Before going any further, let's be very clear. The name of the business is &. Not And" or & and &." Just
&. And although it's smack dab in the center of one of Durango's most historically notorious districts, that red
light in the window doesn't mean what you think.
The newest venture in the 1000 block of Main Avenue has been furrowing the brows of passers-by since the curious
ampersands began adorning the windows in February in the space last occupied by The Beehive. But it's quite simple,really. & is a collaborative - not a cooperative - among two artists, a professional photographer, a graphic
designer and a woman who makes personalized piggy banks.
A lot of people are closet artists, and they're jealous of the collaboration," said Tim Kapustka, sole proprietor of
Kapustka operates his design business from the storefront he shares with McCarson Jones' Red Scarf Shots photography,Crissy Coniglio's Someday Inc. (the pigs and other personalized gifts) and artists Tirzah Camacho and Sarah Steppelman.
Coniglio already was in business in the rear space of the building and pitched the idea for the other four to move in
up front. The tenants don't share the profits of their individual businesses, but they split the costs of rent,utilities and marketing, which allows each to have a presence on Main Avenue that wouldn't be possible as five solo
My business has increased considerably just being downtown," Jones said, a sentiment echoed by the other three
newcomers who have all seen noticeable returns in the short time since & opened March 15.
But I also just love people watching, too," Jones added, and that explains why her
workspace is that closest to the front window exposed to hundreds if not thousands of perplexed pedestrians every
The foot traffic certainly has been an early boon, but window shopping at & is something new and different. During
most days, Jones and Kapustka work like many of us stiffs before yielding to Camacho and Steppelman, who do most of
their painting and/or sculpture at night. But no one's hours are set, and at any time of any day (or night) you can
catch any of the artists at work on his or her craft. That's where the red light comes in.
The red light is a signal - not to stop, but when it's on, it means there's an artist at work.
We want the public in here, but it's a fine line when we're working," Kapustka explained.
When I'm not on a deadline, I'm happy to show someone what everyone else here is doing, and we all do that for each
other, but when I am on deadline, come on in, watch and ask questions, but it'll be more the nickel tour than the whole
Tangibly speaking, the show" is the artwork of Jones, Camacho and Steppelman that hangs on most of the available wall
space inside &. That makes it a gallery of sorts, but buying artwork at & is like buying a six-pack at Durango
Brewing Co., Ska or Steamworks - it's also the artists' studio so you get to see where it's made, too.
So someone can drop in and see a piece being made from day to day and how it changes and evolves," Steppelman
I don't think that's a common experience, especially with galleries - you just go in and see a piece with a big price
tag and you have no idea where it came from or why it's so expensive. But what we have explains that process, and it
doesn't just explain it for Tirzah and me but for all artists."
Though they may work in a fishbowl, the & crew is not working in a vacuum. A March 11 private opening party was
packed wall to wall for five hours with fellow artists and community members eager to see how the experiment works.
And in recent publications, the Business Improvement District has recommended downtown merchants pool their resources
to share cost burdens, so the business community will keep a close eye on the entrepreneurial artists as well. And
that's fine with the group, which is hardly territorial about the enviable setup.
I hope it's a format other people will pick up on, and I've been telling all my artist friends: 'Why don't you do it,too?'" Camacho said.
Location is important, and I feel fortunate to have gotten the opportunity. I'm in love with being able to do what I
want to do every day; I've made it my full-time job, and I'm serious about making art, and now I'm working with people
who are just as serious, but we're having fun with it, too," she said.