Boulder Creative Collective + cultivating good art in Boulder

By pairing an artist incubator with a deconstructed gallery model, BCC working to expand Boulder’s art horizon

By Tatyana Sharpton Aug 23 2019

Good art’s hard to define but you know it when you see it. It invariably elevates any space in which it is placed.

As busy entrepreneurs, local restaurants and retailers don’t always know where to turn for good art, or they simply don’t want to commit resources to art that they’ll eventually rotate out to keep the space fresh.

That’s the whole idea behind local nonprofit Boulder Creative Collective and its Alt.Art program, which brings standout, local art to small businesses on a rotating basis by partnering with and cultivating local artists. It has brought work from up to 20 artists into Wonder Press and six other businesses in Boulder and Denver since the program’s launch in 2016.

Founded in 2013 by Addrienne Amato, and Kelly Cope Russack, the BCC brings good art to local businesses through Alt.Art and serves as a local artist incubator in the process.

As a community, BCC pushes artists to grow, to create more engaging, authentic art that business owners want to showcase, and that may lead to a sale or a commission. In this way, BCC cultivates a more vibrant local art market in Boulder by bridging that gap between the artist and the consumer — building up artists and then matching them with local businesses who showcase their art to their patrons.

Emory Hall portrait, digital photograph, 2018. Photo credit: Emory Hall

How it works

The Boulder Creative Collective charges small businesses a fee showcasing the art, which includes artist statements and prices that patrons can purchase the pieces at.

The collective represents artists for 90 days at a time, which includes installing art, promoting it and marketing it, and takes a 30 percent commission for any work that sells. In this way, it serves as deconstructed public art gallery for Boulder.

BCC works under a one-year contract with the businesses in the Alt.Art program, with four- or six-month art work rotation, installation, and gallery management. BCC also provides custom curation to each business, balancing the number of pieces they include in the exhibit with the visual space available.

“We don’t believe in stuffing a bunch of art in a space, we like the art to breathe,” Addrienne says.

Addrienne and Kelly lead the layout for businesses, who also provide input about layout based on their personal vibe and clientele.

Max Clothing Walnut Street, Boulder. photo credit: Chloé Besson

While BCC is currently maxed out on the businesses it can serve with its current artist roster, it is working to add additional capacity to bring the service to more local shops.

“Some people find us online, through Wonder (one of our venues), sometimes we reach out ourselves and find local artists that are doing cool work that we want to connect with,” Addrienne says.

The gallery

BCC also has a gallery which opened last year. It was a new addition designed to allow more room for artists to play while protecting the art showcased on the walls.

Located on a quiet warehouse strip off of 47th Street (parallel to Foothills Parkway) right next to Kettle and Spoke Brewery, BCC got its start as an alternative art space when Addrienne and Kelly saw a gap in the Boulder art scene and sought to fill it.

Inside BCC: like the tables, pews, and the swinging grey doors, most everything was sourced from the Boulder Resource Center. Image and handcut collage: Tatyana Sharpton

They felt that along with a steady funnel of quality art, Boulder missed an organic, centralized and vibrant artist community. It craved a big, open space to make messes, magic, friends, and, of course, money. Artists need to support themselves, but many artists stare at the business of art with a mix of frustration, confusion and reluctance.

This is where BCC cultivates artists. It coaches the artists it represents and then gets their work out into the community through its Alt.Art program.

The space features moveable walls and other transient elements. With everything on wheels, BCC can stage the flow as needed. “It’s all sort of impermanent – that’s the beauty of it. To be able to let go,” Addrienne says.

Artist incubator

Artists can rent studio space from six months to several years. By joining the collective, artists join a community studio where they get feedback from fellow artists who strive themselves to create better art that also sells.

“We want artists to be successful and to find a way to build a career that supports their lives,” Kelly says.

BCC coaches artists on everything from artist statements to show write-ups to labels, pricing, and website development.

Ian McLaughlin. redline, blue line, wonder, encouragements stronger than plastic heroes, acrylic on canvas, 2018. photo credit: Ian McLaughlin.

Honing these skills can make a drastic difference in a first impression.

The Boulder Creative Collective pushes artists to create engaging work. For example, someone who typically works on a small scale might be encouraged to make bigger pieces. Kelly and Addrienne wanted a space where makers could play and dream but also participate in a collaborative artist community.

As an art school graduate myself, I can say that this type of dynamic is near impossible to find after leaving school.

So keep your eyes peeled for good art in Boulder and possibly plan a visit to the gallery (along with a pint at Kettle & Spoke).

Kelly Cope Russack and Addrienne Amato. Image and handcut collage: Tatyana Sharpton

Feature Image: BCC-supplied image in Wonder. Photo: Paul Hagey