Andrew Schneider, lead organizer for Fort Collins Startup Week, and managing director of the Downtown Artery. Joel Blocker for BizWest

Schneider adds creativity to his business ventures

Andrew Schneider
Andrew Schneider, lead organizer for Fort Collins Startup Week, and managing director for the Downtown Artery, poses for a picture on center stage at the Downtown Artery in early April 2018.

FORT COLLINS — Andrew Schneider’s work environment is a bit playful with an art gallery, a cafe, a stage and a virtual reality room — and it represents how he likes to merge art, science and technology.

Schneider of Fort Collins is the managing director of the Downtown Artery, a role he has held since the end of March, and he is lead organizer of Startup Week and the founder of several creative enterprises. Leading the Downtown Artery, a 14,000-square-foot space for creatives, entrepreneurs and the public, is a way he can bring his love of different communities into one colorful, artsy setting.

“All the work we’ve done to create an alliance between the creative community and the entrepreneurial community, that just continues to grow,” said Schneider, who has been involved with the artery in various capacities since its founding four years ago. “The reason I wanted to be here is to take the logical next step in that work … helping the Artery take the next step in a purpose-driven space to help realize its mission on a bigger scale and to build more bridges between Northern Colorado creatives and entrepreneurs.”

Schneider leads a team of a dozen staff members, who work with visual artists, musicians and other artists to build better outcomes for creatives and entrepreneurs in what he explains is a vertically integrated arts ecosystem, or the traditional supply chain of research, development and production applied to creatives. The Artery helps foster strategic partnerships to support the artistic community and provides spaces for artists to make, exhibit and perform their art, he said.

“Every day I get to wake up and work with creatives who are on the frontlines of innovating the world and that’s an incredible honor,” Schneider said.

The mission of the Artery is advancing artist outcomes and artist equity, Schneider said, adding that he can add to that mission by bringing in his nonprofit CreatePlaces, where he’s served as board president since 2014. CreatePlaces is an economic and workforce development nonprofit that provides support to artists through networking, incubation and acceleration activities with the aim to increase arts-related employment in Northern Colorado.

“We engage in creative placemaking to put our creatives to work and build a healthier community,” Schneider said.

CreatePlaces gains a facility and a team, while the Artery, which is for-profit, adds a creative place-making infrastructure, resulting in a merging of missions, Schneider said.

“They’re sort of symbiotic business models with a common mission,” Schneider said.

Schneider’s own employment history follows that same symbiotic relationship between the arts and technology.

At age 33, Schneider has a long resume, but his creative, playful and tech-driven nature started with elementary school and an Apple computer lab. Born in Casper, Wyo., a place he escapes to for unplugging, he moved to Fort Collins in elementary school, attending a school that installed one of the first Apple labs in the nation. He learned how to use computers and about websites and list services before the explosion of the industry, he said.

“From a very early age I was exposed to technology,” Schneider said.

Schneider moved around during his early years, attended boarding school and traveled internationally and was influenced by a father who made movies in Hollywood and a mother who worked as a recruiter. He earned a bachelor of fine arts in theater production from the Conservatory of Theatre Arts, Leigh Gerdine College of Fine Arts, at Webster University in St. Louis, Mo., graduating in 2006.

While in college, Schneider stage managed operas and other theater performances. In Los Angeles, he helped co-found a digital marketing for branding agency and then became an associate producer at Current TV in San Francisco.

Soon tiring of the fast-paced life of LA and the saturated creative markets of California, Schneider returned to Colorado in 2009 taking the first job he found on Craig’s List, slinging barbecue and later doing digital marketing for the owner’s brand, Basic Food Group. He also volunteered to produce live music shows, did digital marketing for KRFC in Fort Collins and worked for A-Train Marketing Communications in Fort Collins in the digital division doing web development.

And then in 2015, Schneider had a “total life change,” when he was unable to fly with his father, Kenneth, to Saratoga, Wyo., and Kenneth died in a place crash. Schneider experienced survivor’s guilt and gave a Pecha Kucha talk in Fort Collins in October 2017 about what he’d gone through. He left A-Train and spent a year trying to figure out what to do next with his life — until then, he’d defined success as pursuing a career in media and art.

“I was looking externally for success, the trappings of being a film producer or a TV producer, those prestigious awards. … Who wants to be chasing the next unobtainable thing?” Schneider said. “I redefined success for myself as something I can do every day. … As long as I’m helping advancing the outcomes of creatives, I feel successful.”

Schneider turned his focus to fostering community and fueling passion, becoming a full- time organizer and evangelist for the power of arts, culture and creativity to serve a community’s interests. He founded CreatePlaces as a nonprofit and a year later took over as leader of Fort Collins Startup Week that fosters entrepreneurship and community networking. During his first year, he helped put together 250 speakers and volunteers and 110 sessions over a week in February, with half of the content geared to creatives, tech companies and small businesses.

“It really is a holistic festival with fun networking and a chance for people to collide,” Schneider said. “Rather than creating a tech celebrity event, it’s much more diverse than that. … It’s not just about companies. It’s not just about economics. It really is about creating community where the best ideas make it to the top and they’re supported by a generally open philanthropic community.”

Schneider serves in other functions, too, including as a board member of Launch NoCo in Fort Collins, a resource connection for entrepreneurs, and as co-founder of NoCoast Artists in Fort Collins, a group of creatives formed at Lyric Cinema Cafe focused on entertainment.

“Andrew is first an artist entrepreneur who is laser-focused on the triple bottom line, which is social, environmental and economic development,” said Kit Baker, planning and development consultant for CreatePlaces and a Fort Collins resident. “He’s committed to putting artists to work, and he’s doing that at a level not seen in Northern Colorado. He loves people, and his passion is extraordinary. He really wants to change the world through getting everyone together through creating transformational projects. … He’s deeply committed to diversity and is really good at getting people excited about transformational projects.”

Tom Milligan, vice president for external relations at Colorado State University, said he is a fan of Schneider’s and admires how he builds plans to make things happen.

“He has been tireless in his commitment to building a sense of community and sense of support for artistic endeavors,” Milligan said. “He will bring effectiveness, along with an understanding of the creative scene, to the Artery and will be very effective in his leadership role there.”

In his personal life, Schneider is a fan of the arts and likes to paint and write poetry and screenplays, he said. He also fills his time with live music, art, culture and bicycling.

“For me, downtime is mostly spent outside off the grid as much as possible,” Schneider said. “I use my creative skill set to solve other creatives’ problems. Those are things that are made for myself for process and self-discovery.”