Apr 24, 2015

FAC Announces Plays for the Upcoming Rough Writers Festival


Thursday, June 4th @ 8:00 PM:
Two Nine One Letters by Jade O’Keeffe (Toronto, ON)
The Flower by Alyson Mead (Los Angeles, CA)

Friday, June 5th @ 8:00 PM:
A Woman on Paper by Susan Shafer (New York, NY)

Saturday, June 6th @ 8:00 PM: Short Plays by Colorado Springs Playwrights
Georgia on His Mind by Sue Bachman
Mary and Georgia by Grant Swenson
The Real Meaning of Things by Todd Wallinger
The Last Rabbit by Jessica Weaver

Sunday, June 7th @ 3:00 PM:
Early Sunday Morning by Dara O’Brien (New York, NY)


Thursday, June 11th @ 8:00 PM:
Two Nine One Letters by Jade O’Keeffe (Toronto, ON)
The Flower by Alyson Mead (Los Angeles, CA)

Friday, June 12th @ 8:00 PM:
A Woman on Paper by Susan Shafer (New York, NY)

Saturday, June 13th @ 8:00 PM: Short Plays by Colorado Playwrights
Georgia on His Mind by Sue Bachman
Mary and Georgia by Grant Swenson
The Real Meaning of Things by Todd Wallinger
The Last Rabbit by Jessica Weaver

Sunday, June 14th @ 3:00 PM:
Early Sunday Morning by Dara O’Brien (New York, NY)

Two Nine One Letters by Jade O’Keeffe (Toronto, ON)

Play Description:
Two Nine One Letters explores two of the most influential figures in early American modernist art: Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz. After meeting in 1916 they began a correspondence that would last three decades. They exchanged more than 5,000 letters. Those letters created and inspired this piece.

Playwright Bio:
Jade is a Toronto-based actress, singer and playwright. Having just graduated with a BFA from Ryerson University, Jade has had the pleasure of performing in Music of the Night: A Tribute to Colm Wilkinson, where she shared the stage with the man himself. Also, most recently Jade appeared onstage in her own play as Georgia O’Keeffe in Two Nine One Letters, which was first showcased in the New Voices Festival at Ryerson University this past spring. Before Ryerson, Jade worked as an actor for four consecutive seasons at 4th Line Theatre, a leading Canadian open-air theatre. Jade is very excited for Two Nine One Letters to have its American debut as part of the Rough Writers 15’ Festival and is so thankful to the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center for the unique opportunity!
The Flower by Alyson Mead (Los Angeles, CA)

Play Description:
As Annie tries to teach her art students how to see critically, she’s undergoing second thoughts about her relationship, while Gilly’s not sure how to express some new and confusing feelings. “The Flower” explores the concept of otherness, from decades of misunderstanding that have accompanied artist Georgia O’Keeffe’s flower paintings to two modern women finding it difficult to fit into what’s expected of them. 

Playwright Bio:
Alyson Mead studied at the Slade School of Art in London, NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and with iO West, UCB and Tectonic Theatre Project. Her award-winning plays have been staged at Off-Off Broadway and regional theaters around the country and in London, including La MaMa, St. Mark's Church, 8BC, Pasadena Playhouse, Venus Theatre, the Women Playwrights International Conference, Limelight, the Other Space Theater, the Hudson, Atwater Village Theater and Sacred Fools, among others. She’s published by Original Works Publishing, and is a member of the Dramatists Guild, the Ensemble Studio Theatre’s Playwriting Unit and the Los Angeles Female Playwrights Initiative.

A Woman on Paper by Susan Shafer (New York, NY)

Play Description
Early in Georgia O'Keeffe's career, someone saw her paintings and declared, "At last, a woman on paper!" Who said that and how did their meeting prove a turning point in the artist's life?
Susan Shafer, now a full-time playwright, is a former teacher and children's book editor. Dr. Shafer is the author of five plays and five non-fiction books for children, two books for teachers, and nearly two dozen short plays for adults. She is a member of The League of Professional Theater Women, the Dramatists Guild, and The American Society of Journalists and Authors. Website: www.sshafer.com

Georgia on His Mind by Sue Bachman

Play Description:
World renowned photographer Alfie Stiglietz thinks he has found in painter Georgia O'Keefe the "twin" for whom he has been searching his whole life.  In one fell swoop Alfie casts aside both his long-suffering wife Emmy along and their mentally unstable daughter Kitty. Georgia is stunned to find herself in the middle of an elaborately staged scene of infidelity from which there is no turning back. Alfie quickly learns that, despite their sexual passion, Georgia is no pushover.

