Aspen’s oldest art galley is closing
The longest-running art gallery in Aspen is closing this fall after 30 years in business.Aspen Mountain Gallery co-owner Ginger Swenson said her lease is up Oct. 1 at her subgrade space next door to the Steak Pit. She and her partners decided not to renew the lease when they noticed the Aspen marketplace changing, with corporate-owned shops beginning to replace locally owned stores.It’s not an unfamiliar tune for many local retailers and restaurants – Swenson said she’s been saying for years that Aspen’s retail experience is moving from “funky and fun” to “a little more refined and standard.””Chain stores can afford the rents here and they’ll pay them and take over spaces that individual businesses have,” she said. “I’m not saying it’s wrong, I’m just saying it’s happening. We’re competing with them, and people don’t come here to shop anymore, I think they come for recreation, relaxation and family things.”The Desorcy family started the Aspen Mountain Gallery in 1975, and it included Inuit sculptures and fine art prints. After three years, Roger and Mary Brown bought the gallery, and gradually its style moved toward Western artwork.Swenson and her partners, Ruthann and Shel Balas, bought the gallery in 1982. Over the years, the store has been in spaces at the corner of Hunter Street and Hyman Avenue, in the North of Nell Building on Durant Avenue, and in two spaces on the Hyman Avenue mall. The gallery’s outdoor display of “American Horse,” a bronze statue of an American Indian in full headdress and moccasins by sculptor Dave McGary, guarded the Hyman Avenue mall location in 2002. The edge of the figure’s sharp dagger, four feet off the ground, was dangerous enough for short-in-stature pedestrians that the gallery went through authentic leather sheaths, Styrofoam casings and bubble wrap to protect the public from the blade.All of the solutions were stolen, and the gallery took to wrapping the point with duct tape.The gallery has maintained a subterranean location at the corner of Monarch Street and Hopkins Avenue since 1995. It’s tucked away, but Swenson said people have managed to find the store, especially since her large going-out-of-business signs appeared in July.”In July we had 56 sales, and all were multi-item,” she said. “That’s huge. I’ve been totally overwhelmed at how successful going out of business can be.”Plenty of locals have been into the store since seeing ads Swenson placed in the newspaper and have mentioned they’re sad to see the locally owned business disappear. Over the years the gallery became known for Southwestern- and Native American-themed art from artists including McGary, J. Chester Armstrong, Doug West and John Nieto.”There were times when some styles were more popular than others, and I think for the last few years people are leaning toward modern and contemporary works,” Swenson said. “Some years were better than others but we decided that if we were consistent with our style, we would get clients no matter what. I’ve had clients with one modern-style house, and one Western-themed house.”Swenson estimates the business will close for good by mid-September.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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