Fires. Armed conflict. Mass relocation.
Such hardships sound more like Bosnia in the 90s than a Main Avenue art gallery, but no, those are just a few of the bumps in the road during Sorrel Sky Gallerys first decade in business.
I guess the reason its a big deal, at least in my mind, is because of just what these last 10 years have brought, as far as challenges, said Sorrel Sky owner Shanan Campbell Wells as she prepared for tonights 10th Anniversary Show & Celebration.
The fires, which included two well-publicized Main Avenue blazes and the Missionary Ridge Fire in Sorrel Skys opening year of 2002, spared the gallery at its former location at the corner of Ninth Street and Main Avenue. Wells and her husband, John, bought the building formerly occupied by Hogans clothing store last year and moved the gallery a few doors down the block.
But by far, the most notable story in Sorrel Skys history came in 2008, when an armed robber made off with about $400,000 in jewelry, much of it made by Wells father, Ben Nighthorse. Most of it later was recovered in Las Vegas, but it was just another example that when running a business, its impossible to prepare for everything.
Some hard lessons learned, Wells said. But Im hard-headed enough that Im not sure if there was any other way I would have learned some of these lessons. Lessons like: plan for the best, but prepare for the worst; everything is really about relationships; and never give up, theres always a solution.
To be sure, theres been more good times than bad, and thats what Wells will celebrate tonight. About 30 of her artists, including newcomers Phyllis Stapler and Tony Newlin, will be at tonights party meeting people, signing their work and just having a good time. Newlin is Sorrel Skys first photography artist.
Other highlights tonight will include a sneak peek at Nighthorses museum of Indian jewelry-making, which hes in the process of setting up in the Sorrel Sky basement.
Also, sculptor Michael Naranjo will have signed copies of his new book Inner Vision for sale. Naranjo lost his eyesight as well as the use of his right hand in combat in Vietnam, yet hes become one of the most lauded sculptors in the country since sustaining his injuries.
Wells set out on her own after working for years at Jackson Clarks Toh-Atin Gallery and had Clarks blessing when she opened Sorrel Sky just a block away. She never intended to compete directly with Toh-Atin, which has built its reputation on fine Native American art. Wells had a different vision for Sorrel Sky, and the gallery is evidence of her success.
I started the gallery on the premise that Durango was finally ready for a really nice western art gallery, similar to what you see in Jackson Hole or Vail, she said.
I think the thing that is remarkable, is through good times and bad, I never gave up, she said. Every time something would happen, my first reaction would be: What can I do to turn this around? Giving up was never, and is never, an option no matter what.