Manitou Art Center Executive Director Natalie Johnson doesn’t have an office.
“We can’t spare the space that we rent,” Johnson said. “Everything we can possibly offer, we share with the community.”
Johnson is on her feet most of the time anyway, overseeing the two-building complex that houses four galleries, studios, a Makerspace, a Colorado Running Company outlet and Artifax Café, where she sometimes alights to do paperwork and use her laptop.
About 100 member artists and craftspeople use the studios and the MACshop Makerspace. Membership is $50 a month, which provides artists access to printmaking, screen printing, paper making and clay equipment, a 3D printer, a laser cutter, fiber arts studio, design lab, darkroom and meeting spaces.
“One of the most interesting things about our Makerspace is that we have been here 30 years, so we have old and new tools,” Johnson said. “Our printer is one of the two largest printing presses in the state. It’s the same with our darkroom — it’s the only public darkroom in the region not connected with a school or university. Simultaneously, we offer technology-based equipment. It really makes us integrated here.”
The Makerspace is used by studio artists, school groups and individuals.
“We joke that if it’s heavy, expensive or requires ventilation, we provide it for you,” Johnson said. “The way I think of it is, we provide the space and opportunity and you make it work for you.”
The MAC’s large, open spaces and café kitchen allow for the center to host events, from large receptions, fundraisers and conventions to community group meetings.
“We don’t charge for our space unless the event is charging admission,” Johnson said.
Many artists run their businesses from the MAC’s facilities.
“It really works as a coworking space and business incubator as well,” Johnson said.
The MAC offers five to 10 classes a week. They range from sessions that instruct people in use of the onsite tools and equipment — the laser cutter is the most popular — and classes offered through Manitou Springs School District 14 and by individual instructors and visiting artists.
During just a couple of weeks in November, scheduled classes and events included a session for developmentally disabled adults; Fab Lab, a weekly session where participants can help with a Concrete Couch project or build one of their own; a First Friday Art Walk event; Repair Café, where people can get expert advice on fixing broken items; life drawing sessions; weaving and embroidery classes; a Darkroom 101 course; and an introduction to laser cutting and engraving.
“In a town of 5,000, it’s very unusual to have a 10,000-square-foot art center. It’s very unusual that we thought of it in 1998, but also that it’s working,” Johnson said. “In the 1980s, they saw the arts as that key, creative industry for our community. … We still see ourselves as an artistic community. The art center is a physical demonstration of that passion.”
Besides income from space rental, the MAC survives on grants and donations.
This year, the organization launched the Lori Cohen Endowment Fund. The center has until July 2019 to match a $125,000 grant from the Lori Cohen Charitable Trust. Thus far, it has raised $60,000.
“This is a huge opportunity that will provide us with a predictable stream of funding we can rely on,” Johnson said. “We’re not funded through any city, county or state.”
Give! contributions “are one of the few streams we have that go toward operating expenses — improve the studio spaces, pay our insurance, get through the winter,” she said. “It allows us more freedom than any other funding we get. That’s why it’s a big deal for us.”
Donate through Dec. 31 to any of our 93 nonprofits at indygive.com.