Painting the town
Arts Week encompasses squeegee painting, glass blowing and everything in between

Painting the town

An artist works on a mural in downtown Durango. Folks will have a chance to see artists live and in action – and even participate if they want – during Durango Arts Week, Sept. 15-24./ Photo by Scott Smith

Missy Votel - 09/07/2023

September is known for some of the more sublime things Durango has to offer: roasted chiles; prime bike riding weather; leaf peeping. And now, thanks to the efforts of some creative-minded locals, September is also known for art.

In fact, a whole week (well, technically 10 days), has been blocked off for the appreciation, creation and ogling of art.

The brainchild of Visit Durango, the inaugural Durango Arts Week takes place Sept. 15-24. Sandwiched on either end by the annual Durango Autumn Arts Fest, Sept. 16-17, and the Durango Open Studio Tour, Sept. 22-24, the event is meant to be a celebration of all things arts-related, according to Visit Durango’s Marketing Manager Nick Kogos.

“We wanted to take the Autumn Arts Fest and other events and bring them into a collaboration of everything arts,” said Kogos. “The focus is to create unity in the community through art.”

The event, which is funded by Lodgers Tax proceeds and is sponsored by the Durango Creative District and City of Durango, will offer not just a chance for professional artists to showcase their works but will give regular folks a chance to explore their creative sides as well.

“We want to create access for all – not just professional artists, but people interested in learning, no matter their skill or ability level,” Kogos said.

To that end, Kogos said Arts Week features some 60 events, aimed at novices and the art-curious. Workshops, which are free or include a small fee, include everything from squeegee art (a Tik Tok thing, I am told) and dog painting (sign me up!) to jewelry making and a pop-up fashion show.

A photographer himself, Kogos will be getting in on the action by offering an intro to Adobe Lightroom and a wildlife photography class.  

“It’s for people who are interested in art but are afraid to get into it,” he said of the week’s events. For many, art can seem “hoity toity,” he said, so the purpose of Arts Week is to break down those barriers.

For those who prefer to stay on the sidelines and keep from getting paint under their fingernails, Arts Week will also feature several spectator-friendly events. For starters, there is the aforementioned Durango Arts Center’s Autumn Arts Fest, featuring hundreds of artists along E. 2nd Ave. for two days of art ogling and shopping enjoyment. In addition, the DAC will stage “The Odd Couple” (the female version) weekends through Oct. 1, and Create Art & Tea (located in the Arts Center) will feature daily art demonstrations on the sidewalk outside the store. Plein air artists will also be stationed at various locations around town, and curious looky-loos are welcome to peer over their shoulders like a live Bob Ross show.

But wait – that’s not all! If getting up close and personal with the artists is your thing, then you’ll want to check out the Open Studio Tour. The event, which was somewhat recently resurrected by local artists Heather Freeman and Cindy Atchison after a several-year hiatus, kicks off with an opening exhibit Sept. 22 from 5-8 p.m. at the Smiley Building.

“People can come and meet the artist and plan their tour for the weekend,” said Atchison.

This year, 30 artists in and around Durango will be opening up their studio for the weekend, and folks can stop in and visit, chat and see the artist in action. Disciplines include everything from painting and drawing to sculpture, mixed-media and glass blowing. (If this is too much to remember, don’t worry. Maps of participating studios will be available at the Friday night opening or online at www.

Atchison, a graphic designer who splits her work between a home studio and a studio in the Smiley Art Room, said she looks forward to sharing her work and methods with the public.

“At the Smiley, it’s like we have open studio tours every day,” she said. “It’s so much fun, I love it. And people love meeting artists and making that personal connection.”

Freeman, a painter, agrees. “It’s a unique experience to step inside and learn about the creative process. It’s one thing to see art hanging up somewhere, but to get that one-on-one, it’s really unique.”

All three interviewed for this story said community response has been incredible, and there’s already talk of next year making it bigger and better. 

“Next year, we have high hopes of a monthlong fest,” said Kogos. “We’ve been blown away at how engaged the community has been. Everyone is saying this is what Durango needed.”

And if all this talk of art has you jonesing to get out there, why not take a drive north this weekend to check out Silverton Creates, taking place Sept. 8-10. The weekend includes a free outdoor concert on Friday night with Latin band Nosotros as well as music from Native American roots musician Cary Morin & Ghost Dog taking Saturday evening. Other weekend activities include open studio tours, hands-on workshops, demonstrations and performances.

For details on Durango Arts Week, go to: For details on Silverton Creates, go to: