Thirty-three-year-old Brett Andrus and his wife Lauren operate the Modbo and S.P.Q.R. art galleries in downtown Colorado Springs. The two galleries comprise the downtown area’s budding Arts Alley District.
Andrus is from Colorado Springs and plans to continue calling it home for the foreseeable future. When he’s not pouring time into his galleries, he’s working at Freedom Financial as a loan originator.
What drove you to open the Modbo and S.P.Q.R galleries, and what drove you to open them downtown?
Before The Modbo, I was a co-owner of the Rubbish Gallery, which had been around for a couple of years in the alley downtown. When the opportunity presented itself to move in a different direction, my wife Lauren, who is my business partner, and I decided that it would be best to open a new gallery in the same alley. One of the important aspects of gallery ownership is creating a destination, and there is no better place than downtown. If you look at any major U.S city, the heart is in its downtown. It is where the city’s cultural identity is born. Our goal as a business is to provide a multi-use arts space, to provide a venue for not just fine art, but also music, poetry and theater (our first production happens sometime next month). In 2010 we opened our second venue, S.P.Q.R.. The two galleries together comprise the Arts Alley District. A slightly larger space, S.P.Q.R gives us the opportunity to host additional events and teach more classes.
I truly believe that in order for our city to take the next step forward in terms of growth and job creation, we as a community have to embrace the arts.
What were some of the obstacles and challenges you had to overcome to establish your gallery?
I have to say that we are grateful in that the downtown community has really embraced us. Attendance is great and sales are steady and increasing. When we first opened in 2009, my best friend in New York City was convinced that I had a screw loose for opening up an art gallery in the middle of one of the worst economic climates in that last 20 years, and moreover in a city with a reputation for being very conservative. Although he has a point, I see things differently. For one thing, my wife and I are very ambitious, stubborn individuals. We are both so committed to seeing a change in our community and providing a place for our artists to thrive. I like to say that we threw our pants over the fence, and now we have to figure out a way put them back on. So although there are certainly challenges, we feel up them, and confident that we are making strides.
Tell us about your work with Downtown organizations.
When we first opened our doors, the Downtown Development Authority was nice enough to award us a small grant to help with the initial buildout of The Modbo. Since that time our relationship with the DBA and BID has been mutually beneficial. We are very lucky as a community to have these entities that have a commitment to the growth and development of downtown. Last September, I had the opportunity to sit in on a BID meeting, a sort of brainstorming session for events for downtown. Out of that meeting came the Acacia Park Summer Music Festival, an event focused on the re-utilization of Acacia Park and the promotion of our city’s local musical talent. So far, attendance has been great. Every Saturday at 5:30 p.m., folks are finding a nice place on the grass with their families, and enjoying an early evening summer concert before going off and grabbing dinner at one of the great downtown restaurants.
How do you balance your lending career with the work you’re doing at the gallery?
I am a Loan Originator for Freedom Financial Services, and have been in the lending business for nearly nine years. In all honesty, without my career, the galleries probably wouldn’t exist, or would look very different. My income occasionally supplements the galleries’ operating costs. That is not to say that the gallery doesn’t make money, but on those quiet months in the depths of winter, it is nice to be able to have something to fall back on. The fantastic thing about my day job is that it allows me the flexibility to put a lot of energy into the operation of The Modbo and S.P.Q.R. There are definitely still weeks that I will work 60 — 70 hours, plus try to put on new exhibition, but I love doing both, and am lucky to work for an employer that is supportive of what I am doing.
What do you see for the future of the gallery and the downtown arts scene?
In 2009, we started something at the Modbo called the Modbo Collective (the Modboco). We are a group of like-minded artists that meet one to two times a month for critique and to exchange ideas. In the future, I see this group of young painters taking it to the next level. Even in the last year, we are already seeing a major upswing in Modboco sales at the gallery. My goal is to increase their visibility and increase each artist’s collector base on a regional and national level.
Overall, Lauren and I are very excited for the possibilities that await in the future. It feels like great strides in the arts have been made over the last five years, and that as a community we are gaining momentum to sustain a cultural identity.
What are some advantages/challenges to being a young professional in Colorado Springs?
The biggest advantage to being a young professional in Colorado Springs is how diverse we are as a city. Even though we have a national reputation, I truly believe that this is one of the most diverse mid-size cities in the country. There is the opportunity to touch many different markets, and for any entrepreneur that is a major advantage. This city is thick with possibilities; it’s a place where you can really make a difference.