Bringing Heart to the Art Business: Sorrel Sky Celebrates 20 Years
By Elizabeth Miller
“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls,” Picasso once said. Stepping into Sorrel Sky Gallery in downtown Durango has that effect: the rich colors, textures, and quiet reverence of the artistry it supports cleansing the soul from the worries of the day. Each piece is displayed with care; each artist’s story told from one room to another. Sorrel Sky celebrates its 20th anniversary this year with a long-running support of the artists that live and work in our area, as well as the larger Durango community.
Sorrel Sky was established in 2002 with a mission to provide personal client relationships and establish meaningful connections between their artists. The gallery has been a stalwart of the Durango arts scene, surviving and thriving amidst the trials and triumphs that twenty years can bring to a business, including the Missionary Ridge Fire, a recession, an armed robbery, and a pandemic, to name a few. At the heart of the gallery and the driving force behind its success is Shanan Campbell, a Colorado native whose love of art began at a very young age. Campbell’s father is an artist, and as a young girl she found herself drawn to the world of art galleries, to the commerce of the art business and how artists and business owners support one another. “I have a unique background — I grew up in galleries and in the business of art. I saw firsthand how galleries could support, or mistreat, artists. It was important to me to celebrate and work hand-in-hand with artists and support them to the utmost.” This vision is what has driven Campbell’s work with the more than one hundred artists who have partnered with Sorrel Sky over the years. “Art galleries can be powerful players in an artist’s life,” Campbell said.
Long-term commitments to artists and the symbiotic relationship between gallery, artist, and client create a unique family relationship that is the heartbeat of Sorrel Sky Gallery. For many artists, the gallery is their sole livelihood, and the partnership is a job Campbell takes very seriously. “It’s about building trust,” Campbell said, “It’s an investment.” The last few years have created a sort of “overdrive” of passion in both Campbell and the employees at Sorrel Sky, who are finding innovative ways to continue to provide avenues for artists to share their work with the community and with their clients. Campbell believes in the importance of that commerce and has always been dedicated and driven when it comes to the business of art.
Community and family are at the forefront of the gallery, and community is something about which the Sorrel Sky team is passionate. As a young aspiring gallery owner, Campbell interned with the Toh-Atin Gallery when she was just fifteen, and the rest, as they say, is history. It was this start that inspired Campbell to open a gallery that brought more than just beauty to the Durango community: Sorrel Sky is committed to their partnership with local vendors and photographers, and collaborating with the larger Durango business scene. Campbell attributes this to her beginnings with the Toh-Atin Gallery. “The Clark family was so supportive when I opened Sorrel Sky. It was about collaboration and partnership rather than competition,” Campbell said, “They really passed the torch.” Toh-Atin and Sorrel Sky still work collaboratively today, a testament to the twenty years of passion Campbell has poured into her work.
Looking toward the next twenty years of business, Sorrel Sky has become one of the first art galleries to accept crypto currency and grow the non-fungible token (NFT) side of the business. “It’s a huge learning curve, but we’ve always been cutting-edge,” Campbell said. As for the artists, with relationship and support at the forefront, there is trust to take the business of their art into whatever the future may bring.
Sorrel Sky’s legacy goes beyond the innovation of the arts scene. There is a palpable passion for the arts, for the healing and beauty it brings to our lives, and the partnership an art gallery can provide to the greater community. “We’re a rare bird,” Campbell notes, “We really mix that love and passion with our business.” Campbell continues to grow the legacy that began with Sorrel Sky in 2002, opening a second gallery in Santa Fe in 2014, and looking to open a third gallery this year. Campbell and her Sorrel Sky team have much to celebrate as they enter their twentieth year of bringing beauty to the Durango community. In its twenty years and into the future, navigating life’s challenges and working to wash the dust off our souls, Sorrel Sky reminds us of the importance of beauty, community, and collaboration. “Art is what’s needed,” Campbell said, “It’s healing.”