Playwright Bio:
Like Georgia O'Keefe, Sue was born in Wisconsin. Though not exactly dairy farmers, her family did own a couple of cows. A Colorado Springs character actress for many years, Sue became inspired to write plays about five years ago after being part of the Six Women Playwriting Festival. Since then she has been an active member of Drama Lab which provides critical input to move her writing forward as well as Craft Production Resources who has produced five of her original short plays. Sue’s play, Disposing of Grandma was selected as Best Short Play in the CSFAC’s Rough Writers New Play Festival in 2013. She won the 2014 Pikes Peak Art's Council Award for Best Performance by an Actress for her portrayal of Linda Loman in Theatrework's "Death of a Salesman." Sue earned her undergraduate degree in Theatre from Northwestern University and holds a Master’s in International Business from Regis University. She thanks Sy, her husband of 34 years, and her adult children Courtney and Aaron, for their love and support in all of her theatrical endeavors.

Mary and Georgia by Grant Swenson

Play Description:

Mary and Georgia explores the relationship between a promising artist and her imaginary friend, Georgia O'Keeffe. The play examines three phases in Mary's life and art career: youthful joy, mid-life depression, and mature contentment.
Playwright Bio:
Grant Swenson is an engineer/writer living in Black Forest, CO. He enjoys bringing plays to Drama Lab in Colorado Springs to workshop with the local theatre community. In 2014, he performed in the Our Shorts Are Showing 2 New Play Festival. He is honored to be a part of the Rough Writers New Play Festival.

The Real Meaning of Things by Todd Wallinger

Play Description:

Georgia O'Keeffe had learned to drive at the age of 41, mostly so she could explore the New Mexico desert by herself. According to reports she was a fearless driver, though not a great one. This play expores what would have happened if her car had broken down.
Playwright Bio:

Todd Wallinger is an award-winning playwright from Colorado Springs with over 150 productions in 43 states plus Canada, Australia, South Korea and the UK. Five of his plays are published by Pioneer Drama Service. Rumpelstiltskin, Private Eye won the 2014 Beverly Hills Theatre Guild Play Competition for Youth Theatre. Kill the Critic! took 2nd place in the 2013 McLaren Memorial Comedy Playwriting Competition. Todd teaches playwriting at the Colorado High School Thespian Conference and serves with the Colorado Theatre Guild as a judge for their annual Henry Awards.

The Last Rabbit by Jessica Weaver

Play Description:

The play opens up on Jim carrying into his trailer a very beat-up, unhealthy prostitute named Alice.  After days of torture and confusion, Alice learns that Jim has kidnapped her to use her body as a vessel to give “Mama” the gift she’s always wanted -- a baby girl.  It is at this time when she starts receiving visits from Ahiga, a creature whose reality is a struggle to accept.  Ahiga helps Alice plot their escape from this disturbing future that Jim has planned, and in doing so, Alice discovers things about her own identity she had never known.  This platy was inspired by two Georgia O’Keefe paintings: Untitled (Dead Rabbit with Copper Pot) and Ram’s Head with Hollyhock.

