Gallery hoping to sculpt arts district near Cottonwood

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Chuck Mardosz and Diana Love plan to open a gallery at 109 S. Corona near the Cottonwood Center for the Arts. They hope the area will become an arts district.

Chuck Mardosz and Diana Love found an empty little garage on the eastern edge of downtown Colorado Springs at 109 S. Corona St. and knew it would be the home of their new business, an art gallery.

Mardosz is a well-known artist, who has sold work across the country. Love manages retirement accounts.

“We use different sides of our brains,” Mardosz said.

The two knew they wanted to start a business together and always considered a gallery for Mardosz’s art. The current economy made this the right time. Struggling galleries have been upping their commissions and a number of artists all over have been moving into their own digs, the Mardosz said.

And because the real estate market is still struggling to recover, they were able to get a good deal on a building.

The one they picked, a former mechanics shop with two garage bays in wide open parking lot across the street from the Cottonwood Center for the Arts, seemed like the right spot.

“We’d like it to be kind of a little arts district over there,” Love said.

And it appears to be on its way.

On Corona Street, where the gallery is located is quiet and there is little car traffic. The building Cottonwood occupies looks like an average office building on the outside but bustles with artists coming and going for work in their studios and classes and hosts gallery events on the last Friday of every month.

The road also dead-ends to the south into the Western Jubilee Warehouse at 433 Cucharras St. The jubilee is a recording studio and western music artist management and booking office.

The back of the little building is outfitted with an intimate stage where some of the world’s most famous cowboy musicians perform in small invitation-only concerts.

Owner Scott O’Malley is converting another warehouse behind the building into a theater space, where Theater D’Arts will perform Reservoir Dogs at the end of the month.

“We’re getting ourselves a little arts district going,” O’Malley said when he heard that an artist planned to convert the old garage down the street into a gallery.

The area has a grungy industrial feel, with rail cars lined up on abandoned tracks. Blue Line Engineering painted the cars and built a platform so it can use the cars for storage, which lends the area a cared-for feeling. A rock quarry and old stone building mark the other end of the street.

“We wanted to get as close to downtown as we could possibly afford,” Love said.

And they knew they wanted to buy rather than rent so the investment wouldn’t be lost if the gallery doesn’t take off.

While the Mardosz and Love live in Colorado Springs and this has been home for them for more than 20 years, they weren’t sure about opening a gallery here.

“We wondered — can Colorado Springs support a gallery for Mardosz’s art?” Love said. “People just don’t buy art here.”

The couple thought they would have to move to make it work. They looked at some small, funky towns in Oregon and considered some more well-know arts centers. One of the problems was that those artsy little towns aren’t cheap, they said.

That, and Love didn’t want to leave her job. She thought about the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs expanding.

“Colorado Springs is doing OK,” she said. “There are some good things going here.”

So they decided to try it here.

“We want to stay,” she said.

Mardosz has a few local collectors. He has a few painting prominently displayed at the Broadmoor golf club and they hope to draw some of his collectors to the Colorado Springs gallery from outside the state.

Mardosz paints many things from landscapes to nudes. He also sculpts and has a number of bronze pieces on display in his home. But since the economy started to slip, he’s been concentrating more on his Western art. It’s held the strongest through the economy, he said.

People, especially those coming from Texas, are still buying Western art, he said. He’s not sure why — if there’s just an affinity for the Western art nationally or if the people in the oil and gas business are still doing well economically and have the money or if it’s second-homeowners who are outfitting their mountain houses.

Regardless, Mardosz is known for his quality Western paintings and collectors seek him out for that work. And as a professional artist, he has dedicated a little more time to the Western works in order to meet demand.

Mardosz’s paintings sell in a range of $1,000 for smaller pieces all the way up to $30,000 for larger pieces.

“The gallery has to be decent,” he said, “because we’re going to be charging decent prices.”

They will begin work on the building soon and plan to replace the drafty garage doors with big windows. They’ll display mostly Mardosz’s work and maybe the work of a few friends in the 1,200-square foot building.

They expect to begin renovations this month and hope to open in April.

“We’re excited about it,” Love said. “It’s on our minds all the time.”