Pagosa Springs gallery closes, then reopens, Durango Herald, June 1, 2007

New owner focusing on art inspired by the Southwest

Photo courtesy of Leanne Goebel
Wild Spirit Gallery closed this spring but re-opened May 1 under the ownership of Madeline Lyon, a teacher from Lumberton, N.M.

The downtown gallery scene in Pagosa Springs is limited. In February 2005, Taminah Gallery & Gift Shop closed its doors. (Its framing division was reincarnated and still exists today under its third owner.)

A handful of local artists represented by Taminah were thrilled to learn later that year that a new gallery would open: Wild Spirit.

Originally owned by Ken Patterson, an emergency room doctor from Texas, Wild Spirit opened on July 1, 2005, with nearly 30 artists, but no gallery director.

Jean Magnelli, a former sales associate and framing consultant at Taminah Gallery, had been enlisted to help invite artists to exhibit at the new gallery. On opening day, she was helping Patterson hang lights, when he hired her as the gallery director.

Magnelli was the sole employee at the gallery for a year. She worked tirelessly without a break, with only local artists as volunteers to help give her a needed day off until July 2006, when Lizz Baldwin was hired.

Patterson asked Baldwin, a local jewelry artist, to create a jewelry department within the gallery where she sold her work and the work of other artists.

It all seemed to be working. The gallery had strong sales in the fall of 2006, said Magnelli and Baldwin, and then out of the blue, owner Patterson e-mailed them to say he was closing the

Enter Madeline Lyon, a seventh- and eighth-grade teacher from St. Francis School in Lumberton, N.M. She was a patron of Wild Spirit before buying the gallery this spring.

“About a year ago I bought a painting,” Lyon said. “I heard from Jean that the gallery was doing well, then – boom – it closed.”

Lyon is an experienced businesswoman. She and her former husband owned an anodizing company in Ohio for 14 years. After having spent the last 23 years as an educator, Lyon had a yen to get back into business.

“I have no art experience,” Lyon said. “Therefore, the first thing I determined was is Jean willing to stay. And she was. She is totally committed to this gallery.”

But there were other business decisions to consider.

“I looked at the numbers and realized that we had to make adjustments,” Lyon said. “The gallery was losing money, but we are restructuring.”

By restructuring, she means that Magnelli is taking a pay cut, Baldwin has decided to leave the gallery and commission payments to artists have been redefined. Lyon herself doesn’t expect the gallery to provide her an income or a salary.

“Basically, we want to disseminate art because it is something that inspires people, and it’s a peaceful thing,” Lyon said.

The gallery hosted a grand re-opening May 26 that was attended by about 200 people. Twenty-four of the 56 artists represented by the new Wild Spirit were present, a bit shy of the 62 artists represented when the original Wild Spirit closed. Several artists chose not to return under the new commission terms and some were not invited back.

The gallery will remain focused on Southwestern art, and gallery director Magnelli makes all artistic decisions, which is quite a change from her former career as a certified dietary manager for a multi-million dollar retirement community in Naples, Fla.

When asked how she got interested in art, Magnelli said her grandmother inspired her artistic interest and taught her to draw and paint at a very young age.

“You can tell an artist by how they look at the world,” Magnelli said. “I look at the world and say how can I paint that?”

“I am very happy with where we are,” Lyon said. “I hope to see the gallery thrive.” Leanne Goebel is a freelance writer specializing in the visual arts. She lives in Pagosa Springs.

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