“Excellence, Access and Collaboration,” the strategic plan for the alliance between Colorado College and the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, was unanimously approved by the Joint Board Oversight Committee on June 14 during Colorado College’s Board of Trustees meeting. On July 1 the name of the combined organization will become the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College.
Colorado College President Jill Tiefenthaler described the alliance as a win-win, saying, “We have an amazing opportunity through this alliance to build a national model for a collaboration between a college and an arts center. Most partnerships focus on only one institution; our vision is thoroughly collaborative, and aims to enhance both CC and the FAC in new ways.”
Designed to go beyond simply merging the two organizations, the alliance seeks to create a new, forward-looking structure that honors the commitment of both institutions to sustainable fine arts programming.
"We're excited to have this visionary and meaningful strategic plan, identifying excellence, access and collaboration/connectivity as our main focuses, and look forward to developing and implementing the operational plan that brings this aspirational vision to life,” says Fine Arts Center Director Erin Hannan. “The work that we've already done to bring these two organizations together has set the stage for these next steps to get underway.”
In celebration of the Fine Arts Center and Colorado College alliance, community members can watch for official festivities that are being planned for October.
The legal agreement that guides the alliance calls for a four-year transition period to allow for careful planning and integration of the three programming areas of the Fine Arts Center — the museum, the Bemis School of Art and the performing arts program. The focus on the museum starts in July 2017, Bemis in July 2018, and the performing arts in July 2019. By July 1, 2020, the transfer will be complete.
Steps already are being taken to implement the strategic plan in the Fine Arts Center’s museum, and even before the finalization of the alliance, CC and the FAC have been partnering on a variety of projects encompassing theater, music, art and education. The collaborations are both large and small, running the gamut from a single-day event to the entire run of a theater production.
- Five CC faculty members collaborated with the FAC on the Larry Hulst photography exhibition catalog currently on sale in the FAC Museum Shop. Look for articles by Assistant Professor of Music Ryan Bañagale, Assistant Professor of Theatre and Dance Idris Goodwin, Assistant Professor of English Natanya Pulley, Assistant Professor of Race, Ethnicity and Migration Studies Michael Sawyer, and Associate Professor of English Steven Hayward, who edited the catalog.
- CC Associate Chair and Lecturer-in-Education Kris Stanec developed a curriculum to bring together CC students, Colorado Springs School District 11 teachers and students, and FAC docents with the museum’s collections. During Taylor Elementary students’ visit to the FAC, CC’s Information Technology staff videoed each child reading a narrative about his/her connection to a piece of art. These videos are available for museum visitors through an augmented-reality app called Aurasma.
- Discounted tickets were available to FAC members for Colorado College’s intermezzo and Summer Music Festival performances..
- The FAC board conference room has been equipped since October so it can function as a classroom for those touring the museum and using the FAC art collection as part of the curriculum.
- CC Senior Assistant Dean of Students Cesar Cervantes coordinates the featured acts for the Happy Hour Stand-Up shows on select First Fridays. Cervantes, who teaches the adjunct course Comedy Writing and Performance at CC, also is teaching stand-up comedy classes at the FAC through July 7.
The collaboration also is providing a host of opportunities for students:
- Alejandro Perez ’17 and Naomi Van der Land ’17 joined a professional graffiti artist and students from the Bijou School and Tesla Educational Opportunity School in District 11 for a project at Bemis School of Art, in which they painted a mural on wood salvaged from an FAC theater set. Bemis has worked with at-risk students through art projects for nearly 30 years.
- CC Assistant Professor of Music Ryan Bañagale composed original music for the FAC production of “Enchanted April,” performed Feb. 9-26. The music was scored for a string quartet of CC students: Anna Lynn-Palevsky ’18, Naomi Sherman ’17, Emily Fitzgerald ’20, and Cirl Lee ’17. Students Max Sarkowsky ’20 and Caleb Cofsky ’17 were involved with the recording process, with help from FAC sound designer Ben Heston.
- FAC staff and CC faculty selected two CC students, Jennifer Welden ’17 and Jake Paron ’17, to create site-specific installations as part of their senior art exhibition. The installations were on view April 28 – May 23 in the FAC courtyard.
- Emily Gardner ’19 performed as part of the teen female ensemble in the FAC musical “Bye Bye Birdie,” which ran March 30 – April 23.
- CC Assistant Professor of Race, Ethnicity and Migration Studies Dwanna Robertson, Arielle Mari ’12, and Han Sayles ’15 produced the documentary “Force/Resistance: From Standing Rock to Colorado Springs,” featuring stories and reflections from those who protested the Dakota Access Pipeline. The documentary is being screened as part of the FAC Force/Resistance exhibit, running through Sept. 9.
The aim of the Oversight Committee is to create a national model of distinction for an arts center that joins with a college to serve the campus, community, region and the world, and in the process strengthen collaborative work and underscore the value of learning through experience.
In the process of developing the vision for the combined future of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center and Colorado College, community input and engagement was actively encouraged. Total participation in the outreach and planning process included more than 3,000 comments and feedback from community members. During the course of community outreach and participation, three themes emerged: excellence, access, and collaboration. When community members were asked how to measure the success of the alliance, a recurrent reply was “More people from all places and backgrounds and ages should visit the FAC.”
Alliances between institutions of higher education and nonprofit cultural institutions are an increasingly common model. Many liberal arts colleges and universities have alliances with museums, including Yale University, Harvard University, Williams College, Colby College, Smith College and Amherst College. Others have joined forces with professional theaters such as the American Repertory Theatre at Harvard University, the Syracuse Stage and Syracuse University, Brown University and the Trinity Repertory Theatre. The model is advantageous for both partners, as it allows for additional cultural programming and educational resources, new avenues of fundraising and greater community impact and outreach. Additionally, cultural institutions can cut costs as part of the affiliation with the college or university through shared services.
The college will dedicate more than $20 million of its endowment funds to support the FAC, and the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center Foundation, established in 1996 to manage and enhance the center’s endowment, will continue as an independent community-led foundation dedicated solely and in perpetuity to supporting the FAC.
The boards of each institution approved the alliance on Aug. 24, 2016 and the college assumed management responsibilities on Sept. 1. The complete strategic plan of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College is available online.