When Dr. Michael Maddox was hired in 2010 as the Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts’ executive director, one of his goals was to elevate every facet of the arts the venue exhibited, whether it was on its walls, on its stage, in its studios and the like. A decade later, Maddox and the Palmer Lake center have played host to some of the nation’s top acts.
The building’s appearance was the first to change with the new vision for the center. With a new paint scheme for the walls and other highlights, the look of the facility took on new life. Perhaps the biggest physical change was the renovation of the former gift shop into bar.
“I wanted to book nationally known artists, transform this place from the small town arts and crafts center to a destination for fine arts and quality entertainment,” Maddox said. “We finally shut the gift shop down and renovated it, and now the spaces generates 10-times the revenue the gift shop ever thought it could.”
With national acts in the center’s sights, Maddox also knew a quality “green room” would be in order and a facelift was given to the existing space. The result is a spacious, repainted area with an attached private restroom and dressing room. It is decorated with posters promoting artists which have passed through, many more than once. The collage of posters includes the likenesses of Branford Marsalis, Peter, Paul and Mary, Pam Tillis, Suzy Bogguss, Sawyer Fredericks, Paula Cole and Academy Award winner Billy Bob Thornton’s band The Boxmasters, among many others.
The center rents studio space to artists who get 24-hour access so they are able to create whenever inspired and at their convenience. The facility’s classroom space has been maintained with an industrial style to ensure any accidents with paint, clay or other mediums are not a concern for its surfaces. Maddox said classes are offered on a regular basis and scheduled classes can be found on the center’s website, trilakesarts.org.
Maddox and his wife, artist and author debi Story Maddox — one of the resident artists at the Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts — have tried to promote unity within the community anywhere they have lived, he said. They have worked with different organizations, churches and arts societies.
“We are all in this together. We are trying to elevate everyone’s spirits, hearts, attitudes, work ethics, creative inspirations,” Maddox said. “Because we all work together and elevate everything we do, and because we gently nudge people to elevate their work, whether its art, music, poetry, drama or whatever, everybody wins.”
Ultimately, Maddox’s satisfaction with the center has been when patrons leave with huge smiles on their faces, their spirits lifted because of the experiences they’ve encountered at the facility.
“It makes it all worthwhile,” Maddox said. “Our attitude has always been to provide a respite for all the nastiness that’s out there in the world. There’s very little peace, very little love and harmony. We know the power of art and music and literature can lift folks up, and that’s what we try to do here every day.”
In his journey to transform the center over the past decade, Maddox initially met with an adverse response to change, even to changing the paint color of the walls. Maddox knew the colors had to change when he first got started.
“I thought those colors don’t lend themselves to exhibiting art very well, because the colors don’t pop,” he said. “We continued to make improvements, and changes and upgrades.”
Over the years, the resistance to change dissipated, and now the expectation of the center is one of high quality and elevated entertainment.
“Everyone has seen what our goal has been, which was to make this a Front Range destination for fine art and quality entertainment,” Maddox said.
Presently, the center books and sells out up to four shows a month, while other months may be a bit less. Maddox said they are in a unique position to not have to book entertainment every weekend.
“I’d rather have high-quality shows than be busy for busyness sake,” he said. “Not having a show every weekend, gives our patrons, our staff and volunteers a break. We pretty much go all year round.”
Continuing to elevate shows remains a priority for Maddox; however, he has a dream for the center for land across the street from it. Maddox said he has architectural plans to build a 400-500 seat venue to exhibit more art and promote bigger shows.
“If we can get Billy Bob Thornton, Jimmy Collins and Branford Marsalis and lure them to what is the smallest event any of them have played in decades with a 180-seat venue, just think of what we could do with a 400-500 seat venue built next door,” Maddox said. “It might be a pipe dream but maybe it will happen one of these days.”
If the dream comes to fruition, Maddox said he could see that facility marketed as a civic center as well for conferences and seminars.
“Everybody in the Tri-Lakes community would win because of the attention it would draw,” he said.
New venue or not, the Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts is always accepting contributions to aid its present venue, a building that dates to the 1940s and is in regular need of maintenance, both inside and out.
“People need to know, right here in their own back yard, they can see quality first-class entertainment and quality art with having to go to the big city.”