Playwright Bio:

Jessica is thrilled to be a part of the Rough Writers Festival!  Thanks to her education and the U.S. Army, she has been performing and creating theatre all over the country.  She received her BA from Washington State and her MFA in performance from Arizona State.  To diversify her artistic endeavors, she began writing a couple years ago, and has not been able to stop since.  Story telling is a powerful tool that can impact society emotionally.  The theatre is perhaps the greatest story-telling art forms because of its ability to be a full sensorial experience.  New play development keeps this vital art form alive.  www.jessicaweaver.net
Early Sunday Morning by Dara O’Brien (New York, NY)

Play Description:

After twenty years of creative and professional struggle, the American painter Edward Hopper reconnects with his old schoolmate, the artist Josephine Nivison. The joining of their lives brings seismic change to both. What is the price of genius, and who pays?
Playwright Bio:

Dara O’Brien is a playwright and actress whose work has been presented at The Cherry Lane Theatre, the Abingdon Theatre, and Naked Angels Tuesdays@9. She is a member of the Abingdon’s Playwrights Group, Playwrights Gallery, The Ninth Floor, and The Geese. Dara is the recipient of the 2015 Thomas Barbour Playwrights Award for her play “Early Sunday Morning.” As part of the Writer/Actor Collective, she is a co-creator of the upcoming podcast series, “The Armitage.” Member, Dramatists Guild of America.

The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center is proud to be producing our bi-annual Rough Writers New Play Festival in the spring of 2015. This two week-long festival will feature readings of new scripts submitted by playwrights worldwide. Playwrights whose work is included in the festival will have the opportunity to have readings of their scripts in front of an audience with a moderated talkback session immediately following. A panel of theatre professionals will adjudicate the submissions.
As part of  the FAC’s “Year of Georgia O’Keeffe,” this year’s submissions should be related to the life and/or the work of O’Keeffe. The plays may utilize Georgia O’Keeffe as a character, use her art as a springboard for the story, or, in a larger sense, explore the lives and art of groundbreaking women.


For these staged readings, we're looking for about 20 actors, ages 17 to 60s, both sexes. Rehearsal commitment is limited.  Rehearsals will start the week of the festival – so they are only committed for those two weeks.

Apr 23, 2015

FAC Docents and Staff Trained by Visually Impaired Youth

Exploring our Sense of Touch

Yesterday the FAC was visited by 8 students from the Colorado Springs School for the Deaf and the Blind who trained our docents and staff to work with visually impaired individuals. The students gave great tips such as how to maneuver a visually impaired visitor in tight corners (with the leader, tucking elbow in), doorways (saying whether it opens in or out) and stairs (stopping at the beginning and end). After leading the students around, the docents and staff donned blindfolds and goggles in order to gain a first-hand experience and understanding of what it's like to be visually impaired.

The training took place in our Tactile Gallery, which was established at the FAC in 1981 as one of the first galleries of its kind . In the Tactile Gallery, visitors are encourages to experience art, not only visually, but with their hands. Braille signs and labels giving information about the various works of art are placed in front of each object. In addition, the displays are low enough for children and wheelchair users to reach the art objects and know their essence through the sense of touch.

If you've never checked it out before, the Tactile Gallery is FREE and open to the public - stop in and experience art in a whole new way!

Apr 21, 2015

FAC unveils groundbreaking new app

The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center introduced a new app today that leapfrogs ahead of the standard museum audio tour.

Using this free app, developed by KS Technologies, visitors with an iOS mobile device can enjoy video and multi-media presentations about art in the galleries without having to punch in location numbers.

That’s because the app listens for iBeacon devices installed throughout the museum, developed by KS Technologies and manufactured in Colorado Springs.  KST’s beacon devices are powered by ultra low-power wireless hardware from Nordic Semiconductor.

The new iBeacon technology used in the Fine Arts Center App, currently free through Apple’s App Store, is being used in only a handful of arts institutions worldwide.

“We’re tremendously excited about how the technology enhances the visitor’s experience,” says FAC President and CEO David Dahlin. “Art institutions like ours are finding that it’s not enough to hang art on the walls. In order to stay relevant, we need to make each visit a memorable experience. People today desire to interact and to have depth of context. This new app is amazing and will really change the way that people experience an exhibition and interact with the art.”

The new app also has hidden advantages internally.  By tracking foot traffic patterns in the museum, the app can be used like a heat map online, showing how visitors are actually using the institution, where they’re going and where they’re not going.

“Potentially, this has implications for how we install future shows and even which pieces we keep on display and which go to our archives,” says Blake Milteer, the FAC’s museum director and chief curator.

For KS Technologies, the app represents a triumph of collaboration and technology.

