#002 Boulder Creative Collective – Supporting Art and Artists in Boulder

Boulder Creative Collective on Colorado.FM, The Colorado Podcast

Hello everyone, and thank you for tuning in for this episode of the Colorado.FM podcast.  In this episode I will be speaking with Addrienne Amato and Kelly Russack of the Boulder Creative Collective, a home for art and community here in Boulder.

Our conversation ranges from the inspiration for starting the BCC to how it has evolved from a series of pop-up art exhibitions to the BCC Warehouse – a permanent exhibition space with studios for resident artists of all kinds – including writers, toymakers, all sorts of creatives.

Addrienne and Kelly offer their unique insight into the creative pulse of Boulder as well as their suggestions for engaging in the art scene around the state, but especially here in the front range.

Online, you can find them at bouldercreativecollective.com and on Instagram also @bouldercreativecollective.

 


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Selected Links from the Episode

 


Show Notes

[1:25] From pop-ups to the BCC: Warehouse – the journey

[4:30] Sanitas Brewing

[8:00] Building an accessible, inclusive art community

[11:00] The BCC: Warehouse – a day in the life; the artists it has attracted

[14:30] The neighborhood – a community of artists, makers, eccentrics (and driving bulldozers!)

[18:45] Supporting the artists – Art On Loan program

[25:30] Where Addrienne and Kelly go to get inspired in the area

 


Transcript:

Colorado Podcast Episode with Boulder Creative Collective

 

Hello everyone, and thank you for tuning in to this episode of the Colorado.FM podcast. In this episode, I’ll be speaking with Addrienne Amato and Kelly Russack of the Boulder Creative Collective, a home for art community here in Boulder. Our conversation ranges from the inspiration for starting the BCC, to how it has evolved from a series of popup art exhibitions to the BCC warehouse, a permanent exhibition space for resident artists of all kinds, including writers, toy makers, and all sorts of creatives, not just visual artists.

Addrienne and Kelly offer their unique insight into the creative pulse of Boulder, as well as their suggestions for engaging the art scene around the state, but really especially here in the front range. Online, you can find them at bouldercreativecollective.com and on Instagram also, @bouldercreativecollective. So here we go, my conversation with Addrienne Amato and Kelly Russack of the Boulder Creative Collective.

Okay, Addrienne and Kelly, thank you so much for being here. As I said in the introduction, these are the two behind the Boulder Creative Collective, and they’re going to kind of take us through the story on how they got together, recognized a need for some new art influence in Boulder, so if you could just kind of take us through the journey. You started with pop-ups, ended up with a great warehouse. How did you get there?

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Addrienne Amato:

I think an important piece of the story is how this journey began, and probably how a lot of ideas in Boulder are created. We were actually hiking Sanitas, which is just in our backyard. We both live a walkable distance away from the mountains, so we were just on a hike one day, and were chatting about what we felt was missing, both having moved here from different locations. I was living in a bigger city, I was in Boston at the time. Kelly was in Park City, but we felt that Boulder was missing this essential part of our lives and daily experiences, and we felt like we needed to fill it and that’s how the idea for the pop-up began, and in the first two, was it? About two years that we did the pop-ups?

Kelly Russack:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Addrienne Amato:

We really focused on transforming people’s homes and unexpected places into a gallery-like or an event-like space, and we’d alter them drastically so they were very different from what they were. The very first pop-up we did was Kelly’s living room, but that one really ended up looking like a traditional gallery space in the end, and then from there … And I think in that very first one we also named the Boulder Creative Collective.

Kelly Russack:

We did.

Addrienne Amato:

Right? Yeah, I mean, that’s a name we’ve had since the very beginning that’s never changed, so we felt that really fit what we were trying to create and still think it fits today. Do you want to talk a little bit more about the journey beyond that? Beyond the pop-ups and sort of how we moved into the warehouse space?

