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.”