Whoever said "Youth is wasted on the young" didn't know Crystal Hartman, Riley Neugebauer or Katie Wacker. These three women, all younger than 30, already have made an impact on Durango's art community.
In the last year, the three have combined to produce or soon will present an artist's studio tour, a gallery guide of the Four Corners and a six-venue exhibition for emerging artists.
Hartman, the only native Durangoan of the group, was an intern with the late Stanton Englehart, and, like many, she credits him as a major influence in her desire to help others in the arts.
As the oldest of the three, she has embarked on what many believe is a Herculean task: to produce a viable studio tour of local artists' work spaces, which is scheduled for Sept. 25-27.
Hartman also has engaged Durango Arts Center's Barbara Conrad Gallery for those artists whose space is too small or out of the way to accept guests.
Neugebauer, the only one in the trio with no formal art training, created the Durango Youth Coalition, which planned and produced the highly successful "Dawdle," an exhibition of work by 60 young artists at half a dozen locations around Durango in April.
Wacker managed to quiet the naysayers, by publishing a 28-page, full-color gallery guide that is a compilation of art galleries and artists from seven communities in the region.
With art, youth and locale as a common thread, it's surprising these three didn't know each other before last year. And while they are not affiliated as a single entity, they frequently communicate and share information as well as an unbridled enthusiasm.
The three art advocates share a view that even though their focus is on the younger generation, everyone would benefit through communication and learning from each other by collaborating to make Durango a truly artistic place.
Neugebauer recently embarked on a new project, "legal graffiti," in which she has asked the city of Durango, local businesses and the Arts Center to provide wall space for young artists to decorate with periodically changing murals.
The three activists concur on the need for community participation and alliance with artists.
"It's about inspiration," said Hartman. "We need more personal interaction. Mutual respect for each other is lost in the age of iPods and the Internet."
Neugebauer believes Durango "lacks communication with the younger set. Some (older) people create elitism. I think artists are more tolerant of new ideas."
When asked about funding their endeavors, Neugebauer said she works several jobs and admitted to being in "a hole" financially, but she said she does it because "I could never not be involved in the community. To be sustainable, a town needs art."
Overall, they all agree changes are taking place in Durango.
"So many people are talking about art," Hartman said. "That is huge."
Stew Mosberg is a freelance writer and has written about
art regionally and nationally. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.