What role will arts and culture play in the future of the Pikes Peak region?
The hundreds of focus groups associated with Dream City: Vision 2020 pondered that question, and their answer was resounding. They found the arts key to moving forward.
In what has been boiled down to five vision statements, they described a community that has become a nationally recognized arts hub, fostered by local government; it’s a family friendly place driven by diversity and the preservation of local history.
“Anybody who works in the arts — whether an artist or someone who runs venue or work in creative industry — they can see a connection to the vision statement and say, ‘The work I’m doing is part of No. 3,” said Bettina Swigger, executive director of Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region, or COPPeR.
“The government can say ‘Wow,’ some of the smaller community have specifically mentioned arts and culture in their goals, despite the shortfalls we’re facing.’
“It’s kind of like a touchstone.”
Swigger’s organization, which was a driving force behind Dream City, is one of the few that plans to directly draw from the wisdom of Dream City. COPPeR, in fact, knew from the beginning that the process would be instrumental in its development of a cultural plan for the city.
It’s about halfway through the plan, which began in 2008, when Colorado Springs was selected to be part of a statewide arts and culture planning process.
While COPPeR is looking at the big picture, Imagination Celebration is taking it one piece at a time.
“What we’ve been inspired to instigate is a creativity and innovation festival,” said Deborah Thornton, executive director of Imagination Celebration. “I feel like we really have to engage the broader community. To me, this is absolutely a community-building project. It’s not to ‘put on a party,’ but to really cross-pollinate and engage parts of community with each other. Do it in celebratory way.”
Thornton and others are still working on the details, but it focuses on highlighting and fostering the assets of the community, she said. “In that respect, it’s not really just about the arts.”
Many leaders of local arts groups said their organizations are naturally following the precepts of Dream City’s vision statement.
“I think Dream City is one of those 30,000-foot kind of things that brings people together,” said Sam Gappmayer, president of the Fine Arts Center. “People coalesce around the dream or vision and we all go separate ways. We do our work and it propels the community forward in a number of ways.”
One way, he said, is the center’s unique connection to regional history — not only in the landmark building, which was completed by architect John Gaw Meem in 1936, but in the many exhibitions that celebrate Colorado artists.
And increasingly, the Taylor Museum is reaching out to new parts of the community through creative adjunct programming. For instance, the museum created an engaging film and lecture series for“NASA/ART: 50 Years of Exploration” and in an upcoming project called “Conflict|Resolution,” a Fine Arts Center-wide dedication to the topic includes involvement of disparate social organizations and community panel discussions.
For Nathan Newbrough, the executive director of the Colorado Springs Philharmonic, the vision statements all speak to a cohesive idea of variety and abundance.
“The inspiration for the philharmonic is that creativity is a driving force in any thriving community,” he said.
“Though we may produce abundantly varied forms of expression, the musicians, dancers, artists, actors, writers, filmmakers and architects of our region do their best work together — and they have a crucial role to play in the development of our city.”
The big players may be setting the stage for this renaissance, but it’s the individual artists and performers who will create the variety and vibrancy described in the vision statement.
And many of them have worked to fulfill the statement without even knowing it.
COPPeR’s Swigger points to the opening of Modbo, a scrappy little all-purpose performance and gallery space in June, as an example of two people — Brett Andrus and Lauren Ciborowski — who decided to thumb their noses at the odds.
Key to their design was this: It would be a place for artists and performers to network; a place where young artists could improve their skills for little cost; a place where music and art and dance could intersect to the benefit of each discipline — and the community.
On Saturday, an improv jazz show packed the house. Many were first-timers to the space, Andrus said.
“I think what it says is there is a need for it in this town and if you give it to them, they’re going to try it and usually going to like it,” said Andrus, who has not yet participated in a Dream City session. “In order for the city to take the next step in becoming metro center, you need culture more than just going out and getting drunk every night.”
Painter Douglas Rouse sees the promise of the vision statements in a project he expects to gain speed this Spring. He hopes to involve Springs businesses and non-profits as well as artists and art students in the creation of “12 Murals.”
“That basically was kind of an inspired dream to not only help myself tackle my debt,” Rouse says, “but to get myself out there and to create community projects, to get people together.”
The first one is done: It’s an Impressionistic train mural on wall of the Alpern Myers Stuart law firm near the old train depot.
“I kind of think what we’re talking about is ‘What does it mean to create change,’” Swigger said.
Sometimes that means recognizing obstacles and doing it anyway, she said. “I think that’s what this is about: Dream City is about seeing the possibility.”
Contact the writer at 476-1602.
dreamcity 2020 arts/culture/recreation vision statement
1. Our varied and abundant arts scene creates a vital community that attracts and welcomes the creative class.
2. Our communities are infused with a multitude of arts and cultural offerings — including vibrant arts districts — that are family friendly and accessible year round. The Pikes Peak region is a nationally recognized cultural hub.
3. We celebrate our unique regional history to create an exceptional experience for our visitors.
4.Our governments take an active interest in stimulating, promoting, and supporting arts and culture.
5. We enjoy and embrace a diversity of cultures, and our many forms of artistic expression reflect that diversity.
THE MILLION DOLLAR QUESTION
What should we do in the next decade to create a vital, varied and abundant arts scene?
The Fine Arts Center
“This is a good question that goes to some of the things that we are already working to accomplish. The short answer is that we, as an arts community, need to collaborate more deeply with each other and with non-traditional partners. I am not an anthropologist, but have heard how in some cultures the arts are not an activity that is separate from daily life. That is the ideal that we need to work towards.”
“I feel that public art is most important. If we could flood this town with vibrant, high quality, interesting artwork (in the form of murals, sculptures, landscape, lighting, signage and performance, to name a few), it could have the most impact. ... People who come here, not for its art, will leave with the feeling that Colorado Springs is a very artistic city, and of high caliber.”
Producing artist director
Fine Arts Center Theatre Company
“What would like to see in the next 10 years? A commitment by the state and local governments to grow and maintain a vibrant arts and cultural community. People say I’m dreaming, but the fact is, this city will never become anything more than a stop on the way to Denver until this dream becomes a reality.”
Cottonwood Center for the Arts
“The single most effective thing the city could do to achieve the vision for the arts by 2020 would be to invest in a true ‘Arts District’ downtown. It would include venues for the Colorado Springs Conservatory and other performing arts and music groups. It would be located on Corona Street between Colorado Avenue and Cucharras Street (the block where Cottonwood Center for the Arts and Scott O’Mally’s Western Jubilee Recording Studio are situated). Corona Street could be closed to through traffic during monthly and/or arts events. People could walk from venue to venue to experience various art forms. This type of district would bring thousands of people to downtown on a regular basis, thus boosting the economy.”