Kelly Russack:

Sure. I would love to. So, we did three homes pop-ups and like Addrienne said, the first one was in my house, first floor, then the next one was in a garage and we painted it out and power washed it and buffed it so it was super inviting, and then the third was just a blowout at Addrienne’s and we were lucky enough to have an outdoor space to use because we had 200 people going through her home and so that was when we knew we had kind of outgrown the homes.

Speaker 1:

Gotcha.

Kelly Rusike:

Because who really wants 200 people going through their lives without-

Speaker 1:

But that’s amazing.

Kelly Russack:

Yeah. It was crazy. So we brainstormed and decided to reach out to our local business friends and asked … Well actually, rewind. We went public when we went to the Sanitas Brewing, and they had sponsored some beer for us for Addrienne’s event, and it was the first time that our art event was open to the public, because it was always nerve-wracking, just not knowing how many people are going to arrive and that was always definitely scary for me to let go of, because who knows? I mean, all walks of life, everyone’s invited, but then at the same time, you know, there are limitations. So, we had an event at Sanitas Brewing where we transformed their tank space, and we had freedom to do everything that we wanted.

Speaker 1:

Right.

Addrienne Amato:            Including using the scissor lift.

Kelly Russack:

The scissor lift, and then we needed more wall space because when we first saw the space, Michael, the owner, he walked us through and each time we went back the space got smaller and smaller, because his business was growing and all of a sudden he had this gigantic cooler. Luckily it had a magnetic metal that we could use to our benefit, so we hung artwork on the cooler and that was just really fun. That’s where people … It was more inclusive just because it was open to the public, so then … Because he didn’t close shop for us, so then we just got a lot of outsiders and interest.

Speaker 1:

Sure. And that’s kind of, from what I’ve been reading and just knowing you guys, that’s really one of your common themes and one of your motivations anyway, which is bringing art to more people and kind of getting it out there, so I’m sure that really fit with you as far as opening up, I guess, like you said, to outsiders.

Kelly Russack:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Speaker 1:

That’s awesome. Was the Sanitas connection something that you guys knew of? Was that just a good example of Boulder businesses supporting people, or is that … ?

Addrienne Amato:

I’m not really 100% certain how this all … How we met him. Did we just cold-call him?

Kelly Russack:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). A lot of how we operate at the BCC is under the motto, “What’s the worst that someone can say? No?” So I think I cold-called them and just said, “Hey we’re going to have an event. You want to give us two kegs for free?” They called back after a little bit of follow up and kept kind of bugging them. I think Michael, the owner, called back and we explained what we were doing, the idea of it, and they gave us, I believe, the equivalent of about two kegs, but they brought cases, so they came to my house, so that last home pop-up that we did and served beer and that was one of our biggest shows, so that was where we made the connection with Sanitas. I think it was really, we thought they has cool space, they had good beer. They were a little bit younger at the time, not as established, but a lot of people knew of the brewery, so it just ended up with a happy connection, and they were willing to help us out, and then that’s how we got that connection to do the pop-up in their space.

Speaker 1:

That’s excellent. I love that. One of the things you kind of mentioned, when you were first both had moved here from these other places that had more established and thriving art scenes I guess, were you surprised at the lack of support for the art scenes in Boulder? Because people tend to think of it as a real creative-type town. Were you surprised that there weren’t more people doing what you guys wanted to do when you got here?

Kelly Rusike:

Well, as we all know, Boulder has changed at a rapid rate, and so when Boulder was very different four years ago, seven, eight years ago, and so there were a lot of artists, but there were a lot of people doing a lot of different things, and it wasn’t a full community effort to make this cultural impact, and so people were out there, open studios, it’s been around forever.

NoBo art district … The city was on the verge of trying to create something, so things were around, but where did we belong and who did we connect to and with? And so when we were on our hike, that’s when the idea was born, that we wanted something that fit our lifestyle that invited us in, that we felt included, that all walks of life are not exclusive. We want everyone to enjoy art, so anytime people say, “Hey, I don’t have a babysitter, I don’t know if I can come to your opening” it’s half the reason we do what we do, is because our kids … we want our kids to be surrounded by art and culture, and so that’s a driving force as well. There were things happening and then now over the course of, what are we? Four years? Almost fours years?