“We’re so proud to partner with the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center in creating this new app and installing our beacons here,” said Bob Kressin, President of KS Technologies. “We see beacons as a disruptive technology, having many practical applications such as navigating indoor spaces, tracking assets and creating experiences like we have here at the FAC.”  

FAC Wins Big at Best of the Springs

HUGE THANK YOU to all our fans who voted in The Gazette's Best of the Springs!

The Fine Arts Center (and our performers) took more awards than any other organization in the region, including:

MUSEUM EXHIBIT - GOLD: "Chihuly Rediscovered"
THEATRE COMPANY - GOLD: (First time in recent memory for this honor!)
MUSICAL - GOLD: "Wizard of Oz" (yeah, it was last year, but who's counting?)
ACTRESS - GOLD: (TIE) Jessica Weaver ("Dracula")
ACTRESS - GOLD: (TIE) Birgitta De Pree ("Love, Loss and What I Wore")
ACTRESS - SILVER: Amy Brooks ("Love, Loss and What I Wore")
ACTRESS - BRONZE: Rebecca Myers Burdick ("Play It Again, Sam" & "Reefer Madness")
ACTOR - SILVER: Kevin Pierce ("Forever Plaid," "Mary Poppins" and "Reefer Madness")
BEST PLAY - GOLD: "Dracula"
ARTS SUMMER CAMP - GOLD: FAC, Bemis (taking in both our Bemis camps and Theatre camps!)
MOVER AND SHAKER IN THE ARTS - SILVER: Tara Thomas (sharing the honor with Kevin Landis at TheatreWorks.)
We and our partners also got these staff-pick awards:
CROWD PLEASER: "Mary Poppins"
STAR ON THE RISE: Michael Lee (who played Renfield in "Dracula")
BEST SMALL ENSEMBLE PERFORMANCE: "Rarity" by Veronika String Quartet (who performed this concert at the FAC.)

Apr 10, 2015

FAC's 'Mary Poppins' magic reaches a national audience

The FAC's flair for stage magic got some national attention this month thanks to our scenic designer Erik Diaz's fascinating article in Stage Directions magazine.

Erik writes about how the FAC special-effects team brought a dreary London park to a vibrant, colorful life during our production of Mary Poppins. It really was a glorious technical feat, and Erik details the painstaking process that turned a monochromatic drop into glorious color. The images are stunning, and the article will prove an invaluable resource for other scenic designers.

Well done, Erik and the rest of the production team!

You can reach the full article here.

Apr 6, 2015

Last week to catch 4000 Miles

4000 Miles represents intimate theatre at its best. Not only is the presentation intimate, scaling down the large FAC stage to a modest Manhattan apartment, the story takes us to a level of authentic emotional intimacy you don’t find in many plays.

That’s why Time magazine named it the #1 play of the year. It’s why BroadwayWorld’s Christi Esterle wrote of the FAC production, “you can’t ask for much more in the theatre.” You can read her full review here.

4000 Miles takes us inside the lives of Leo and Vera, a grandson and grandmother trying to span the language and culture of two hilariously and frustratingly different generations.

The play runs Thursday through Saturday at 7:30p and Sundays at 2p. Get tickets and reservations for pre-theatre dining here or call 719.634.5583. 

Apr 2, 2015

Meet our April Members of the Month

Ernie and Michael McIntyre - Fine Arts Center members for 7 years 

Now 16, Michael has been taking classes at the Fine Arts Center’s Bemis School of Art since he was 7 years old. He focuses mainly on Anime and Manga drawing and aspires to have a career in the arts. Here, Ernie talks about how his grandson got involved with the FAC and became members.

Why did you become a member of the FAC? 

We realized Michael had a great talent for drawing and wanted him to develop his skills further. We also wanted him to learn to appreciate the abilities of others and learn as much as possible about art in general.

When did your interest in the arts begin? 

Michael’s interest in the arts began at an early age. He has been studying the piano for eight years and began taking classes at Bemis at the same time.

What has been one of your favorite plays, classes or exhibits at the FAC? 

Michael’s favorite class has been the Anime drawing class with instructor Nancy Fraser-Coco. She introduced him to it and encouraged him to learn more about art in general. Our family had tried for years to tell Michael he had talent, but she was the first to honestly make him realize it. He usually requests to take her classes.

