A space of their own
Smiley Building opens communal studios with new 'ArtRoom'

A space of their own
Denise Leslie - 11/04/2021

Since my arrival in Durango a little over 12 years ago, I have worked in the arts community as the publisher of an arts magazine, director of Durango and Mancos Open Studio tours, coordinator for the Durango Gallery Association’s fall and spring art walks as well as community relations and sales at Sorrel Sky Gallery.  So, one can imagine my excitement when I arrived at my ukulele studio – yes, I play and teach – located in the Smiley Building at 1309 E. 3rd Ave. to find a new creative space being developed by Smiley owner, Charles Shaw, and his crew. 

Continuing with Shaw’s grand vision to transform the old Emory E. Smiley Junior High School into Durango’s most innovative meeting and office space, his latest project provides affordable art studios designed with an openness to offer collaboration and community. “We wanted to make affordable space for artists to create, and this is in alignment with the vision for our work,” Shaw said.

Twenty cubical-type spaces are divided by repurposed, wooden window panes from the Smiley Building to create The ArtRoom, in the space of the school’s old auditorium. The new space sits on the main floor and houses artists creating everything from photography, paintings, drawings, pottery and jewelry to upholstery and architecture. 

A public celebration and grand opening will be held in The ArtRoom today, Thurs., Nov., from 5 - 7 p.m. to showcase the artists, purchase their work and see the new space. It’s truly a work of art. 

Tenants of the new space are still evolving but here are a few to entice you to stop by and check out the space:

• Sharon Abshagen: A Durango artist whom I’ve known for several years. Her plein air work is defined by its beauty. She’s a signature member of Plein Air Artists of Colorado and New Mexico and has been featured in numerous magazines.

• Thomas Bauer: An architect who spent 20 years with a large firm in Portland, Ore., designing sustainable projects for colleges and universities across the country. He arrived here and designs homes for clients who are committed to zero-energy solutions. 

• Ray Martinez: After working in Durango as an accountant for several years and taking time off to travel, he is back showing us his true passion of telling stories through his unique style of photography.

• Bindu and Michael Hughes: The couple relocated to Durango five years ago from Jakarta, Indonesia, after completing a 30-year professional career as middle school teachers in international schools. Previously creating in their garage, their new studio space showcases not only their great smiles but their talents through paintings, jewelry and leather crafts.

• Deb Rogers: With her pottery wheel and kiln, you can watch her create her environmentally inspired designs right in her studio space.

• Emily Lloyd at Violet Mae Upholstery: She brings color and fun to her creations – you won’t want to miss this one!

• Joe Schaefer: Inspired by the spiritual element of nature, Schaefer paints on sheet metal allowing for experimentation in mixed-media concepts from scraped, sanded, metals left to rust in the weather. In his work you’ll see canyons of the Colorado Plateau and Rocky Mountains.

A complete list of artists with information will be available at the opening event on Thursday evening. 

The Smiley Building is open daily and the Smiley Cafe serves up a mean cup of java, so I am going to encourage all to join this Thursday evening. And if you can’t make it, stop by, grab a cup of coffee and peruse the new space throughout the week.  

A space of their own