What we’ll be losing when Open Shutter shuts down

by Anya Jaremko-Greenwold

Durango’s fine arts photography gallery Open Shutter is closing in November after 15 years. Owner Margy Dudley is preparing to pursue her own photography work and travel, while gallery manager Arista Slater-Sandoval is moving to Santa Fe with her husband in August. The gallery is hosting two final exhibits before shutting its doors: Beth Moon in July and Holly Roberts in September. Though the retail space will disappear, Open Shutter plans to retain an online presence – but the days of wandering in and looking at photographs will be over.

There is no art museum in town (the Animas Museum is historical) and Open Shutter filled a portion of that void, showcasing sophisticated national and international photography. “We do have some other great galleries, like Studio & and the (Durango Arts Center),” said Slater-Sandoval. “But over the years we built a reputation, so we had the ability to draw international artists. We just had Luis González Palma, and that was a treat. You wouldn’t see his work unless you went to Chicago, New York, maybe Santa Fe.” According to Slater-Sandoval, many within the Durango arts community have expressed gratitude to Open Shutter over the years for bringing in non-local work, but ultimately there was more looking than buying. “That was another way it felt like a museum,” she said. “We did sell cards and matted prints, but that’s not going to float the bill.”

Ideally, another progressive and contemporary exhibition space will move into the hollow left behind by Open Shutter. “It’s so perfect for a gallery, with the lighting,” said Slater-Sandoval. “I know Margy has had a decent amount of interest in buying, so we’ll see what moves in. I hope it’s another gallery – not just another T-shirt shop.”

Slater-Sandoval’s next step is still uncertain. She’ll be curating a show at the DAC in October titled “Picture Perfect: Contrarian Voices in Photography,” with five local and three out-of-state photographers. She has never tried to support herself on photography alone, even after receiving a Master’s of Fine Art in Photography from the College of Art and Design at Lesley University. Akin to most millennials, Slater-Sandoval is saddled with student loan debt, though she declares her education and arts training was worth every penny. “I’ve had work up at Studio &, the DAC and Open Shutter – but I’ve never just tried to make a living off my photography,” said Slater-Sandoval. “This might sound conceited, but I don’t think about selling my work when I’m making it. I’m thinking more of the concept and trying to execute it. Not necessarily trying to make an image that’s marketable.” With an MFA, a terminal degree, a person is qualified to teach as a college professor (for high school teaching you need a separate license), but many arts students struggle to secure jobs in their field or pay back expensive degrees. Careers in the arts aren’t wildly lucrative.

“A lot of people keep telling us they’re sorry we’ll be gone, that we’ve been a gift to the community,” said Slater-Sandoval. “Its been rewarding to bring so many photographers here. This is work that opens people’s ideas about what photography is.” Let’s hope something comparable to Open Shutter comes along.

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