Post image for Cross-Pollinating The Arts

An institution that gives equal weight to the visual and performing arts and engages in programming which integrates all forms of art?  It exists.

I’m fortunate to be the director of Performing Arts for the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center.  This 76-year old institution is nestled right on the front range overlooking majestic Pikes Peak.  The building is on the national register of historic places and is an architectural marvel.  Designed in a Southwestern Art-Deco style by New Mexico-based architect John Gaw Meem, the building opened in 1936 as a formalization of the infamous Broadmoor Art Academy.  The building features stunning galleries, two theatres (a 400-seat and 108-seat, both proscenium), and the Bemis School of Art, which hosts courses for children and adults alike.

Alice Bemis Taylor, Julie Penrose and Elizabeth Sage Hare – the three women responsible for the birth of the Fine Arts Center – decided to honor all of the arts under one roof.  The opening week in 1936 featured an opera designed by Satie and Martha Graham herself dancing barefoot on the stage.  25 years ago the performing arts program moved away from primarily presenting touring productions and community theatre productions to a a regional non-profit, like so many of the other TCG Member Theatres.

Now under the direction of CEO Sam Gappmayer, while the three programming heads (myself, Blake Milteer – Curator of the Taylor Museum, and Tara Thomas – Director of the Bemis School of Art) discuss cross-pollination on a daily basis, we formalize a multi-disciplinary project throughout the institution once a year.

Over a 3-month period each Spring, the FAC utilizes a theme to program exhibitions, productions, classes, films, special events, lectures, even themed-meals at our in-house café, to provide multiple points of entry for the members, subscribers, patrons and general public.

For example, here’s a listing of some of the programming that was put together for our current multi-disciplinary project, which we’ve entitled FAMILIES, designed to explore the evolving definition of family.  The mission of this project is to examine the subject of family through theater, the visual arts and art education. In addition, other public programs will include presentations by individuals from a variety of backgrounds including artists, humanists, clerics, historians, sociologists and others. It will be our intention to encourage dialogue and conversation by representing a range of viewpoints:

THEATRE

  • The Colorado Premiere of Jon Robin Baitz’s family drama, OTHER DESERT CITIES
  • A musical adventure for the whole family, KNUFFLE BUNNY: A CAUTIONARY MUSICAL which we performed in-house and on tour to area schools
  • Ormao Dance Company (a modern dance company based in Colorado Springs) took to the mainstage for a weekend of performances called BREAKING BREAD, featuring the world premiere of 4 separate dance pieces which explored our theme
  • ROUGH WRITERS: A NEW PLAY FESTIVAL; a two-week festival in which playwrights wrote plays based on three pieces of artwork currently on display in our museum A FAMILY AFFAIR
  • A film series of 4-acclaimed films curated by a professor of film at University of Colorado, focusing on different world families

Other Desert Cities,

MUSEUM

  • A FAMILY AFFAIR (an exhibition of works of art from the Progressive Insurance Company’s collection of artwork)
  • MOTHER (an exhibition of photographs by local photographer Carol Dass, of her mother)

BEMIS SCHOOL

  • Monthly free Family Advenutre Days (4-hour weekend free activities
  • A lecture on End of Life decisions
  • Courses including:  Photographing Your Family, Create A Memory: Mono Prints, and Genealogy Workshops through the Pikes Peak Library District

Bemis Classes

We even set up an internal website devoted exclusively to this project.  It can be viewed here:  http://www.csfineartscenter.org/Families.html

We have found increased participation from both members and non-members during these multi-disciplinary projects and I am excited to share specific programming ideas from this year and previous projects (Resilience, Conflict/Resolution) and to discuss where we are headed for the 2014 project, “Religion & Civic Life”.

Do you know of any other kinds of partnerships between theatre and visual arts organizations? How do the visual arts intersect with your work as a theatre artists? What more do you want to learn about the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center model? I’m excited to be discussing these things at the TCG National Conference in Dallas, but we don’t need to wait until June to get started!


Scott RC Levy is finishing his second season as the Director of Performing Arts & Producing Artistic Director for the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. Previously, Levy was the Producing Artistic Director of the Penobscot Theatre in Maine for 6 seasons, and served on the faculty and as Managing Producer of the Playwrights Horizons Theater School in NYC. He has produced, directed and/or performed on, off and off-off Broadway, for the New York International Fringe Festival, at Shakespeare’s Globe in London, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland, and in over 60 cities across North America including venues as large as the Hollywood Bowl and as small as that 50-seat basement black box deep in the East Village. He has taught at several institutions including: the University of Maine, New York University, and the Guggenheim Museum. Levy has received numerous awards for his work, served on grant and adjudication panels and been profiled in such publications as Maine Magazine and the Denver Post. Originally from West Hartford, Connecticut, Levy holds a BFA in Acting and an MA in Educational Theatre, both from New York University.

  • Todd Wallinger

    You and your colleagues are doing some great work here, Scott. I’m looking forward to seeing what next year brings.