Brandon Marteny was like any new business owner on Jan. 28, as he opened the doors at Gallery M115 at 115 West Main Street in Platteville for the first time. He was a little nervous, a little excited and a whole lot anxious about what the day would bring.
"When I unlocked the door, I wasn't expecting any one thing," he said. "I was ready for anything. I was hoping that I would be so busy that I wouldn't have time to sit down."
A steady stream of customers and visitors as well as a few sales left Marteny satisfied after his first day at the art gallery. Like other business owners, he let out a sigh of relief when he finally locked the doors again. But unlike other entrepreneurs, he had another worry on his mind over the weekend: homework. Besides a new business owner, Marteny is also a full-time student at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. The Milton native is a business major with an emphasis in management and an art minor.
"I'm impressed with him," said Jack Luedtke, executive director of the Platteville Main Street Program. "He just took off and ran with it. He's very busy with school and everything, but he is really eager to make a go of it."
Marteny began planning the gallery in November with Carole Spelic', a lecturer in the UW-Platteville Performing and Visual Arts Department as well as College of Liberal Arts and Education liaison to the Pioneer Academic Center for Community Engagement.
"Brandon is an unusual combination of art student and business student. He is relentlessly creative but at the same time remarkably practical," Spelic' said. "It's an ideal pairing of interests, since many artists, including Brandon, would ideally make a living from their art, which means being an entrepreneur and having a business. By launching Gallery M115, he will gain an enormous amount of experience that he can apply to future endeavors."
Marteny worked out the details of the lease in December and worked all throughout January to ready the gallery and his plan. He is paying a reduced rent rate of $400 per month in rent until May 1, when rent jumps to $700. One of his innovative plans calls for students to pay $20 per month to display their works, plus 15 percent commission on their sales. The artists must also work five hours per week in the corner gallery. Non-students pay $50 each month and 25 percent commission.
"There's a lot of work that goes into running a business, a lot more than people realize, especially when there is no template," Marteny said. "I've created that as I've gone along."
The beginning entrepreneur is learning practical experiences, "like sales tax, license agreements, sign ordinances and all other aspects of business," said Luedtke. "It's a total business exposure, and I think he has a good combination of the art and business worlds."
Gaining that experience is one reason Spelic' recommended Marteny start the business. "Participating in Gallery M115 is a crash course in marketing for any student," she said. "The opportunity to experience first-hand the complexity of a gallery-organizing schedules, understanding contracts, establishing commission percentages, creating compelling displays, learning what items sell, finding out who the audience is and how to interact with them-these activities will put our students in a stronger position when they leave school and enter the art market."
"This allows the opportunity for mostly students to have their artwork displayed who normally wouldn't," Marteny said. "Art is about expression. It's about making something visual that we can't express in words."
Luedtke said a strong art program is important for artists and the community.
"It has been proven across the country that art is an important component to a successful downtown because customers get exposed to those different types of art," he said. "It really is a vital piece."
The newest downtown business is open 11 a.m to 7 p.m. during the week and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays, although Marteny said, "one of my rules is if the lights are on, we're open."
He is earning independent study credit for management study as well as taking 12 other credits and working for UW-Platteville housing maintenance. "It's consuming all my time. The only day off I have is Sunday," he said.
Despite the time, Marteny wouldn't trade the experiences of giving artists a chance to display their works nor for the business lessons he has learned.
"Every day the thought crosses my mind, ‘this is a lot of work,' but then every day the thought also crosses my mind that says, ‘this is so much fun,' " he said.