Lorraine Taylor’s holiday designs have brightened business windows and signaled the holiday season in Durango for 59 years.
But this year’s art may be among her last.
“I’ve been telling people I’m going to paint one next year just so I can say that I painted 60 years,” she said.
For the last nearly six decades, Taylor, 86, has painted dozens of windows every November and December, one year decorating 110.
So far this year, Taylor has painted seven windows with at least Maria’s Bookshop and Ohana Physical Therapy to go. Her work has taken her all over La Plata County, from Durango to Bayfield to Ignacio.
“I enjoy it,” she said. “... People like to visit with you and I like to visit.”
It all started by accident when Taylor and a friend were asked to paint a window for an art show.
As they were making a sign for the event, another business owner noticed and asked if they painted windows.
“My friend and I looked at one another and said, ‘Yeah!’” Taylor said.
Asked if they would paint his window, “We picked up our buckets of paint and away we went,” she said.
Taylor first started keeping track of her clients on a ledger a year later in 1963.
The book has become a record of Durango as it has changed over the decades.
“It’s fun to read my ledger especially with somebody that’s been around,” Taylor said.
“(Many of the businesses) are pretty much gone, the ones I painted originally,” she said.
Former downtown landmark Hogan’s was one of Taylor’s first customers, although customer was a stretch.
“A lot of times I’d do Hogan’s when (Jerry Poer) wasn’t looking,” she said. “Jerry would be going down the street with his coffee cup and I’d run across the street and put a holly berry and holly on his door down low. He didn’t want them painted, but I’d go do it.”
Taylor’s window painting started as a way to make money for Christmas presents and school clothes, but it has since become a social event.
“Now it’s (about) the camaraderie of people talking to me that’ve known me for a long time,” she said. “You want to stand there and visit. It’s always fun.”
Taylor’s daughters and grandchildren have helped her through the years. At one point, four generations were working on festive windows together.
With an end in sight, Taylor has encouraged her daughters to take over for her once she decides to quit, but they’ve expressed little interest in working without her, she said.
She hopes her current painting partner, Diana Crawford, will fill in in her absence.
“She’s taken over pretty good,” Taylor said. “I didn’t give her the business or nothing like that, but I said, ‘Go for it.’ Because there’s a lot of people that paint and they don’t paint very good.”
As she nears six decades of work, Taylor still enjoys making her way downtown around the holidays.
“My heart’s at the corner of Ninth Street and Main Avenue because that was downtown, that was where everything happened,” she said.
But she will appreciate no longer having to draw Santa and his reindeer.
“That’s a bunch of work trying to paint all those deer. You’ve got to harness them and everything,” Taylor said.
For her last piece, some have suggested holding a lottery to decide.
Taylor is keeping her options open, including the date.
“I could paint one in July – Christmas in July,” she said.