Updated: Sep 29, 2021
In the thriving Crossroads Arts District, there is a “Bold and free in style” art gallery, MOD Gallery & Space, located at 1809 McGee in Kansas City, MO. Brian Ousley, MOD Gallery & Space owner, started with a vision and idea to create a hip downtown vibe unlike any other gallery. A place where people can hang out, enjoy music, drink, and fall in love with cutting-edge artwork.
Besides just being an art gallery, Ousley has turned the MOD into a multi-media business, cross-marketing with Artists Richard and Michele Fritz, talented artists who teach painting classes at MOD. On First Fridays, the art is the main event where local artists showcase their work, and the love pours through. Ousley also rents MOD space to host various events and parties when it isn’t a First Friday.
MOD is one of the hippest art scenes on First Fridays in the heart of Kansas City. Each year, more renovations have been made, with the gallery growing to woo and awe the public. MOD has come in second and finalist several times for the Best of Kansas City Pitch awards for the Best Art Gallery, always following the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art.
“We used to count the MOD’s attendance on First Fridays for marketing purposes,” states Brian Ousley of MOD Gallery & Space. People enjoy the MOD’s eclectic art, food, music, drinking, and conversing with friends and featured artists. In 2018 MOD had its largest attendance count of over 5,500 people; they quit counting after that.
“I had always been taking photos of family, vacations, friends, pets, and cars for as long as he can remember,” states Brian Ousley, owner of MOD Gallery & Space. “I credit my mom for the introduction to photography; she bought me a very nice Canon camera for my 7th-grade photography class, which I continued to use in my college photography classes.”
Ousley says that the photography classes in his junior and senior years really touched and inspired him artistically. Ousley credits his college photography classes as what re-sparked his interest in photography. In Ousley’s senior year of college came the birth of BOOM Photography.
In 1997, Ousley came up with BOOM, an acronym for “Brian Ousley Ocular Muses.” Brian’s art instructor encouraged him to have his first solo show where he sold several original pieces. He earned his bachelor’s degree (BS) in Marketing from Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, MO. Brian’s passion for photography was the seed that grew into becoming a gallery owner.
Ousley opened his first gallery in 2003, “BOOM Studio,” in Columbus Park (East of the River Market) in Kansas City, MO. He quickly learned to curate for his gallery, networking with other artists and orchestrating artful events and openings. The Columbus Park art community consisted of his gallery and five other galleries, where they had a Third Friday Art Crawl.
In 2005, Ousley moved to the West Bottoms, where he started a new business (Boom Art) from networking with other artists. BOOM Art was an artist representation service where Brian worked with and helped clients and artists by putting their art in commercial high-traffic places where their art was for sale. Brian learned to present art to the consumer through art shows and his service, BOOM Art.
Ousley’s lease was up at the beginning of 2008, so he began looking for a new studio and gallery space. Ousley found what he says was the perfect building in the ideal location and immediately fell in love.
“It was time to come to the big leagues!” states Ousley, owner of MOD Gallery & Space, “the First Fridays that he experienced in the past just seemed to rush you through with no fellowship or any motivation to stay so you would leave and go to the next gallery.”
Learning from the past, Ousley wanted to be involved and do things differently. He wanted people to come to an event with art, music, and fellowship with like-minded people.
The labor of love began by converting a 6,000 square foot warehouse in a once-thriving auto district. The building was once a Buick dealership and repair shop and now a shell of a space. “A blank canvas,” claims Ousley. Brian Ousley planned first to open up the front gallery (about 2500 square feet) and begin expanding into the back area, which at the time was studio space for Richard Day, a local Kansas City artist.
MOD celebrated their grand opening on First Fridays in October 2009, showcasing Kansas City’s local artists in the front gallery. Ousley and Richard Day spent countless hours painting ceilings, walls and building new interior gallery walls to become the MOD Backdoor Gallery & Studio in 2011.
MOD’s Backdoor Gallery doors opened facing an alley where live bands or DJs’ music echoes through the streets, bringing the people in and turning the back alley into a street party, bringing the backdoor gallery to life. People would walk through the back admiring art and step into a new hip-vibe scene in the front gallery.
MOD recently celebrated its 11th anniversary in October of 2020. Brian states that the gallery had a First Friday showing in March of 2020, and that was the only and last show hosted since the pandemic hit. Ousley has spent this downtime painting, polishing, and doing more upgrades, and much organizing. He has high hopes of reopening the MOD Gallery & Space in the Spring of 2021.