Arts District: A Century of Legacy

There is a rich tradition of
arts in the Pikes Peak region, and one of its
foremost institutions just turned 100 years old. The Colorado Springs
Fine Arts Center at Colorado College is
celebrating its origins dating back to its inception
as the Broadmoor Art Academy. – For students, teachers,
artists and performers, the Fine Arts Center
has been a destination and inspiration for generations. Kate takes us inside this
historic space to learn more. (relaxing music) – [Leah Davis Witherow]
For generations, before there even was
a Colorado Springs or the Broadmoor Art Academy, artists had been
drawn to the region because of the
spectacular scenic beauty. So, artist like Thomas Moran
and George Caleb Bingham and Albert Bierstadt visited
the Pikes Peak region and drew inspiration
from the mountains, and the plains, the
beautiful weather. They painted, they
drew, they photographed and those images made
their way back East, and, in the minds
of many Americans, they were already familiar
with what lay out West even before they might
have come themselves in the late 19th,
early 20th century. This place has been a source
of inspiration for artists, and continues to be
that to this day. – This building, the Colorado
Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College would
come to play a massive role for artists and performers
from around the country, and even the world. This institution got its
start under a different name, the Broadmoor Art Academy,
which opened in October of 1919. – [Leah] Julie Penrose and
her husband, Spence Penrose, gave a gift of Julie’s former
home in Colorado Springs. They wanted to formalize
training, they wanted to bring the best of the world
to Colorado Springs. The Broadmoor Art Academy drew the finest talent
in the country. So, early on, Robert Reid came. He oversaw portrait
and figure painting. They attracted John F. Carlson. John F. Carlson taught
landscape painting at the Broadmoor Art Academy. These were leading
figures in the art world in the United States. Their reputations
were so widespread that they drew students
who wanted to come here to follow in their footsteps. They thought they might
have 15, 20 students, and by the end of the summer,
they had over 80 adults and probably another
dozen young people. – They could not
only exhibit artwork, but they could also
have instructors here helping people learn about art and how to become artists. And also to have all
sorts of gatherings and artistic performances
and expressions. This really carried forward
through the Great Depression, as a matter of fact,
and really served as a hub for the arts
in Colorado Springs. (cheerful music)
– [Leah] In one word, the atmosphere of the
Broadmoor Academy was “fun”. It was raucous, it
was avant garde. – But there, the separation
between faculty and student, it was more like a family. – [Leah] They threw
wild parties, they
socialized together, they went on hikes,
they took picnics, they did plein air painting
in Garden of the Gods. It brought just
a touch of whimsy and fun to Colorado Springs. – It does attract people
from across the country. And so, we were always
having visiting artists that came in from
London, from… Wherever. – [Leah] And they kept coming. You have people like Tabor
Utley, Ernest Lawson, Arnold Blanch, Doris Lee. The legion of artists
is simply incredible, and it puts Colorado
Springs on the map in terms of a place
to be in comradery with your fellow artists. In the late 1920s
and early 1930s, there is a transition happening, and there are three incredibly
powerful visionary women behind the transition from
the Broadmoor Art Academy to the Fine Arts Center. So, Alice Bemis Taylor has
a phenomenal collection of Southwest materials. She keeps it in her home. She wants to do
something quite generous. She wants to give or
endow a library building at Colorado College. She’s working in concert with and friends with
Elizabeth Sage Hare. Elizabeth Sage Hare has
come to Colorado Springs from New York City and Santa Fe. Her credentials are astounding, she knows everyone
in the arts scene. They are also friends
with Julie Penrose, the original sponsor contributor to the Broadmoor Art Academy. – And they really
envisioned transforming what had been the
Broadmoor Art Academy into this multi-disciplinary
Arts Center that would celebrate all
of the arts under one roof. – [Leah] They dream
up a fine arts center, a union of dance, and music,
and theatre, and fine arts, a palace of fine
arts, if you will, where Colorado Springs
can see and participate in absolutely the best
