Not since the dot-com craze of the 1990s have we witnessed the kind of unbridled success that is Durango Open Studios. But don't expect this bubble to burst anytime soon.
In just its second year, the tour of local artists' studios and galleries has exploded from 18 participants last year to more than 40 for this weekend's sequel.
“It's definitely something neat to be a part of; there are just more artists, and everything's different,” said Crystal Hartman, the founder and coordinator of Open Studios whose job makes herding cats look like a breeze by comparison.
The differences are as vast as art itself. This year's tour will give visitors rare access into the places where leatherworkers, jewelers, painters, sculptors, fabric artists and ceramicists spend their time making the world beautiful while the rest of us just pass the days. Then there's Mary Ellen Long. There's no real description for what Long does, but an Open Studios tour without a stop at her creative ground zero would be incomplete. To see where these people work is an eye-opening experience and gives new meaning to working for a living. You will be both awestruck and envious.
Because of Hartman's efforts, art aficionados, with just a bit of effort, should have no problem making the rounds. Because several artists share space, either year-round or just for this weekend, the tour is consolidated into 26 stops. The majority are in town, with multiple artists holding show-and-tell at the Smiley Building (eight artists), & (four artists) and the GroundUp Arts Collective with the balance of single or double occupancy studios. Those on the walking tour include Lisa Pedolsky, Jinah China (porcelain), Bengt Hokanson and Trefny Dix, Barbara Klema and Mariah Richstone.
Incidentally, the GroundUp gang, working out of the East Second Avenue space once known as ARTiculation, has some great hands-on stuff happening, including adobe mud-stomping and a do-it-yourself silk-screening station. Sounds like a hoot.
Of course, not all Durango artists live in Durango, and you'd be doing yourself a disservice to discriminate against any studios for reasons of geography. There are a few “loops” to follow; the western hits studios in Wildcat Canyon, Lake Durango and Durango West and the home/studios of Jan Goldman, Alison Goss, Cindy Lathrop, Jane Mercer and Lisa and Loren Skyhorse.
The northeastern loop includes Long, Margaret Barge, Mel Smith, Maryellen Morrow, Sue Cleveland, Mary Alice Hearn, John Grow and the Svasti House where Nicole Mosher, Chris Vandeleur, Sarah Comerford, Dave Sipe, Mary Anne Griffin and Mary Elizabeth Chapel will hold a group exhibition. Also north of downtown and outside of the walking loop is the shared space of Elizabeth Kinahan and Sam Cooke as well as the home studios of Connie Imig and Bethany Bachmann.
If it all sounds a bit overwhelming, you've lived a sheltered life – it's art, after all, enjoy it. But to keep things simple, there's a map available, on paper and online, to let you plot a route that works for your schedule. Also, a limited edition book (500 were printed) with artist profiles is available at Maria's Bookshop, the Steaming Bean and the Durango Arts Center. The DAC also is home to the Open Doors exhibit, which features a piece from each of the participating artists so you can preview the tour in one location before hitting the road.
“There are so many things to see and fascinating people to meet that for me, it's imperative to pick up a book or go to the Arts Center ahead of time instead of just grabbing a map and stumbling around,” Hartman said.