Shay Lopez has done just about everything that a Durango creative can do – he’s a sculptor, a painter, a former partner with Studio &, a shoemaker (he’s wearing a gorgeous pair of leather sandals when we sit down to talk), and on and on like that. I see him downtown and he’s got a twinkle in his eye that tells me he’s up to something, and it turns out that he is: After 12 years in Durango, he’s about to move back home to Tucson, Arizona, to turn a house on his parents’ land into a getaway for artists. I tell his story here, in his own words.
[The house is a] beautiful spot with great amenities that I’ve always enjoyed sharing with people. I took Tim [Kapustka] and Elizabeth [Kinahan] and some people from Studio &, and they all saw what I saw – and this was years ago. We’re talking 2010. I’ve been talking about it for at least that long, but hadn’t ever been ready to pull the trigger. I love Durango. This is where I’ve wanted to be. Something switched where I realized that I could go down to Tucson and still maintain my connections to Durango, and especially networking through all of the artists and creatives that I know here. We could create a pretty great conduit and create some great opportunities.
Having grown up there, it is the most special place to me in the world. So many people seek instant gratification. The ideal now is that you buy a piece of property and then you build a giant mansion with everything that your heart desires in it. Well, my parents built a tiny adobe on a hill, and then a larger adobe when they had children, and so there were two houses on the hill. As my dad’s business and family grew, they built on an office and other rooms to connect the two places. Then a courtyard sprung up in the middle of it all, an art studio for my mom, a pool area – 52 years of patience, hard work, and passion for that place. They’ve done it in a very soulful, down-to-earth way, building as they could afford to and making all of the details matter.
I’ve always wanted to do something like that, especially as a creative person, and Durango is a very difficult place. So many of us are cobbling our lives together because Durango’s a cool place to be, but I want to invest myself in something more and get a bit more return on that investment. So the compromise is that there’s this place that’s very much a part of me and it’s there on the property and it’s there for me to do exactly what I’m talking about – building something that is mine, of my creation, and that means a lot to me. Not to mention that it’s a way that I could kick a bit back to my parents and help them out a bit.
There’s a lot of opportunity for exploring the Tucson area in all of its different facets. It’s a place that’s a very specific, very unique, pretty remarkable environment. Tucson is famous for its Mexican food, and there’s so much cool stuff going on in the Mexican food scene. There’s a movement to incorporate a lot of indigenous ingredients: foraging local herbs and desert plants, using mesquite for flour and honey. Tucson was also recently named the United States’ first city of distinction for its culinary heritage. The city and its surrounding area is one of the longest continually inhabited places in North America – the last 1,500 years there’ve been people living in that valley. That Tucson is the only city – not San Francisco, not New York – to receive that honor is a big deal. I’ve also worked there as an outdoor guide and so leading desert hikes, exploring the Sky Islands – the mountains around Tucson are incredible. I would hope to offer that to people, if they’re there, to facilitate that experience. There’s awesome birding, amazing mountain views, the sunsets! I’m the guy to pull this off. I have a lot of interests, artistically and otherwise; I know the area well, I know the history, the stories. I could provide a really rich experience for people. And because this is a family property, it’s me.
[A friend of Shay’s notices us talking and shouts, “Hey, you’re gettin’ too excited over there! What’s all the passion for?!”]
It’s so funny that he’d say something. My ex’s dad used to point out the moments that I’d get really animated and excited about something. He’d say, “Trust your voice. When you get passionate about something, it’s evident in your voice.” And I am. I love that place. It’s worth something. There’s value, first of all, in artists dedicating themselves to a place and giving themselves time to get away from everything else and really focusing on something without having to work or drive or whatever. There’s absolute value for me in sharing that with people, personally. That’s fulfilling to me. One of the things I love about Studio & is that we are trying, as much as we can, to help artists and to promote people’s works and passions. If I can provide a place for people to do that, that’s cool as hell. And like I said, that place is so much a part of me that, artistically, I would like it to be a part of my expression and for that place to be a part of my creative efforts.
Cyle Talley heard people singing Fall Out Boy at the top of their lungs in Moe’s the other night and wasn’t sure what to make of that. Email him with suggestions at: [email protected]