The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center opened its doors for free to hundreds of members of the public Saturday to celebrate its 100-year legacy of southern Colorado art and a future of growth.

“The art scene is really important in Colorado Springs,” said resident Dana Ahrens, noting the museum’s famed Southwestern art collection. “Yes, Denver has all their museums, but there is a real sense of quality here that we should support.”

Saturday’s kickoff to a year of special events commemorating the anniversary featured guided tours of exhibits, a one-act play first performed at the museum in 1919, and hands-on demonstrations with weavers, painters and photographers.

The first of the two tours drew more than 30 people to the featured exhibition “O Beautiful! Shifting Landscapes of the Pikes Peak Region,” which displayed the various representations of the grandeur of the area from 1919 when the Fine Arts Center opened its doors (then the Broadmoor Art Academy) through now.

Ahrens said the exhibit was an example of what the Fine Arts Center does best: “Their art allows visitors to appreciate the different ways that the country grew,” both from the perspective of the appearance of the physical landscape and the styles of art used to depict them.

Evolution is key to the Fine Arts Center legacy, museum Director Rebecca Tucker said.

“The vision of the FAC is to take the foundation of the museum and use it to connect the past with the present, and thread that through the future,” Tucker said.

Tucker pointed to the museum’s Virgil Ortiz exhibit, “The ReVOlution Continues.” Through his pieces, Ortiz tells the story of the 1680 Pueblo Revolt, an uprising of indigenous people against Spanish colonizers in present-day New Mexico, by depicting the central characters as contemporary sci-fi superheroes.

A significant source of development for the FAC was the formation of its alliance with Colorado College in 2016. Tucker, who has taught at CC for 16 years, brought forth the idea knowing it could “help embrace change” in the museum world.

“Museums are in a state of flux just like society,” she said. “I’m not saying what we’re doing is perfect or the only solution, but it has put us in a position to be inclusive, idealist, Utopian, even, in our approach to art.”

Part of such an endeavor includes featuring pieces that challenge a visitor’s understanding of a divisive political issue.

“Some of what we have here is beautiful and surreal, but some of it challenges you and pushes you past your boundaries,” said museum spokeswoman Amanda Weston.

“Art in general pushes the boundaries, so we want to present people with those tough conversations in a way that makes you reflect on how it impacts your opinions and emotions.”

Resident and longtime FAC visitor Mary Jane Ray was a bit skeptical of the partnership when it was announced, fearing that the museum would abandon its traditional exhibits in favor of an avant garde atmosphere. During the past two years, though, she said the collaboration has proved exceptionally successful.

“They’ve done a wonderful job with the transition,” she said. “I think the work here reflects the local community and the world around us.”

Ray’s friend, Linda Kohlman, said Saturday’s turnout gave credence to the efforts by the FAC and CC.

“The number of people here today reflects that people want a resource like this in the community where they can go to experience beyond what their everyday lives have to offer,” she said.

For more information on the Fine Arts Center’s 100th anniversary, go to csfine artscenter.org/100-years.

Twitter: @lizmforster

Phone: 636-0193

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Liz Forster is a general assignment reporter with a focus on environment and public safety. She is a Colorado College graduate, avid hiker and skier, and sweet potato enthusiast. Liz joined The Gazette in June 2017.

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