A short jacket created by Jane Gould hangs in preparation for the upcoming TOPS juried show. This is the third year for the fashion design exhibit, which is put on by New Face Productions./Photo by Steve Eginoire

Over the top

New Face Productions raises the bar for DAC
by Stew Mosberg

The return of “TOP” next week at the Durango Arts Center marks the third year for the highly anticipated fashion show. By now, most Durango residents have at least heard of the juried garment design show/exhibition/auction/fund-raiser, which was founded by New Face Productions (NFP). If TOP was its only event, NFP would already have achieved its objective, but fortunately that is not the case.

An all-volunteer, and currently all-women, group dedicated to promoting arts in the community, NFP’s original members include Carol Salomon, Deb Wright, JM Jones, Christina Erteszek, Phyllis Max, Sandra LaFevre and Krista Harris. The eight founders were united in finding a way to help the DAC regain its financial footing. Their ambitious mission statement was to “promote the Durango Arts Center by serving the artists, residents and visitors in our community through assisting and creating adult cutting-edge, exciting and profitable events.”

Just the facts

In describing the group’s name as well as explaining future plans, Salomon said the goal is to provide a “new face” for Durango Arts Center events. “This is a long-range plan, and it will be implemented in stages over several years and the number of events will be limited,” she explained.

Hogan further described the aspirations of NFP as wanting to “provide a dream pool of money to invest in other productions at DAC,” be they visual arts, performing arts, or master workshops. By funding DAC ideas, NFP hopes to multiply the investment to ultimately benefit the Center.

To that end, NFP also contributed money for the hiring and salary of new Exhibit Director Mary Puller. Since coming aboard, Puller has been credited with bringing renewed energy and high quality exhibitions. Puller also introduced a new and unique mix of products into the gift shop.

Salomon said behind the scenes, NFP functions like a well-oiled, efficient machine. “Each member does her part, no fanfare, or time wasted. It is a group of professionals who know how it gets done!” she said.

She is quick to credit Regina Hogan, who later joined NFP and quickly became its Chairwoman. Most recently, Hogan, along with Puller, brought the blockbuster art glass exhibit “HOT!” to the Barbara Conrad Gallery.

 “Without the leadership of Regina ... NFP could not achieve the success it has had,” said Salomon.

Although NFP serves as its own entity in the planning of events, it coordinates with the Arts Center, and all profits from their productions go to the Arts Center. In return, the DAC allows New Face Productions  discretion over how the profits from those events are allocated.

The idea for the TOP event, in which artists are given a blank T-shirt to transform into an original fashion design, came out of one of NFP’s first meetings. Erteszek is credited with the premise for the show, which is an acronym for “top of production,” a fashion industry term.

To launch this year’s TOP event and raise funds to support it, NFP recently hosted “Bill Cunningham, NY” at the Back Space Theater. Cunningham is a long-time fashion photographer and columnist for the New York Times.

In addition to TOP, New Face Productions was also responsible for last spring’s “Textiles Today” show, which brought acclaim to the DAC and large crowds through the door.

So far, such success seems to indicate that NFP’s plan is working quite well.

As for what the future holds, the group is waiting until this year’s TOP show is over before deciding its next move. However, there are several options on the table, including a major exhibit on jewelry design, including workshops, presentations and entries from across the United States.

“An exhibition of this stature has the potential to raise the bar at DAC by gaining national exposure, increasing membership and tourism, and encouraging sales that would benefit DAC, the participating artists and the community,” said Hogan.

For the time being, New Face Productions will continue to focus its attention on the DAC as a conduit for its mission. “There are many hard-working, talented and generous volunteers in this town,” said Hogan, “and NFP members are truly among the best. It’s my privilege to be associated with this group of dedicated and selfless women and,” she quickly adds, “we’d welcome a few good men, too.”

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