SHAUN STANLEY/Durango Herald
Who’d have thought cowboys – and girls – could create such a buzz in the art world?
If there’s a town where Western art should flourish, it’s Durango, but the sub-genre rarely gets the kind of exposure afforded by this weekend’s Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering. This year, it will be different.Western Horseman magazine Senior Culture Editor Jennifer Denison attended last year’s gathering, prompting her to write a feature article for the current October issue.
“We’ve seen a lot more out of town people coming this year, so there’s no question that helped us a lot,” said Linda Mannix, the driving force who wrangles poets, musicians and artists from near and far to make the Cowboy Poetry Gathering happen every year.
The four-day event has grown to include more than just poetry, but it has in no way abandoned that original mission. Both shows for the featured star, Ian Tyson, are sold out, but there are still two full nights and four shows of cowboy poetry and music at the Henry Strater Theatre.
The visual centerpiece of the Poetry Gathering is at the Durango Arts Center. Jeff Mannix, Linda’s husband, scours the countryside cajoling private collectors to loan some of their finest pieces of Western art for a temporary exhibit. The shame is that it is only up for viewing for about a week; it will be gone after Saturday.
It is worth a stop to see some what some of the region’s more discerning residents choose to display in their homes. Jeff Mannix and DAC exhibits director Mary Puller have put on a first-class exhibit, a job made much easier when there is quality material from which to draw.
The collection on loan includes an original Fredric Remington sculpture, an original painting that was used on the cover of a Louis L’Amour book and original works by Jim Rey, Veryl Goodnight, Nate Owens, Allen Hauser, Greg Kelsey and Gerald McCann. Also, Lisa and Loren Skyhorse loaned two of their handmade saddles to the show. Dale Suran’s collection of all 24 framed Cowboy Poetry Gathering posters serves as a handy reference for those trying to remember what happened when from years past.
An addition to this year’s schedule are two chances for attendees to try their hand at the art of Western poetry and prose.
Poet Doris Daley will perform tonight and Saturday; she will also give a free workshop Saturday at the Rochester Hotel to share some of the tricks of communicating through rhymes. After that, Robert Young, a historian of Western literature, will present a multimedia presentation about the history of the West through literature.
The Rochester, on East Second Avenue, has jumped in as an anchor venue for the gathering. Western singer-songwriter Gary Allegretto will play two free conerts. On Saturday, he will lead a harmonica workshop at The Office Spiritorium in the Strater Hotel.
Other galleries, fresh off last week’s fall Gallery Walk, have made quick changes to get into the cowboy spirit.
Sorrel Sky Gallery will showcase the Western art of Bonnie Conrad and her husband, Roger, will read his poetry. Conrad’s work will hang alongside the cowgirl portraiture of McCarson Jones’ “Riding Side Saddle” show, which opened Thursday night.
Toh-Atin Gallery owner Jackson Clark opted to put the focus on other icons of the Old West. The gallery, on west Ninth Street, will host a showing of Linda MacCannell’s photography of the world of Indian Rodeos.
Her book, Riders of the West, portrays Native American rodeo riders from across the Southwest and Canada. The book is no longer in print, but MacCannell’s photos from the book will be displayed.
Other Western art will be shown at the General Palmer Hotel, which will host a show of western photography from Tony Steelman and other photographers.
The Open Shutter Gallery will again host the popular “Spirit of the West” themed exhibit.