A diagnosis of tuberculosis led talented young artist Artus Van Briggle to Colorado Springs in 1899. The former painter established a pottery legacy in the Pikes Peak region which we continue to celebrate long after his 1904 death at the age of 35.
The annual Van Briggle Pottery Festival and Tour will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 14 at the century-old Van Briggle Pottery Co. Building, 1125 Glen Ave.
Highlights include guided hour-long tours of the building and stories of the people responsible for the creation of Van Briggle pottery during the factory’s operation. The Woman’s Educational Society of Colorado College and the Fine Art Center’s Bemis School of Art is sponsoring the event.
Established by Artus and Anne Van Briggle in Colorado Springs in 1901, Van Briggle Art Pottery was the country’s oldest continuously operating art pottery facility. According to 2018 festival chair Ann Burek, Artus Van Briggle impacted the Art Nouveau movement and his pottery is foundational to American art pottery.
“Van Briggle Pottery was the only art pottery between Illinois and California at that time. It operated in the building on Uintah Street and Glen Avenue from 1908 until 1968, when the building was purchased by Colorado College,” Burek said. “In 1968 it was consolidated with a second Van Briggle Pottery location at The Roundhouse on 21st Street and Cimarron Street. It later operated from a facility on Tejon Street until its closure in 2014.”
During the festival, visitors can tour the former pottery production facility from which various products were once produced. These include tiles for fireplace hearths and mantels, floors and exterior decorations, architectural terracotta and art pottery.
Visitors can listen to Anne Van Briggle’s account of founding Van Briggle Pottery and visit her studio where collectors and experts will display and discuss their work.
Also, visitors can view artifacts found on-site, and learn about the history of the architecture and its preservation following purchase by Colorado College. Patrons may bring Van Briggle Pottery pieces for review; however, pieces won’t be authenticated.
Bemis School of Art instructors and students will conduct a wheel-throwing demonstration and create clay sculptures. This activity offers an archaeological dig and sculpting area where residents can work with clay. Cost is $5 for a 10-minute lesson.
Festival partners will have information tables where folks can visit with representatives from the Friends of Monument Valley Park, Manitou Springs Heritage Center and McAllister House. WES will sell Van Briggle literature, and the Horticultural Arts Society Fall Bulb Sale will be held in the Heritage Gardens adjacent to the pottery.
Burek said the event provides a venue for people to learn about the history and community during Colorado Springs’ early days. “Presenters highlight the natural resources, the climate and the beauty that made, and still make, this an attractive place to live,” Burek said.
In her book, “Van Briggle Notes & More,” author Kathy Honea said Van Briggle pottery put Colorado Springs art on the national and international map. “In 1903 and 1904, Van Briggle sent some of its best work to the Paris Salon, considered the most exclusive exhibition in the world, where it won two gold, one silver and 12 bronze medals,” Honea wrote.
“Artus and Anne Van Briggle gathered examples of their ‘Best and most innovative’ works in preparation for exhibition at the 1904 St. Louis World’s and Louisiana Purchase Exposition. El Paso County commissioners asked Colorado Springs citizens to provide funds for the cost of shipping the products and local residents paid for an exhibit pergola.”
According to Honea, the Fine Arts Journal (General Art Notes, No. 6, June 1903) stated the technical knowledge of Van Briggles’ 24-pieces art pottery exhibit was considered superior to that of France among connoisseurs.
“Van Briggle’s work was quickly publicized nationally. Vases he sent to the Paris Salon in 1903, some purchased by the French government, afforded him international exposure,” Honea wrote. “His display at the St. Louis World’s Fair of 1904 was the highpoint of his career… However, this triumph came too late. He had died on July 4 and his stand was then left draped in black for the remainder of the exposition.”
Burek said the adaptability of the Van Briggle Memorial Pottery to changing times and the people who have directed those times illustrate what has enabled Colorado Springs to thrive.
“Artus Van Briggle arrived in Colorado Springs in search of health, bringing his abilities that resulted not only in artistic works, but with Anne … built a pottery manufacturing industry that created pottery that is collected and valued today,” Burek said.
Tours will begin every 20 minutes from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tours are $15 and are free for children under 14 accompanied by an adult. Timed tour tickets go on sale from 3-5 p.m., Friday at the Van Briggle Pottery building. Proceeds fund WES scholarships and scholar programs. Visit www.coloradocollege.edu/wes for more information.