Sorrel Sky Gallery has seen a lot in the 20 years since it opened on Main Avenue in downtown Durango: It opened amid the Missionary Ridge Fire, survived an armed robbery, the recession and the COVID-19 pandemic.
And for owner Shanan Campbell, hitting the two-decade milestone is nothing to sniff at. And when the gallery throws a birthday party for itself Friday night (June 3), it’s a celebration that’s well-deserved.
“Twenty years later, it’s kind of just been like one interesting learning opportunity as I like to call them, after the next,” she said. “So when you say (20 years) is a big deal, it really is because the art business is not an incredibly easy business.”
Campbell decided in fall 2001 that it was time to open her own gallery. At that point, she had managed Toh-Atin Gallery for eight years and knew it was time to strike out on her own.
It wasn’t a particularly surprising move for those who know her, she said.
If you go
WHAT: Sorrel Sky Gallery celebrates its 20th anniversary.
WHEN: 5-7:30 p.m. Friday (June 3).
WHERE: Sorrel Sky Gallery, 828 Main Ave.
MORE INFORMATION: Visit sorrelsky.com.
“My passion and love has always been on fine art and jewelry. I made the decision to own a gallery some day when I was about 11 years old. I run into friends I went to junior high with and they’re like, ‘You were always bragging that you were going to have a gallery.’ I was one of those people that just knew what I wanted to do always,” Campbell said. “My dad’s an artist (the former Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell), and so I grew up in that world and I just loved the business of art, I loved the connection with collectors – it was something I had a deep passion for from the very, very beginning; it was always going to happen.”
Campbell said she made the decision to open Sorrel Sky before she had anything in the works – there was no location, no artists to represent.
“I just knew it was time and that I’d figure it out. And that’s basically what I did: The kids were really tiny then – they were 1 and 3 when I opened my gallery, and now I look back and I’m like, ‘My god, that was crazy,’” she said. “It was also that terrible summer of the Missionary Ridge Fire. And so everything I knew about seasons in Durango from being at Toh-Atin that many years actually all went out the window. And Durango had the worst season they had had in decades.”
It was during that rough patch that Campbell knew if the gallery was going to make it, she’d have to pivot a little and when she heard the news of a major construction project being undertaken in Durango, she saw her opportunity.
“That was when I found out that Mercy Hospital was going to be built, the new hospital, and I’d done art consulting on a smaller scale, and I thought, ‘They’re going to need some art,’ and so I started my art consulting business that same time that summer,” she said. “That’s how I survived it and learned that you have to have multiple channels in order to survive in the art business.”
The gallery did survive; it now boasts a second location in Santa Fe (which Campbell opened in 2014), and its most recent enterprise is SorrelSkyNFT.com, an NFT marketplace, which was launched on Feb. 28. Campbell said, going forward, she sees more Sorrel Sky galleries cropping up in the next 20 years.
“I have an incredible team of people that I work with. It’s this team that I’ve had the ability to build. And it’s the 15 employees I have, but also the artists I’ve had for years and years that were really just like-minded and have a very aligned value system. I look at it very long-term,” she said.”Most of the artists we have we’ve had for many years and when we do bring a new artist on, we don’t take it lightly, it’s something I really put a lot of thought and care into because I need to make certain that we’re going to be successful for them, and it’s not going to work for us if it’s not the right fit, either.”
And along with her staff members and artists, Campbell said she also appreciates Durango for the faith its residents had in her from the gallery’s earliest days to now.
“Durango has been so kind and wonderful to Sorrel Sky and to me. Especially with this celebration, I just see it so clearly how the community has embraced me when it was just my tiny little business on the corner of Ninth and Main, to where we are now,” she said. “It’s really neat – people come from Durango to the Santa Fe gallery all the time and are proud that they have a location here. It’s really endearing.”