Nancy Fraser-Coco takes them through the Fine Arts Center on a regular basis to show them different techniques. Michael’s favorite exhibit was Chihuly Rediscovered (2014).

What else do you like to do for fun in Colorado Springs? 

Church activities, bowling, bicycle riding, video games and just hanging out with friends.

Check out the video below where Michael and Ernie, along with Bemis instructor Nancy Fraser-Coco, discuss Michael's artistic growth here at the FAC.

Mar 18, 2015

Meet Bob and Pat, our March Members of the Month!

Bob Hadley & Pat Topping - Fine Arts Center members for one year

Why did you become a member of the FAC?

Pat: I wanted to be able to visit whenever I wanted, and not rely on the free days so much. I am on a fixed income and it was a stretch to purchase a higher level membership so that Robert could be included. But I have found I come more often and I always feel so relaxed, yet energized, after a visit. 

Bob: It was a gift from my Beautiful Lady…

When did your interest in the arts begin?

Bob: My formal introduction to the arts was in kindergarten. Mrs. Kohlstead tried to expose the class to every aspect of the arts– music, painting and even opera. My grandmother was instrumental in the introduction of opera though. My parents were also a factor. My father played piano and my mother sang with a jazz band during WWII.  

Pat: I think it was in the 7th grade, in art class. I wasn’t very good at anything, but part of the class was art appreciation and history, and our teacher was good at exposing us to different things. I fell in love with Salvador Dali’s work; that dripping clock I understood! His work just somehow resonated. I remember all I asked for that year for Christmas was a book about him. My parents gave me a wonderful coffee-table book about him and his work (I still have it) and that first delight just grew over the years.

What has been one of your favorite plays, classes or exhibits at the FAC?

Pat: Lots of exhibits pop up – the Birger Sandzén exhibit (Sandzén in Colorado, 2011) comes immediately to mind. I love his work, and have been to the Sandzén gallery in Lindsborg, Kansas, twice. But two things that really stand out are the current Continuance exhibit and the play, Chicago (2003), from a few years back. I like industrial art and simply can’t get enough of Chuck and Collins’s exhibit Continuance. That huge circle of light is wondrous (Divided, 2013). I can sit for hours and watch it. I would love to see the FAC purchase some of the exhibit pieces for the permanent collection.  

Bob: Hands down, Continuance: Charles and Collin Parson (2014), the exhibit was awesome. The Artist & Curator Conversation forum (which took place Feb. 7, 2015) with the artists and staff was amazing. To be able to get the thought process and ideas from beginning to end: art in motion, the conception, birth and raising of a baby. I think the forum is essential to understanding and appreciating the artwork.

What is your favorite work of art on display at the FAC right now?

Bob: Collin Parson’s sixteen foot circle (Divided, 2013). When I first viewed it, the room was relatively empty. It gave me, a combat vet with PTSD issues, a sense of peace. When I conveyed this to Collin, it affected him. All I want to say to him is thanks. It is a very powerful, tranquil piece. Art should affect a person and this piece does. I’m grateful to be able to tell him how it affected me at the Artist & Curator Conversation forum hosted at the FAC. I feel that the FAC staff wants the community to really immerse itself in the world of art, not just the displays, but during the social gatherings like the first Saturday Monthly Member Tours, and just being approachable by all. It’s a very welcoming attitude.  

Pat: Besides the Continuance exhibit, one piece I love is the Vance Kirkland (Vibrations of Scarlet on Blue and Green, No. 5, 1969) that is currently on display. I have also been a member of the Kirkland Museum in Denver, and think he is underappreciated.

What else do you like to do for fun in Colorado Springs?

Pat: Besides follow the Broncos and the Avalanche?  Hiking, road trips for any reason but especially to see my grandkids, TheatreWorks, movies, needlepoint and embroidery (I belong to the Embroiders’ Guild of America. For the past 10 years I have enjoyed learning new techniques about fibers, fabric, color and texture, and have started designing some of my own work), playing with my dog (who wants to play Frisbee until my arm falls off), and I read, read, read!  

