“You need art. Art needs you.”
This potent motto has fueled the Modbo gallery since it opened in a small storage outbuilding in an alley off Bijou and Tejon streets 10 years ago.
Co-founded in 2009 by Lauren Ciborowski and Brett Andrus at the height of the recession in a city not known for small independent art spaces, the gallery has since infused the Colorado Springs arts scene with passion, an accessible spirit and irreverent invention.
“From the beginning, we really wanted to have art in the Modbo that was made with integrity, by people who cared about what they were painting and how they were painting it,” Ciborowski explains.
Based around this vision, Ciborowski and Andrus created their own artistic community: the Modbo Collective of up-and-coming artists. Many came from Andrus’ painting and drawing classes in the gallery space at Modbo, and later their S.P.Q.R. Experiential Art Space and Studio Gallery next door.
”We wanted to make a space for artists to experiment and thrive and fail,” Andrus says. In what became known as the Arts Alley, creatives could grow and show and sell their work. Locally and nationally recognized artists, including Elizabeth Selby, Lorelei Beckstrom, Christian Medovich and Claire Swinford, can all trace roots back to the Modbo.
As these artists developed, the Modbo and S.P.Q.R. also opened a new avenue for locals to find and buy art—and even to look at the practice differently. “Do you collect art because famous artists are important,” Andrus muses, “or do you collect art because it resonates with you as a human on a level where it strikes you so deep in your stomach, and you can’t live without it?”
Memorable events have been a part of the galleries’ ethos. Given Ciborowski’s background as a classical pianist and dancer and Andrus’ career as a painter, it’s not surprising that their venues have become great places to experience the joy of collaborative cross-disciplinary shows.
On a given First Friday, you might walk amid the alley’s bright paint and warm twinkling lights to find a modern dance company writhing across dumpsters and pirouetting on the Modbo roof. Or you might step into a gallery to hear Colorado College Summer Music Festival orchestra students playing original compositions with local nonclassical bands.
In 2017, Ciborowski and Andrus amicably split the businesses into two distinct and self-sustaining galleries, with Ciborowski taking the helm of the Modbo and Andrus assuming sole control of S.P.Q.R. The galleries still come together every December for the popular open-submission Small Works show.
Through July 14, the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College (FAC) is hosting a retrospective show curated by the Modbo for its anniversary. Many of the 15 artists featured began as a part of the original Modbo Collective. “The spirit of the Modbo is about nurturing artistic talent and ushering creatives to reach ever greater levels of achievement as they develop,” says Joy Armstrong, curator of modern and contemporary art at the FAC.
But the show is also very much a celebration of the gallery itself. “The Modbo is a homegrown success story, proving that this town is a place for makers and doers and that sometimes the start of a creative journey must begin with forging your own path,” Armstrong says.
Reflecting on a decade of the Modbo, Ciborowski beams: “I’m proud of creating a unique and approachable art space in Colorado Springs, where people can come in and interact with the art and the artist.”
Coming to the Modbo
Aug. 2-30: Works on Paper by Floyd Tunson, live music by My Name is Harriett at the opening
Sept. 6-27: Laurel Swab, photorealistic oil paintings and eerie figurative work, opening one year after her untimely passing
Find schedule of additional exhibitions at themodbo.com