Balmy weather, free wine and canapés, socializing and new art always will get people strolling along Main Avenue. Durango's first official Gallery Walk of the season May 8 was no exception.
With the addition this year of new galleries Azul and Harper-Roberts, there was a broad enough array of art in just about every medium to satisfy the most discerning of art lovers. It is an enjoyable event and, at its best, actually stimulates sales. It also gets people talking about art, and that is reason enough to keep the tradition alive. Not long ago, the gallery walk happened every month, but as Brandon Donahue of Open Shutter said, "It watered down the whole event and it didn't seem special."
Like most of the galleries, Open Shutter arranges to have a special show for Gallery Walk and the current one features photographer Elliott Erwitt. Erwitt's black-and-white photography is evocative of Henri Cartier-Bresson's work, and by exhibiting it here, Open Shutter provides an opportunity to view and buy world-renown photography in Durango.
"It was greatly attended, and while we didn't sell off the walls, we did sell a lot of supplementary things, like books featuring (Erwitt's) work," Donahue said.
Karyn Gabaldon was totally effusive about this particular walk.
"We had 1,200 people between five and nine in the evening," she said. "It was great, a good kickoff to the season. Each one seems to get bigger and bigger. Everything was just right."
Gabaldon should know because the next Gallery Walk, scheduled for September 18, will mark the event's 25th anniversary and she was here for the first one.
"It's a chance to extend a hand to the community, too," she said.
Sorrell Sky Gallery Director Sheri Rochford believed this year's walk was comparable to the previous one, but said, "People were interested in meeting the artists and the attendance was spread out just enough to allow a dialogue to take place. Sales were really good. Ray Tracey, the featured jewelry artist, sold extremely well."
Rochford reflects the opinion of other gallery directors when she said the Gallery Walk "launches enthusiasm for the season. It's a good kickoff to the summer."
Gallery owner Monica Ellis, of Ellis-West, called the crowd "average" by the standards of the past 11 gallery walks, but it was an enthusiastic bunch. Ellis characterized the gallery's two-person show as "a very strong show."
"Our sales were double last year's Spring Gallery Walk, so who knows?," Ellis said. "The economy doesn't seem to be affecting our gallery very much. We are having an average year, not up, but not down, and I am happy with that."
Stew Mosberg is a freelance writer. He has written about art regionally and nationally and is the author of two books on design. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.