Bob: We, my lady Pat and I, are members of TheatreWorks, and the Colorado Springs Conservatory’s The Mezzanine. Between those and the FAC we manage to keep busy. We also like to travel, play with our dogs (read kids), restore old cars (works of art in themselves… could be a future exhibit!! Hint, hint), and work on our house.

To hear what else Bob & Pat had to say about the Fine Arts Center, check out the video below!

Feb 3, 2015

Meet our February Member of the Month: Eunice Diaz

Eunice Diaz - Fine Arts Center member for 5 years

Why did you become a member of the FAC? 

Like Pablo Picasso elegantly said: “The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” I am an art lover and a strong believer in the power of the arts. You see, the arts, both performing and visual, are what makes us most human, most complete as people. I believe that taking time to appreciate this beauty is part of our humanity. By being a member I get free admission to the permanent collections, monthly members-only tours every first Saturday of the month, discounted art classes and discounts on theater tickets… It doesn’t get any better! I get to be part of the cultural vitality of Colorado Springs. There’s a strong relationship between arts and cultural engagement, and I love to be engaged. 

When did your interest in the arts begin?

I have always been very inclined towards the arts. I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Arts, with a concentration in foreign languages. Classes such as Music, and Arts Appreciation were my bread and butter for more than four years. During my junior year of college I participated in an exchange program and got to study French and French Civilization in Paris. While I was there I visited famous, renowned museums such as Le Louvre, Musée d’Orsay and the Picasso Museum. After I graduated college I went to New York as an intern for the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and completed a six-month internship working in the museum’s library. Currently, I am a docent at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, so a few times a month I get to tour and educate people about art. I am also an usher in the theater… Yes, I guess you can call me lucky!

What has been one of your favorite plays, classes or exhibits at the FAC? 

My favorite plays have got to be Mary Poppins and Dracula. Mary Poppins because the performances were simply exquisite; it made me reminisce about my childhood! The actors were so professional, their voices were phenomenal and the whole experience was enriching. Dracula because it was intense, sensual and wonderfully done… Even though it was a highly sexual play, it never felt like a cheap performance. You can truly see the commitment this organization has to the delivery of high-quality material. I am so proud of being a member of such an integral part of this community. I have yet to take an art lesson but that is definitely on my bucket list for this year! 

What is your favorite work of art on display at the FAC right now?

My favorite painting at the Fine Arts Center is a portrait called Portrait of Russell A. Blackman (which unfortunately is not currently on view). It’s an oil on canvas and it portrays a plump, curly-haired blonde boy, son of a renowned Colorado Springs doctor in the 1910s, Dr. Alfred A. Blackman and Gratia R. Blackman. I wrote a paper about this portrait and while doing so, I became fascinated by the history behind the painting. The little boy died of nephritis when he was only 8 years old, and although it is a sad story, it makes me happy to know that back in the good old days, people paid artists to keep the memories of their loved ones alive. I can’t wait to tour this painting so that I can share all the wonderful information I learned about it. 

What else do you like to do for fun in Colorado Springs? 

Dancing is my ultimate fun activity; I also enjoy hiking, visiting other museums and visiting all the many wonderful things Colorado Springs has to offer. Colorado is not only a very cultural place with a plethora of history, but it is also sort of an outdoor playground. Lately, I’ve been trying to visit all the castles I can find around the area. I really enjoyed The Glen Eyre Castle near Garden of the Gods. There are so many outdoor activities to do every weekend; it is a very family-oriented place and I love it. 

To hear what else Eunice had to say about the Fine Arts Center, check out the video below!

Jan 23, 2015

Artists Get Deeper Into CONTINUANCE

Putting Up Risk

This text is excerpted from an informal conversation among artists Charles and Collin Parson, curators Joy Armstrong and Blake Milteer, and led by Colorado Springs-based artist Sean O’Meallie was recorded on November 14, 2014.

Ch: Charles Parson
Co: Collin Parson
S: Sean O’Meallie
J: Joy Armstrong
B: Blake Milteer

S: The conversation we’re having right now comes from a fine tradition. So much great art and many stories have come from people like us gathering and just having conversations and throwing out ideas and having little tugs of war and then responding by going back to their studios and making new work.

