Durango lifestyle fuels art community, Durango Herald, Feb. 16, 2007

Award-winning GeeGuides’ art game goes to New York

This week, Durangoan Eric Guaglione, founder and CEO of GeeGuides, will be creating chalk drawings at the American International Toy Fair in New York to let people know about geeART16, the company’s “art game.”

GeeGuides started in Florida in 2003 among Disney animators such as Guaglione, but the company moved to Durango at the suggestion of Wayne Sabbak, now a Geeguide director, who had moved to town several years earlier.

GeeGuides is an online educational program that teaches art to children. Using a penguin named Tickles, her sister Ruby and a polar bear named Furnace, GeeGuides aims to make learning fun, either on the computer or using traditional methods.

“We would like to be seen as a company reinventing education,” Guaglione said. He added that educators are taking to the experiential aspects of GeeGuides and have asked for more subjects: math, science and history.

A passion for education and 18 months of research solidified what Guaglione and his wife, Lynne, an educator, already knew: Education should be fun, it should be challenging and it should be meaningful.

“If you nurture a child’s imagination, that turns into innovation and innovative thinkers are in high demand in the workplace. Innovative thinking comes from using your imagination,” Guaglione said.

The innovative geeART16 has been awarded an “Award of Excellence” from Technology & Learning, an industry award that recognizes outstanding education technology curricula as chosen by teachers across the country. GeeART16 also won the Flashforward Film Festival award for their use of Adobe Flash software for educational purposes.

GeeGuides launched geeART16 online last July and is now selling to schools. Guaglione said that the company would know whether it reached its sales goals by midyear.

During the past six months, they’ve listened to feedback and adjusted their pricing to help schools afford the product.

A Core School site license is now $995 and GeeGuides will help with that by providing information on grant funding. GeeGuides also offers a fundraising kit to help a school and PTA raise money.

Two schools in Colorado are using geeART16: Riverview Elementary in Durango and a virtual school in Branson.

As for the challenges of doing business in Durango, Guaglione said the biggest issue is travel.
“It’s very challenging when you can’t count on reliably getting out of town because of canceled flights,” Guaglione said.

Another challenge in the beginning was finding employees.

“The nature of what we do is talent specific,” Guaglione said. “But the majority of our staff is now locally recruited.”

And the staff of 15 enjoys the atmosphere of working at GeeGuides. They ski and hike in groups. They even take easels and markers and head to the park or the woods to have a meeting. Not something Guaglione did when he worked in Florida.

“The level of community support here in Durango is unmatched,” Guaglione said. “It’s been amazing.”

If only the community could do something about those canceled flights.

artsjournalist@centurytel.net Leanne Goebel is a freelance writer specializing in the arts.

Contents copyright ©, the Durango Herald. All rights reserved.






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