For 15 years, local artists and artisans regularly blocked off their calendars the second weekend in August for the Main Avenue Arts Festival. When the sponsoring Durango Arts Center board of directors pulled the plug on the Arts Festival earlier this year after it spent a forgettable 2008 on East Second Avenue, those calendars opened up in unison. D. Robert Smith, a local jeweler, has a plan to reclaim the weekend in the name of art.
Smith is the founder of the inaugural Creative Arts Showcase, which begins Friday with citywide open houses at 19 local businesses and continues through Sunday. He said the showcase, as he envisions it, will be more than an art show but not quite the event that forced the closure of Main Avenue for all those years.
"I tried to pick stores that had things beside just the galleries so people wouldn't be left out," Smith said.
He alluded to a DAC survey that showed downtown business owners are evenly divided on the merits of limited-access festivals. Some believe that despite the high foot traffic, patrons are more likely to stay in the street and forego local merchants and restaurants. The results were cited by DAC board members when the Arts Festival moved from Main Avenue to East Second Avenue last year. The board is considering resurrecting an Arts Festival in 2010.
"I came to this after the Arts Festival went belly-up as a downtown business owner to keep this going," Smith said.
"If we could make this work, we can tie it to the Arts Festival, and have a shindig going for a few days and bring the arts culture back into the downtown.
"I'm the kind of person where I don't sit around and complain; I go do something," he said.
Smith's liberties with the meaning of "creative arts" notwithstanding, there are plenty of galleries participating in the showcase: Karyn Gabaldon Fine Arts, Open Shutter, Sorrel Sky, Earthen Vessel, Toh-Atin, Rain Dance, A Shared Blanket, Goodman's Art Bin and Harper-Roberts would be expected participants.
There also are jewelry shops: Smith's namesake store, D. Robert Smith Jewelry Design; Lanka Blue; and Hell Bent Leather. Also on the map are several stores that don't fit the image of a traditional arts festival: Wildflower, There's No Place Like Home and Cloudberries. Even the Irish Embassy pub and the Abbey Theatre are getting in on the act - the former is celebrating beer as art and
the latter will hold its first art show with the works of 17 local and
regional artists on display all weekend.
"I've tried to do this with almost no cost. Some businesses will have food and wine, some won't, but they'll be open," Smith said. "It gives people a reason to be downtown and have a little fun. The worst thing that could happen is it doesn't work, but that's where we're at now anyway."
Smith said he hopes to help the Durango Arts Center reinstate the Arts Festival next year, and he will volunteer his services to coordinate that effort, as well.
"The DAC needs help, and what's a little bit of time? I'm tired of hearing people complain about it," he said.