Talkin’ about the Mancos Creative District with Sarah Syverson

by Patty Templeton

Blink while driving and you’ll pass through Mancos without noticing it, which would be a damn shame, considering that it’s becoming a hella hot art hub. Mancos is Durango’s more affordable kid sister – artists and plain folks alike are heading toward its reasonable rents and wide open spaces.

The Mancos Creative District was established in 2016 through funds from the Colorado Creative Industries (CCI). It’s located in Mancos’ historic downtown and aims to invigorate the region through supporting artisans of all stripes, from inventors to visual artists to herbalists. This support is delivered through organized events, mentorships, publicity, community-building, and big dreams – like, for example, the hope to provide artist residencies in the future.

DGO talked to Sarah Syverson, co-director of the Mancos Creative District, about what exactly is happening in Mancos and how folks can get involved.

What’s going on? All the artists are moving to Mancos.It’s a space to create in a place you can afford. You can find a house to rent here that has a garage that can be a studio or art space … There’s over 150 artists who live in the area. It’s kind of hard to believe, isn’t it? You think the whole town is only 150 people, but including the outlaying area, there are about 150 makers here.

I think it lends itself to art partially because of the quietness, the solitude, lack of distraction, and that foundation of arts culture intersecting with farming and ranching.

What’s the goal of the Mancos Creative District?The creative district is trying to provide a space for makers, young artists, and new artists to thrive. Mancos is a space of affordable housing for people who want to spend more of their time on art instead of work. People want time to be able to develop their art, their marketing skills, get exposure, and that’s something that the creative district can help with.

What are wrong assumptions people have about Mancos?Well, do you have any thoughts or assumptions about it?

(Laughs) I think I always thought it might be affordable but boring. And what population do you think lives here?

I maybe assumed it was older, more established families.Right. So many people do. There’s more and more young folks filling Mancos because of cost … There’s an adventure community, an art community, a foodie space, theatre people. There’s a surprising amount of 20- and 30-somethings who have moved into the area in the last three years. Part of that, I think, is the Mancos Brewery. If there’s a place to hang out, people do. Those younger hangout spaces are emerging in Mancos.

What’s an upcoming dream goal for the creative district?We’re looking to create artist residency programs and affordable live/work spaces. We hope to create areas that have tiny houses to live in with a nearby tiny house that is a workshop space. We want to develop those sorts of housing and workspaces that are affordable and targeted at creative communities.

We have a partnership through the Colorado Creative Industries that is called a Space to Create. We are looking at a grant for a feasibility study to build structures like that as a long-term vision, three to five years from now.

What about non-makers who want to get involved?Everybody has a skill. Everyone has a gift. If they don’t put themselves in the box of a creator or a maker, just come talk to me. I’m always interested in what your gift is. What is the skill you want to develop? What are you passionate about? What experience would you like to develop around this creative district? We can’t fit every skill, but there’s a lot to be done that is not physical art but supports the momentum of the creative district. If you want to be involved, absolutely, get in contact with me.

What might get glossed over when people think about Mancos’ art scene?Sometimes when people think about art in Mancos, they think it is Western or folk art and that’s it. There’s something different emerging. Hello Zark is a studio that did a pop-up that was more on a Studio & bent. There’s the opera house that just got bought by a private entity that we’re collaborating with that could provide a space for tremendous performance arts as it’s renovated.

Watch for the pop-up galleries and the events the creative district is putting on because it is a new and different flair than you would know about Mancos. It’s a younger vibe and older experience merging to make a powerful combination of multi-generation creators.

Interview edited and condensed for clarity. — Patty Templeton


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