Addrienne Amato:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Kelly Russack:

We’re all building these strong relationships with one another and supporting each other in openings and cross promotion, so it becomes a stronger network within the Boulder city and beyond.

Speaker 1:

Sure.

Kelly Russack:

Does that answer your question?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, no, that’s great. Definitely as you know, you’ll find my kids at your openings and event as well. It’s an awesome family experience, and like you said, not all … We take our kids to a lot of art places whether it feels welcome or not, we like to do that anyway, but you’re right, it doesn’t always necessarily feel welcome, like you’re just kind of forcing yourself in there anyway.

Addrienne Amato:

Right.

Speaker 1:

So it’s nice to actually go somewhere and just it is feeling like a family atmosphere and it is feeling like, not like a stuffy kind of environment, which is definitely not what you guys have. Take us to the warehouse. You got the new space, and I guess by new, couple years?

Kelly Russack:

Just over a year. Yeah, we’re just over a year old.

Speaker 1:

Okay, and you’ve got tenants in there who can rent space and they’re Boulder artists of a lot of different types? It’s not just visual artists, there’s a lot of different types of people in there and even other entrepreneurs, which I guess … Has that been a surprise to you guys? Is that what you’re going for, like a really diverse set of tenants? Is that just kind of what came to you? Take us through where you are now and what the warehouse … What’s going on a day in the life at the warehouse right now?

Addrienne Amato:

Well, we view the warehouse as not so much of a gallery and more of an alternative art space, and I think when you have alternative spaces, you attract alternative types of thinking people, whether they’re businesses … We have a toy maker in there, we have a paper maker in there, we have writers, we’ve had painters, we’ve had designers, what else have we had? Photographers.

We’ve had a whole list of different types of creative outlets working in there, and I think sort of the grounding force within all of the people that have rented from us is, they can see sort of the potential in not only the warehouse, but the area of Boulder that we’re in as well. It’s a little gritty, it’s a little off the beaten path, it’s a little less shiny than other parts of Boulder are becoming, a little unordered in that kind of chaotic sort of way that’s interesting and kind of breeds that sort of creative thinking, so I think that that’s something that attracts the kind of people that are coming to us.

I don’t know if that was really what we thought in the beginning. Maybe we thought it would be sort of based in fine arts and the type of work that we do, but we uphold that end of the work and the output that goes into the space, and then there’s all these different sort of genres and types of groups and organizations and creative thinkers coming into this space working, so it’s been a good eclectic bunch that we’ve had in there, lots of characters.

And also our neighboring businesses as well are quite full, character types. If you’ve ever come out to our warehouse, it’s never a boring day out there on the lower east side, as we like to call it. It definitely has its own kind of feel over there, and I don’t think there’s any other part of Boulder that sort of still has that kind of feel. It is connected. There are a lot of local businesses over there. It is still a little weird and funky and what I think Boulder used to be and what we hear that it used to be like maybe 10 years ago, 15 years ago, so there’s still some of that raw quality left when everything is coming in and kind of being built up and the market is what it is in Boulder, so I feel like we’ve got a special little niche out there.

Speaker 1:

Sure. No, that’s fantastic. I mean, it is a great space, and some of the other businesses in the area make a visit to the warehouse more than just that, like you’re visiting all the neighbors, you’re visiting the whole experience. We were speaking to this a little bit before we started here, some of the … Do you collaborate? Do you get a chance to kind of interact and get together with these neighboring business too much and maybe coordinate different events, or are you feeding off each other in ways that have been maybe unexpected when you moved into that space?

