JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald
It’s about time, some might say, that Mancos had its own Open Studios Tour. And come Saturday, the small, burgeoning arts community finally will.
Both big names and small will open their homes and studios to the public and provide a hint of insight into the world of the Mancos artist.
Last year’s Durango Open Studios tour featured many artists from the Mancos area, but an overwhelming response from artists and patrons inspired the tours to split.
The 16 participating artists are spread throughout bucolic riverside landscapes, dusty sage vistas and pine-encrusted hillsides, making the tour as much a geological review as one for art.
“Artists choose to be way out in the middle of nowhere,” organizer Denise Leslie said. “And those are usually the really interesting spots.”
Returning this year is internationally renowned bronze sculptor Veryl Goodnight, whose work will be viewable at her downtown Mancos gallery and at her studio in the mountains above town.
Visitors to Goodnight’s studio will be immersed in the same setting where her romanticized depictions of Western life are conceptualized. Her downtown location, The Goodnight Trail Gallery, also will host oil painter Susan Hediger-Matteson, who, like many artists in the area, is finding fine art as a second, well-worth-waiting-for career.
“Everyday, I’m hearing about some new artist that lives out that way,” Leslie said. “I think it’s really a thriving little arts community that’s pulling the artists together and making a name for Mancos.”
Recently highlighted in the Chicago Daily Herald, Mancos currently has more galleries per capita than any other arts community in the country – including Santa Fe and New York.
Just across the street from The Goodnight Trail Gallery is Artisans of Mancos, a cooperative, artist-run gallery. Potter and landscape painter J. Milton Beens, mixed-media artist Jay Johnson and jeweler Patty Russell will be present at the gallery to present and discuss their work.
Artisans of Mancos is a good starting point on the tour as the gallery represents an astonishing variety of mediums and artists.
Though half of the 16 artists are in town, half the fun of the Mancos Open Studios Tour will be finding the remaining ones in the remote outstretches of the area.
About five miles outside of Mancos are the 10 lakeside cabins of Willowtail Springs, where painter and sculptor Peggy Cloy has made her home since 1993.
After leaving a successful artistic career of 20 years in Seattle, Cloy revitalized the property, transforming Willowtail Springs into a rural retreat for artists, writers and vacationers. Cloy’s abstracts offer a deep and insightful view into the spirituality and personal connection to landscape.
“My experience is that anybody who is interested in or collecting art wants to be in the creative environment. They want to know the artist,” Cloy said. “They want to see what environment the artist has put themselves in.”
Also worth the drive is watercolorist Jan Wright’s earthen-roof home. The soon-to-be artist-in-residence at Mesa Verde softly depicts the ancient cliff dwellings with a magical sense of light and space. Though her home and workspace are on a distant corner of the Open Studios map, it is certainly not to be missed.
“I love showing off my home and studio to people because it lets them see why I paint the way I do,” Wright said. “To have that personal connection with the artist makes (their art) much more valuable to them in their heart and their soul.”
Leslie hopes that art lovers take advantage of the inaugural tour of Mancos, wherever they may live.
“It’s a beautiful drive and totally worth it,” Leslie said. “It’s an adventure in the arts.”
Margaret Hedderman is a freelance writer based in Durango. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.