that the world has to offer in terms of avant garde art,
theatre, dance, et cetera. And they build this
beautiful building designed by John Gaw Meem, and it opens in April of 1936, and it hits the
papers worldwide. Martha Graham dances
at the opening. There is an exhibit
of loaned art that includes Cezannes,
Renoirs, Picassos. – Erik Satie’s performance
of Socrate was on the stage with a set by Alexander Calder. – For the opening, they
had Frank Lloyd Wright and they had other
very prominent people. Everything was right
from the start, and people came all over
from across the country to attend the opening. And so, that was
interesting to be around. – [Leah] The Fine Arts
Center today has educated and inspired generations
of local students. The Bemis Art School continues
to guide arts education and really has set the
bar high in terms of what local people can
see, what they can do, what they can dream of. – The catalyst for
what we know now as the Colorado Springs
Fine Arts Center really was Alice Bemis Taylor’s collection of
Southwest treasures. – [Kate] And the boundaries,
borders, and demographics of the Southwest have
changed over the years. – So the joy of my job
is I get to redefine it anytime I want. – As curator, Polly reworked
the Southwest Gallery here in the permanent
collection Fine Arts Center in anticipation of
the 100th anniversary. It’s been an
opportunity to showcase this remarkable,
rare collection. – You’ll find anything
from performance art, installation, cheer
traditional pottery, painting and weaving. (inspirational music) So, as a Native
museum professional, it has been definitely
a challenge to balance the devastating history that
Native people have experienced, especially in this region. Our history is to have
an eradication policy to get rid of Native peoples. And so, it’s really
kind of fascinating that there were art aficionados,
let’s call them, that were interested
in Native art. There was a small
number of social elites across the country,
in the 20s especially, that were really
interested in Native arts. And Alice Bemis Taylor
was one of those. She was focused on pottery
and Navajo textiles. And then, as this
museum was established, then the collection
really started to grow. – Alice Bemis Taylor
played an integral part in collecting new Native works, and it was also
under her patronage that the Fine Arts
Center began collecting Hispanic art forms, which
very few institutions were doing at the time. – [Polly] So, we
actually have one of the premier
collections in the US. We can really show
how this region really was a part of
the global art world exchange system for
hundreds of years. – And here in this wing
of the Fine Arts Center, the in-house theatre company
continues the performance and instruction that began
at the Broadmoor Art Academy 100 years ago. – [Erin] We’ve just recently
won five Henry Awards, which is sort of like the Tonys
for the state of Colorado. And we’re very proud that
the big award at the Henrys, the Outstanding Season
Award, was the big award that the theatre company earned. – [Kate] And in 2016, the
Fine Arts Center announced a historic alliance
with Colorado College, formally merging the
two institutions. – There has been a
relationship between the Fine Arts Center
and Colorado College literally since the
Broadmoor Art Academy days when we served as the
de facto art department for the college. And we’ve had some kind of
collaborative relationship with CC for that entire time, and so it feels very natural now to be formalizing
that relationship and joining forces to be
able to do more together than we ever could individually. – [Leah] What I love about
the FAC is that it’s a beacon. No matter the transition,
the decade, the director or the curator, the
Fine Arts Center manages to push boundaries. – So many pioneers
have come through the Colorado Springs
Fine Arts Center and have been a part
of this rich history. We are really excited
to see what happens in the next 100 years, and
are so thrilled to have our community be a part of
helping us tell that story. – I think it means
everything to the community. (inspirational music) – How stunning, the Southwest
collection looks amazing. What was it like
to film that story? – Oh, we had such a
great time on location. I love going to the Fine
Arts Center for any occasion, but being able to celebrate
this extraordinary cultural legacy of
the Pikes Peak region is just phenomenal. – That’s really cool, and what a great opportunity
and experience you had. For more information, visit

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Tags: , , , , , ,