Kelly Russack:

Well, we haven’t collaborated per se, but it’s not that we’re not going to. You know, it’s just the timing needs to be right, but we have the Green Guru, which is next door to us. They have … It’s a bike shop, they design repurposed up-cycled bike accessories, like sacks and bags and things, and then they have a brewery in there, so a little boutique brewery, which is super convenient, because then people can come and view art and go grab a beer, and then we have a bunch of car guys, like Saab and Volvo and they’re test driving and trying to find the problem in the vehicle, so they like to holler and screech.

I think the fact that we’re not a mechanic and that we bring a different vibe to the warehouse, because the Green Guru guys have been there for like, 10 years, so when we were looking at the space, they were hoping that we would come in and stick around, because they weren’t … they wanted energy, and for us, they never really know what’s happening, like last week or two weeks ago, we had a big print event, so we decided to partner with another art group in town, Flatiron Press, and we rented a steamroller, a construction vehicle, and we womanized, manned, that vehicle, and drove it over planks of wood that were all inked up and made large prints, and the guys next door definitely came over as spectators, and I think they sent their customers over to come and see what we were up to on a Saturday afternoon.

Speaker 1:

Sure, just a regular day at the warehouse, driving bulldozers, making art.

Kelly Rusike:

Just a regular day, yeah, exactly.

Speaker 1:

With the beer and bike guys right next door. I love it.

Addrienne Amato:

There is one … I’d say the biggest collaboration with all the area businesses is we created a map for a lot of businesses that were east of 30th, south of Valmont and north of Pearl, so kind of over in that east side quadrant we went around to all of the local business that were doing really interesting things, that have been there for a long time, and put together a map so people could actually really visualize and see al of the stuff that is going on. There was Colorado School of Yoga, Truman Boot company, I don’t think … Did we put Sanitas-

Kelly Rusike:

Rowdy Mermaid is there.

Addrienne Amato:

Rowdy Mermaid, they make kombucha, so lots of various different interesting businesses, and a lot of businesses that people know of, including Green Guru, Rock and Resole, it’s a huge climbing town, so those guys have been down at the west end of the building as well, forever, so we all know we’re over there, and everyone that’s over there definitely likes it for a reason, so that’s been our biggest, I think, collaboration and connection, was we organized that map project so people could see what was happening on the other side of Boulder, so it’s kind of the opposite than the west end, we’ve got the gritty east end warehouse district.

 


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Speaker 1:

No, that’s awesome. Speaking of all those other businesses, tell us about some of the things that you’re doing specifically to support the businesses and artists that are in your warehouse, so beyond offering them a space to work, I know you’re doing lots of openings, you’re obviously publicizing and trying to help them grow their business side of being artists and one of the things you mention is this art loan program, so why don’t you tell us a little bit about that.

Addrienne Amato:

the art on loan, we had this idea before we actually had the warehouse space, so I think while we were still doing pop-ups, we thought how great it would be to … Since we had kind of moved into using local businesses to do these pop-ups that were one-night efforts and it was a lot of energy to then tear it all down that night.

You’re talking three, six months of planning and then within 24 hours it’s done and over with and gone and cleaned up and the business is back to normal as usual, so we thought, what if we approach all of these business owners that we have now come to grow our relationships with, and offer our curatorial services to bring the artists that we know, the artists that we’ve worked with, into their businesses, and we really work with the business and what is their brand identity and what kind of work really fits in the space, so we’re not just going to put in random artist in there, we really try to fill in their wall space, literally, with the type of work that we feel their customers or clients or the people that just work in the space would really connect with and kind of vibe with, you know? We’re not just going to put something random in place that would totally be unfitting, so that’s one program that we have that’s outside of the warehouse.

Kelly Russack:

And then another way of supporting artists, we have our tenants, and as tenant, you have access to the exhibition space, so at no extra cost, which is great, because then an artist is in the space and creates a body of work, they have the space to put on an event and to exhibit and have their own opening. So that’s something that we believe is beneficial to artists in Boulder and obviously our tenants, so the Boulder Writers’ Warehouse, they’re in our space, and they’re always having workshops and readings and performance and the list goes on, and then for the greater population outside of our warehouse, artists … We have a sliding scale, because we really believe in artists being seen and networking with the public and having conversations, so we follow up with artists, we support them, we promote them, we guide, assist, mentor, all of the above, in order for their … What? Their …

Addrienne Amato:

Career?

