It's a Friday evening. In fact, it is the first Friday of the month, early evening, and the streets of downtown Colorado Springs are busy. It is not the hustle and bustle of the business day, but rather a casual air of strolling that has taken over. People move along in a kind of saunter that allows them to stop and greet friends, peruse the local shops, and of course, wander in and out of the many art galleries. At the northern end of the downtown art walk area, along Boulder street, things are abuzz. Live music floats out onto the street. A food truck provides its delicious offerings, and the foot traffic is heavy around the hot spot on the street, Kreuser Gallery. A glance through the windows reveals a number of people respectfully allowing each other the space to view the paintings while engaging in conversations about the works being displayed. In the center of the action is Abigail Kreuser, and the gallery is a right reflection of her own personal artistry.
When I asked Abigail Kreuser what niche her gallery fills in the burgeoning city of Colorado Springs, she looked at me directly and replied without hesistation, "Art itself is a niche." It takes a moment to absorb the significance of that, but yes, given all of the areas of life that we all engage in, art does hold a special, defined place - a niche all its own. During the interview I had with her, it became readily apparent how that principle moves throughout every aspect of Kreuser's art offerings. While the art selected is all of high quality, and the artists are from the Pike's Peak region, there is no preference for genre or technique. "I like for the artists to be inspired and do what they do best," Kreuser says, with a winning smile and a twinkle in her eye. "Besides, a world with no art is just a bunch of blank walls."
"I opened my first gallery in 2011 and worked three jobs to get it going," Abigail Kreuser
That comment reflects Kreuser's deserving The Art Blog's Profiles in Determination Award (Kudos!). The whole thing got started when she decided to combine fine arts photography and business courses while in college. From there she worked at Accent Photo, where she learned to promote art, and continued to do her own photography on the side as well. Oh, by the way, the third job was at a coffee roaster. (Yes, when you have three jobs, caffeine is particularly good.) The first iteration of the Kreuser Gallery was with her colleagues, Chris Alvarez and Mike Cellan, in the artist-owned galleries under the Colorado Avenue bridge, an area known as the Depot District (see the Art Blog, 8/15/21 on three artist-owned galleries).
In 2018 she took the leap into the Boulder Street space where the gallery is now. It was a leap filled with trepidation, but also determination, a real "go for it" spirit. With the help of the local arts community, a rough and rugged space was turned into a spacious, airy environment suitable for displaying art to its best advantage. She sees the gallery, itself, as a piece of art crafted by the many helping hands of artists who came to assist in her transformation of the place. Kreuser recalls the 10 Artist-Girlfriends Painting Party that got the walls all painted. Even more demanding was the refinishing of the floors, which had to be taken up layer-by layer and refinished, layer-by-layer to turn them into their current, sleek, modern version. The artists who came to help worked in conjunction to combine their many talents and blend their skills to create a unified product, not unlike some of the projects in the Renaissance where artists with their own known reputations worked together to create a unified look. Kreuser uses that as an example of what makes the Colorado Springs arts community strong. Artists work together and support one another's efforts. She makes a reference to an old African saying, when she stays, "It takes a village..."
Kreuser Gallery made a big splash in the downtown art scene. Its two large galleries are capable of showing two completely distinct types of work, so the visitor gets to move between different visions and moods. The group shows have the space for a large number of participants, which gives the visitor an overview of the types and variety of work done by the local artists. At the same time, when it suits the work, the gallery's spacious walls allow for the paintings to each hold their own, with enough area around each to allow the viewer to really see and appreciate each piece individually. For those who like art that comes in small, perhaps wearable ways, there is a separate small gallery toward the back of the main gallery that holds all sorts of small wonders from jewelry to small items of pottery. There is always something for everyone at the gallery.
When asked what elements contribute to the gallery's success, Kreuser replied that she makes sure to respond to each request by an artist to view work. It is a matter of respect and professionalism. It also allows her to see what is being produced and to notice the directions the artists are taking the art. As well, her interest in art does not limit itself to just the plastic arts but extends to performance as well. Kreuser, in conjunction with Gundega Stevens' neighboring G44 Gallery, has launced a Performance Series, where every quarter there is a ticketed performance by artists who present plays, read poetry, dance, and create imaginative moments through their performing skills. October, Arts Month, saw the presentation of five performances by six artists. The gallery had a full house for the event. Bringing the art-loving community into the gallery for art forms other than painting broadens the cultural offerings that the city has.
The rapid growth of Colorado Springs, which has some saying that it will be the biggest city in Colorado by 2050, has not gone unnoticed. As homes are built to the north and the east in ever-expanding neighborhoods, Kreuser and her next door gallery owner, Gundega Stevens, have decided that art must expand as well. To that end, they have formed a company called Curate Your Space, in which they offer their expertise to help people incorporate art into their living and work spaces. They offer free consultations, make proposals specifically designed for each client, and finally, curate the art for the client's space. Helping people solve problems of visual space and develop their taste for art as an essential of life opens the world of the local arts scene to those who may have thought it necessary to go to Santa Fe or Denver in order to find "art" when there are great works right in the place where they live.
The efforts to create a solid arts community continue with the North Downtown Art Block or NODO (#NODOARTSBLOCK) project. A group of nine businesses around the hub of N. Tejon and Boulder Street are working together to create a special area within the downtown that is focused particularly on the arts and other creative amenities (bookstore, food, etc.). The goal is to turn the area into a "go to" destination within the downtown core.