Alternative Venues | Visual Arts

Salt Lake City’s Mod a-go-go

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When Eric Morley was asked to identify a market gap for his “Introduction to Entrepreneurship” class at Westminster College, his thoughts led him to the emerging artist. His partner Marcus Gibby is an artist who had unsuccessfully exhibited at local coffee shops and salons. “I thought if he was having trouble” says Morley, “then other artists probably were too.” Market gap identified. Next came the business plan, the concept, the pitch, and a name and logo. This case study carried through to his marketing class until, almost by accident, it became a reality: Mod a-go-go, a thriving furniture store and exhibition space in downtown Salt Lake City.

Morley and Gibby’s success so far is a result of hard work, an elegant vision and a sustainable business model. “There was a gap for new artists and I wanted to help Marcus sell his work” Morley explains. “We both have a love for mid-century modern furniture, so we talked about it more and more, acquired a couple pieces of furniture, and then hunted for locations.”

They settled on South Temple in what used to be King’s Row Tuxedo Shop. Their landlord Steve Price, with Price Realty Group, was holding the building for the right business. Fortunately, he shared in their vision and has been a tremendous supporter from the start. If you never walked into that space before, you would never know how much work went into the remodel. “People didn’t know how cool this building was because the windows were covered with racks of tuxedos, and only the main floor was open for customers” says Morley. “Upstairs was purely storage and it was in awful condition. We put in new floors, walls, a ceiling, windows and electrical.” They did this all in nine weeks.

Their opening on June 21, 2013 was huge, with 400 people in the building—thanks to guerrilla marketing and, quite honestly, the artists exhibiting in the space who spread the news to all their family and friends. The name Mod a go-go simultaneously connotes class and fun, and that’s what you get when you approach the floor-to-ceiling glass exterior. To walk in is to step back in time, but unlike other consignment shops that pack their pieces in so tightly you have to watch your step, this layout is so open and inviting you don’t want to leave. Morley says he has spotted people lounging on sofas, playing with their iPads, and killing time while their tires are being rotated down the street at Big O. “People just love hanging out here” he says graciously. “We love that.”

Mod a-go-go mixes mid-century furniture with new pieces by local, contemporary furniture makers throughout their ground level showroom as well as upstairs. In fact, they recently hosted a modern chair competition which drew 22 artists and their best chair designs. But the beauty of this space is that you can’t sit or stand anywhere without seeing contemporary, local artwork. When you venture upstairs you’ll find that its walls are mostly dedicated to their visual artists, with furniture placed only to round out the space. They don’t just hang art to make the furniture look good. Mod a-go-go hangs exhibits. Every 45-90 days they switch out their group shows to help as many emerging artists as they can.

“The majority of our artists are hobbyists. They may come in with one piece or they may come in with twelve. Our whole idea is for them to build a reputation and connect with our customer,” says Morley. “Some day they may graduate from Mod a-go-go and we hope they do.” Morley and Gibby take great pride in being a launching pad for these artists. It’s too soon to tell the long term effects of their efforts, but a couple of their artists have quit their full time jobs to spend more time with their art.

Showing your art at Mod a-go-go means you’ll attract a young audience, not only looking to look at art, but to buy it as well. And the owners do everything they can to bring in as many clients as possible. Because they are a destination gallery Morley and Gibby try to do something new and fun for each Gallery Stroll. For the Holiday Stroll, look forward to a party featuring the local five piece jazz band In Time. And look forward to shoulder to shoulder customers, making themselves at home in what feels like a time capsule with a contemporary edge. As the owners invite you to get comfortable, they will make you feel like a guest rather than a customer. After all, they may technically be a consignment shop—they just don’t want to look like it.

 

Laura Durham works for KUED Channel-7 in the Creative Services Department, curating community engagement projects for both PBS and KUED productions that foster trust and value to the communities in Utah. She also produces Contact with Mary Dickson and Contact in the Community — a digital series featuring arts and culture groups in Utah. Prior to her work at KUED, Laura spent 15 years at the Utah Division of Arts & Museums in the visual arts program and later managing communications, branding, marketing, and public value projects for all arts and museums programming. She has served the Utah community in various capacities with her role as Vice President of the Salt Lake Gallery Association and Program Director for the Salt Lake Gallery Stroll. She lives in Salt Lake City, sings with Utah Chamber Artists, and loves to contribute to 15 Bytes as often as time allows.

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