Abigail Kreuser isn’t technically a Colorado Springs native, but the photographer, gallery owner and entrepreneur has a passion for promoting the city she’s called home since she was 3 years old.
Kreuser’s family moved here in 1983 and she later attended Doherty High School, where one of her teachers nurtured her love and talent for photography.
She attended Colorado Mountain College, studying photography and graphic design, then transferred to the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, where she earned a BFA in Fine Art Photography.
After graduating, Kreuser returned home to Colorado Springs and began managing her parents’ business, Purple Mountain Coffee Company, and launched her photography business on the side, doing mostly non-traditional portraits and weddings and displaying some of her work on the walls of the family business.
“That’s how I started actually growing my customer base,” Kreuser said.
“That was not my dream — to be a portrait or wedding photographer — but it was how I could make money at the time.”
In 2011, she opened Kreuser Gallery on West Colorado Avenue in the Arts Depot District, in a small, eclectic space that also housed the coffee roaster from her parents’ business.
For years while running the gallery, Kreuser worked two other jobs. And after giving birth to her son, she also had to juggle responsibilities as a mother. She eventually decided she wanted to simplify things and concentrate more of her time and energy on her gallery.
“I just felt like I wanted to focus on one thing,” Kreuser said. “And I love the arts. I love this community of artists and creatives that we have here.”
Kreuser still works one other job outside of running her popular gallery, but has since stepped down from the coffee business.
In 2019, she upgraded her gallery space and moved into a new location downtown on Boulder Street, exhibiting a wide variety of pieces from a rotating stable of artists.
And while the art mediums often change, there’s typically one commonality among the work the gallery features.
“I like to show local artists,” Kreuser said. “So 99.9 percent of the time it’s people that live here and have started their careers here and they’re building their artist portfolios here.”
Kreuser talked with the Business Journal about the local arts scene, and what’s on the horizon for her and for Kreuser Gallery.
Why do you prefer to spotlight only local artists?
I really believe in the arts in our community. I grew up here, and that was something that I used to do with my family on the weekends — we’d walk around downtown and we’d go to galleries. And I just feel like we have so much talent here and there’s no reason that we need to be looking other places. We need to support the talent we have in our community. And that’s just something I really believe in.
What are the greatest strengths of our local arts community?
The camaraderie. … There’s groups that can get together and anybody’s invited to join them to just sit there and talk about art and critique each other and see what the next step is or where they want to go with things. There’s just a lot of community here. I feel like something that I’ve always believed in is community, not competition. And I see that within the artists here too. It’s not about the competition, it’s about supporting each other and raising each other up and pointing us each in the right direction that suits us, whether it be a certain exhibit, or a certain performance art or art in the streets. There’s always little outlets that everybody can be involved in.
What has business been like during the pandemic?
I was nervous about it at first because I was like, ‘Is this really something people are going to be buying right now? Is it a commodity?’ And really it was. Because people were stuck in their homes and I think they had time to spend looking at their walls and then were looking online like, ‘I really want to do this. I want to have some local art on my walls.’
So it hasn’t [hurt business much] so far. I worry more about the fall, just like with another wave coming and what may happen.
What are your ultimate goals for the gallery?
Before [the pandemic] happened, this was the start of my second year here. I really wanted the space to be like, a community space. I wanted people to be able to come and teach classes or have it be a place for nonprofits to have business meetings, or just meetings in general, or where poets could come and do poetry slams or whatever. And that was the vision for this space and it started to come into fruition. I have some regular classes that were going on, I started partnering with Cambio Yoga and we have yoga once a month. So, I saw that dream already coming into fruition and I see that coming back as soon as we are able to open back up. I just want this to be a space where people feel safe and comfortable coming to do whatever it is they want to do, whether it be dance, performing arts, visual arts.
What about goals for your own art?
Every time I do a project on my own, I’ll sit in it and I will work on it and I tell myself, ‘Why did you stop doing this? Why did you put it to the side?’ Because really … it’s the same thing as how I’m an outdoors person, and if I don’t get out in nature for a while, my mind is not where it needs to be. I feel out of balance. And it’s the same thing with creating art. So that’s my goal, is just to continue to do it. I feel it’s really important. I want to always be doing something that has some creative aspect, because I think it’s good for me as a businesswoman to also be the artist in the business.
You’re leading a webinar July 17 for the Pikes Peak Small Business Development Center’s #SMALLBIZREALTALK Series. Tell us about that.
I will be speaking about a lot. It’ll be really in-depth … and it’s basically just getting real with how business is. It’s not all unicorns and butterflies. Being an entrepreneur, or any business owner — it takes a lot of your time. For instance, my husband didn’t come from an entrepreneurial family and he had a hard time watching how much I would put into work. He didn’t think I was getting a lot out of it, even though I was. It was like feeding my soul — it wasn’t about how much money I was making, it was about what I was doing for the artists and myself and the community. To me that’s a bigger profit. And he’s come to see that throughout the years. I’m about to start my 10th year in business and now he sees that. But I would say for the first three years I was in business he just didn’t get it.
So the Small Business Development Center series, that’s what it’s about — it’s asking real questions about your trip and your hurdles that you’ve gone through, what you love about what you do and what’s hard. It’s just about the hardships and the good stuff. Because it’s not all smiles; it’s something you have to work really hard at.
What advice would you give to young artists or entrepreneurs hoping to leave their mark in art or business?
Just be as much a part of whatever community you want to be in. If you want to do arts, then you need to intern with galleries, you need to do your research and your homework. It takes time and you have to know what kind of work is behind it. So I think that talk with the Small Business Development Center kind of gets into that. Like I said, it’s not all unicorns and rainbows. There’s a lot that you have to do to build what it is that you want. So figure out what it is exactly that you want to do and then go in that direction. There’s so many resources for any kind of business or entrepreneur out there … so just get your hands and your feet wet and see what it’s all about.