Steamboat Springs People packed into Sydney Freeman's business, the Comb Goddess, last Friday night for an art show, and for a different kind of night out.
They were mostly in their 20s and 30s, and everyone huddled close in the small room. They talked between sips of wine and beer or mingled about the exterior of the room, studying and commenting on what was hanging on the wall photography by Russ Duplessis.
A band busted out some alternative country music, and as the evening progressed, it became one of those moments in Steamboat Springs where you felt as if something special and different was happening.
Freeman, who opened her hair salon and art gallery in May in the Old West building, said the whole idea of combining art with her hairstyling business was to provide some different opportunities for people in Steamboat Springs.
On one hand, it's the atmosphere and an opportunity to meet and talk with people who have similar interests, besides skiing and snowboarding.
"It's just a good excuse to have a party as well as give some people something to do," she said of the art openings.
On the other, the salon and gallery provides more opportunity for artists, and even bands, to be noticed.
"It doesn't seem like there are a whole lot of places for people to show artwork," Freeman said.
Barb Hinton, who helped organize a show at the Comb Goddess, explained having that forum provides a different type of opportunity for artists.
"I think it's really nice to have her energy here. She is really open to providing space and a venue, outside of the common spaces," Hinton said. "She is really connected to the community, especially people in their 20s and 30s."
Hinton joked that hairdressers always know all the gossip in town, but in this case, Freeman and her business does provide a place for people to connect, which is remarkable for being open for less than a year. Freeman moved to Steamboat after apprenticing in New York for five years. She is a Tennessee native.
The fact that Freeman is interested in contemporary work is what makes her gallery unique, Hinton said.
"I think it really helps. It's hard to get into the Arts Council for shows," Hinton said.
Take Duplessis, for example.
The show ended up to be a big success for him. This from a photographer who had never shown his work before, much less sold a piece. He just liked driving around and finding interesting things to shoot.
"I just did it because she was a friend of mine," Duplessis said of deciding to do the show.
By the end of the night, he had sold seven pieces.
"That was just overwhelming to me," he said.
The sales weren't by accident, or out of charity. Though humbly calling himself a hobby photographer, his images prove he's not just going out with a point-and-shoot camera to take pretty pictures.
Many of his photos are of old, usually dilapidated structures, which he said is a main interest to him.
Building on his success of his opening show, Duplessis is looking for more old structures to photograph, especially in the Yampa Valley.
"I like to go inside them and imagine who used to live there," he said. "You can still feel their energy."
In three or four months, Freeman will change the artwork and host another show.