Kelly Russack:

Yeah, their career. Yeah, yeah. And their exposure. I guess that was the word that I was looking for, exposure.

Speaker 1:

Excellent. No, I mean it’s … We were speaking about this before, a lot of artists and a lot of just people, they have a hard time managing the professional side of what they need to do. They just want to go and create, but they’re not good at getting exposure, they’re not good at maybe handling, developing the relationships with potential customers, that keeps their dream alive, right? That pays for the space and pays for their bills and allows them to have the time to pursue that side of their life, so I’m sure your services are appreciated when maybe that’s just not something that comes naturally to some of these more artistic types, it’s pretty common, so it’s really neat. It’s not only a neat space, but it sounds like it’s a cool community, both inside the warehouse and outside.

 


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I saw, wanted to just kind of wrap up with a couple of quick questions, one art-related and then a couple kind of more, maybe Colorado-related. We all kind of moved here for our own reasons, but one of the things that is common is that we kind of go for a little more balance in our lives, like you said, you came up with this idea hiking up Sanitas, which I love. I think that really gets to the crux of what’s happening out here, but I did, when I was reading through your website, I saw on one of your artist profiles that you asked this question of them. “If money was no object, which piece of art would you like in your personal collection?” I wanted to ask you that question.

Addrienne Amato:

Oh, geez. I need to think about that for a minute.

Speaker 1:

We can edit out long pauses, don’t worry.

Addrienne Amato:

Okay. Okay. Both are kind of local. I would commission Hollis and Lana to do … They’re a Denver-based art collaboration. I think they’re partners, maybe they’re married, I’m not sure, but there’s a mural on the side of Madelife that I think actually is going to be going away soon, so if you haven’t seen it, you should drive by Madelife. It’s really organic shapes and kind of looks like bodies and flowers and it’s got really beautiful colors. I think I’d love them to do a mural somewhere wither inside or on the exterior of my house, someplace kind of unexpected, maybe an entire powder room so when you go in there it’s kind of overwhelming, something like that. I’ve always love that idea. And to have an artist like that transform a space like that would be really cool, and then if I could ever own a piece, probably one of my biggest inspirations as an artists is Clifford Still, and having the Clifford Still Museum in Denver is pretty rad, I think. It’s one, an amazing building and two, he’s an amazing artist and an artist that a lot of people actually aren’t that aware of, so that’s another space if you haven’t been there, you should check out the Clifford Still Museum.

Speaker 1:

That’s fantastic, and it’s something that I meant to ask and kind of skipped over, which is what are some of your favorite spaces in this area that you like to visit to see good … Whether it’s local or whether they’re drawing from outside of the area artists, that doesn’t really matter but what are some of your favorite spaces to go get inspired?

Kelly Russack:

I would say the MCA in Denver is pretty great. Standing out on the east side of the building and just looking out, always looking at the heart and looking out over the cars and the pedestrians down below. I really enjoy that space, and they’re always really welcoming and super cool and open and funky and just inspiring, for sure.

Addrienne Amato:

There’s a lot of co-working spaces in Denver that are really interesting. Art Gym is pretty cool. They’re sort of like us but in a different way. They have an exhibition space and they have more co-working spaces than they do … they don’t have private studios like we do, so it’s an interesting space for what they offer. You have a membership, you can go in and they have all like state-of-the-art tools, so whether you’re a jewelry maker or a print maker or a painter or a woodworker, you can go into their space and have access to tools that most people don’t …

You can use them if you go to art school, or if you’re lucky enough to connect with someone who has those tools but they’ve got this great co-working space for artists and creative people along with having the exhibition space, and they bring in a lot of really cool local and regional artists as well. I think that’s another cool space around here.

