in Ignacio, Colorado, Chris deKay (American History, '93) is now the new superintendent of Ignacio School District. deKay has been with the district in various roles for the last 25 years.
Emily Johnson (Biology, '19) looks to traditional values of Indigenous peoples for lessons on how humanity should band together and reconnect with the planet for a sustainable future.
Natalie Benally (Theatre, '10) has been named a Cultural Capital Fellow by the First Peoples Fund, an organization whose mission is to honor and support First Peoples artists and culture-bearers through grants, awards, and fellowships.
Alumna Violette Cloud (Philosophy, '13) has joined the Policy Research Associates criminal justice team as a project associate. PRA is a national leader in behavioral health and research that works to create positive social change for people and communities through technical assistance, research, and training.
Alumna Kelly Koskie (Accounting, '96) has returned to the Four Corners after 15 years in the Midwest to serve as the new finance director of the City of Cortez, Colorado.
Illustrator Michaela Goade (Art, '14) became the first Native American to win the prestigious Randolph Caldecott Medal for best children’s picture story, cited for “We Are Water Protectors,” a celebration of nature and condemnation of the “black snake” Dakota Access Pipeline.