L to R: Artwork by Adele Kurtz; Earth paintings by Maggie Remington; Adele Kurtz uses her shoe as a hammer to hang a new painting.
Resourceful local painter Adele Kurtz is coordinating a project with eight other area artists, all women, to help themselves by setting up a seasonal gallery in the Durango Mall. The name of the gallery is Art Touche; it’s across from Sears between Mrs. Fields and Pier One Imports.
I sat down with Kurtz in front of Mrs. Fields to discuss her venture. She told me that since hanging her art on the bare walls of the remodeled section of the Durango Mall, the response has been overwhelming.
“People walking by respond differently than jurors and curators at art shows and fairs and in galleries,” Kurtz said. “The art that the academics like is not the art that my mom or my brother or my sister buys. People turn their nose up when I tell them Iselling in the Durango Mall, but I think we have to get our of our ivory towers, come down from our studios in the mountains and get in touch with people.”
Several weeks ago, Kurtz contacted John Dickey at the Durango Mall and asked if they’d considered hanging art on the new walls near Linens ‘n Things and Pier 1 Imports. He said yes, but he didn’t know how to coordinate art exhibits. Kurtz offered to help.
She put out a call to local artists on the Durango artists Yahoo group Web site, but only one other artist, Maggie Remington, was willing to take the risk.
“Art Touche pays the insurance and utilities. This is basic liability insurance. It doesn’t cover theft or damage,” Kurtz wrote to the Yahoo group on November 4. “We were concerned about that initially, since we were in unprotected space, out in the open. But in five weeks we have not had a problem,” She added that she was worried the first weekend. She pictured originals being destroyed. But people are looking out for the art.
Kurtz said that the shoppers’ response has been enthusiastic. Her first sale was to a teenager who went to the ATM machine to buy a small piece for $35. Another group of teenagers offered to buy her a Slurpee after watching her paint.
“An older lady came up to me and said thank you for bringing such beauty into the world,” Kurtz said.
Now the artists are moving to a 1,000 square foot storefront for a nominal rent, paying a 10 percent commission on sales to the mall, a 10 percent commission to Art Touche and a 10 percent commission to the sales person at the gallery, who will be one of the artists showing their work.
The artists are: Connie Mason Bennett, Niara Isley, Kathy Steventon, Lisa Harrison, Heidi Schaiberger, Maggie Remington, Lisa Marie Jacobs, and Molly Childers. Isley encouraged others to get involved on the Yahoo group site.
“Remington shows originals,” Isley wrote. “But others of us will be hanging up giclee prints of our work rather than originals. Then it is not so critical if something happens.” A giclee print is created using an 8-color or 12-color inkjet printer. An original work of art is scanned or photographed and then digitally printed on paper or canvas.
For Kurtz, Art Touche is a labor of love.
“I’m never going to get rich doing this,” she said. “It’s more of a headache than me just making art, but it’s for exposure and I don’t like working alone.”
If the Art Touche pilot program for the Christmas season is a success, Kurtz hopes to continue the co-op concept.
“I want to create a community where we work collaboratively. I tell artists, if you are serious when you complain that you have no place to show your work, then come and hang your art at the mall.”
artsjournalist email@example.com Leanne Goebel is a freelance arts journalist from Pagosa Springs
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