Speaker 1:

Okay, so maybe moving away from the art, when you’re not at the warehouse doing the BCC stuff, what do you like to do? What’s a great family Saturday or a great … If you can get away for the weekend in Colorado, you have any favorite, any places topping the list?

Kelly Russack:

An easy Saturday is the farmers’ market and taking a stroll down there and mingling with random community people that you bump into and getting good food and always people watching, and then to get away … Gosh, I always leave the state, which is unfortunate, but Crest Butte is on my list this summer because I hear the wildflowers are incredible and the water and the views, so that would be my go-to.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, it’s an amazing place and it’s a crowd favorite in this state, right? For a reason.

Addrienne Amato:

I have an out-of-state one too and an in-state. We’ve been talking about going down to Santa Fe again. I love going down to Santa Fe because it’s not only inspiring naturally, just the real southwest feeling. We’re kind of on the edge of that here in Boulder, but there’s also the art and the artist influence down there, so you kind of get the best of both worlds. You get the nature, and then you can see why all these famous artists moved down there and left places like New York and places that we’ve lived also, and then I think in state, I’m trying to go to Aspen this summer as well, and the same thing, summertime, wildflowers, you’ve got the Aspen Museum, the Aspen Institute, again, another really cool place for the natural beauty along with some historical artist references, both historical and contemporary, so those are probably top two on my list that I could get in my car and just drive to in half a day.

Speaker 1:

Right. Those are great ideas. Finally, I would just like to ask, who would you love to hear on this podcast?

Addrienne Amato:

Local? A local person?

Speaker 1:

Or a Colorado person. Doesn’t have to be a Boulder person and it doesn’t even have to be an art or an entrepreneur, just somebody who, anybody doing something really interesting, amazing, that people should know about.

Addrienne Amato:

Well, I think Bear Rogers would be super entertaining, because he’s an amazing artist and he’s in the cannabis world in Colorado, so he has great stories to share, and also a really good friend of ours, Will Day, he’s another happy man. Leah Brenner, she’s really making a big difference in the public art scene here in Boulder, and she’s lovely to chat with.

Speaker 1:

Those are great ideas.

Addrienne Amato:

Those are all awesome, local people that are interacting with the art community in different ways. I think it would be really fun to get some of our tenants on here and sort of hear about their endeavors and the end experiences within the warehouse and why they’ve come to the warehouse and what they’re contributing to the community, so Boulder Writers’ Warehouse, Dan [Rudnicky 31:16], Maeve Falen, who else is still on there? Even Greg Afeared, who’s one of our past residents, but he’s developing a T-shirt line, so a lot of the people that have rented with us.

Kelly Russack:

Adry Norris.

Addrienne Amato:

She’d be a good one.

Kelly Russack:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Addrienne Amato:

An artist that, she lived in Lyons, she rented from us and now he’s in Denver, she would be an interesting person to talk to as well. She’s on a different artist tack, so she’d be a really good person to talk to.

Speaker 1:

Excellent. That sounds like a-

Addrienne Amato:

You’ve got a list now.

Speaker 1:

Enough to keep me … Yeah, that’s a list. That’s enough to keep me busy for a while, and I really appreciate those ideas. Well, thank you so much for coming in and telling us your story. I think it’s just amazing, and it’s been really awesome to watch you grow over there in that space and look forward to continuing to attend your events with our wild kids running around.

Addrienne Amato:

Thank you.

Kelly Russack:

Thank you.

Speaker 1:

Everyone, so, that was Addreinne Amato and Kelly Rusike from Boulder Creative Collective. Remember, you can find them online at bouldercreativecollective.com or on Instagram, also @bouldercreativecollective. Be sure to check out their website for upcoming events and gallery opening, et cetera, just some really great events going on over there. If you enjoyed this podcast, please leave a review and be sure to subscribe at colorado.fm and you can find us on iTunes. Thanks a lot.

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