Artists Gather to Share Ideas, Durango Herald, Oct. 31, 2006

I spent the last Thursday of October at Jess Leggett’s home in Durango talking about art with Leggett, an abstract painter and collage artist, Niara Isley, a mixed media artist, and Maggie Remington, an earth painter.

The three women are relative newcomers to the Durango arts scene, having all moved here within the last five years. For more than a year, Leggett has talked about getting artists together to support each other. She met Isley at the Durango Arts Center. In September, they invited artists to Isley’s home studio for an inaugural salon to discuss the topic: “Does your art heal?” Six artists attended.

“I have a mission to create a community,” Leggett said. “It takes work. It’s a birthing.”

Leggett and Isley were inspired to start the Last Thursday Arts Salon by a similar group, formed in Pagosa Springs in late 2004. Like Leggett’s group, the Pagosa salon began meeting in homes, but was soon based at Michael Coffee’s ceramic studio and featured monthly speakers.

In February 2005, Coffee started a Yahoo group called ArtsNetwork, to encourage community and collaboration between artists, writers, musicians, performers, arts leaders and people of artistic vision. A few months later, Leggett started DurangoArtists, a Yahoo group site. “Where Durango artists meet to discuss topics related to art and art-making, and help to make Durango a great place to be an artist.”

The Internet group sites are virtual communities where artists can dialogue and share ideas, successes and even disappointments between, or in place of, physical meetings without restrictions of geography and physical location.

I asked the women what they were getting out of their monthly meetings.

Leggett answered: “The knowledge that other artists have similar struggles and problems.” She added that seeing another artist’s studio and exploring their working process was “really neat.”

“We have love, passion and problems in common,” Isley said. “And we are helping to support each other living and selling art. We are all wondering, ‘How do you do this?'”

I value the idea of supporting one another, but I wonder how struggling artists can help each other make a living at selling art?

Supporting and encouraging each other is only one aspect of the process. Honest evaluation and critique of work are important elements, too. Getting advice from those who have already achieved the goal is critical.

Leggett and Isley want to create a group different from the monthly artist gathering at the Durango Art Center. They both enjoy that group, but want something less formal, without a speaker, that allows artists the opportunity to talk freely with one another.

In the future, they’d like to have 10 artists who meet and share regularly from the heart. They want to continue to meet in homes and share their studios at least part of the time. They want to share marketing ideas and concepts with each other and learn from each other how to run the business of art.

“We want to make money at art,” Leggett said.

The Last Thursday Arts Salon is a valuable addition to the Durango art scene. But it shouldn’t take the place of the monthly artist gathering at Durango Art Center where experts talk to artists about issues important to their careers.

As for learning about business and how to make money as an entrepreneur, artists should look to the Small Business Development Center at Fort Lewis College.

The Last Thursday Arts Salon is a place to discuss ideas, feed off the collective creative energy and to be part of a group of artists who will nurture and support your work.

For more information about the Last Thursday Arts Salon, contact Jess Leggett at 259-8998 or e-mail her at leggetts@sis na.com.

To sign up for the Durango Artists Yahoo group send an e-mail to: Durangoartists-sub scribe@yahoogroups.com.

lgoebel@centurytel.net Leanne Goebel is a freelance arts journalist from Pagosa Springs.

Contents copyright ©, the Durango Herald. All rights reserved.

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