Ch: In the spirit of Black Mountain College in North Carolina years ago, and like the cultural luminaries of the mid-20th century, we’re hungry for the dialogue. To me, this hasn’t been just about the orchestration of putting a show up, it’s been a dialogue in which the conversations we’ve had during studio visits and correspondence have continued on a much deeper level — at times even absurdly humorous when we’re doing heavy lifting during installation!

J: Chuck has referred to the exhibition as a “punctuation” — not in the sense of being the end of any particular activity — but rather being a comma in the progression of the artist’s work.

S: Maybe that’s especially true when, as with this exhibition, a lot of the work is built for the first time in the gallery space — so it only takes its first breath in that setting. When I’m doing a large project, I can’t stage it in my studio. Often times, the first time I see it is when it is afforded by a large enough venue. I recently put up a piece and was ecstatic and I just ran around the gallery saying “I can’t believe it worked!” But for you guys, both of these works are the first time you’ve seen them. But have you even really seen your pieces yet?

Ch: Hell no! I’ll recall a moment that will shed some “light” as it were: Collin was about 10 days ahead of me in the installation process due to the sheer nature of our extended responsibilities — our daytime jobs, individual installation requirements, and other expectations. So I walked in and saw that he had finished the first phase of getting his work up. His gallery was already inspiring dialogue after that first week of installation, and I went home very despondent because I couldn’t yet see what mine was going to actually look like. I was suddenly concerned; it wasn’t insecurity, but I was creatively questioning whether my installation was going to be as good as I thought it was supposed to be. That’s unsettling!

Co: Blake, you called that, though. Remember when I got my exhibition up, and you said, “your Dad’s gonna walk in and be proud but immediately start thinking about his piece — how am I going to get it up?” You called it! But I think that comes from getting to know the artist over the past few years.

B: At best, it’s important for these exhibitions to gestate over a number of years. When you get to that point of installation, the process and the relationships become all the more intensive, as it should be. You want to be able to anticipate certain things, some of them from a professional level and some of them from an intuitive level — both of which can only be developed over that duration. Part of it is that you’re going to have those inevitable “uh oh!” moments even right before the opening and everyone has to have the tools and trust to conjure greatness in spite of adversity.

S: There are so many unknowns and so many variables — for artists making the work and for all the people who put up risk. I think everybody here put up risk and took a chance — there’s no way to exactly know the outcome. Like in theatre, you don’t quite know how it’s all going to come together until dress rehearsal. It’s a live thing, an organic thing, and that’s really nice to have, I think, as a gift from the institutional provider — to trust artists. To choose and trust an artist — it’s like describing a balloon, when you don’t quite know the exact shape of the balloon.

J: I think Sean’s theatre comparison is really great. It’s that idea of being able to develop the relationship to the point where you’re comfortable and you trust the people that you’re working with. So when it comes to opening night, it’s not so over-rehearsed that it feels stale. There’s room for spontaneity and room for improvisation because it’s not 100% planned out, giving you the flexibility to play.
Five Spaces/Two Generations and detail 2011
Painted steel, acrylic, stone, glass, and hardware
35 inches high x 192 inches diameter

S: It’s live.

Ch: I love that confidence; it’s got to be there if we’re going to take chances.

Co: I think in his career, (Chuck’s) been around so long that it’s easier to trust an artist of his age (laughs), or of his experience, compared to an artist of my experience. But I think that when you guys came to visit me at Pirate (Contemporary Art gallery, Denver) over and over and over, I would hope you started to have a confidence and trust, right?

J: Blake mentioned intuition, and for me with you, that was there from the beginning. There was never any doubt that you’d be able to do it.

B: All the right ingredients are there, so that trust is in place. With Continuance, that was tested by some big alterations in course along the way with changes in the schedule and in the gallery spaces.

Ch: Looking back now, I like the idea that we had to adapt our definition of the show. Thinking about evolution of the space and the conditions, I remember talking with my friend Fred Ramey about (Olivier) Messiaen, the composer. In a German concentration camp, he wrote a piece of music, “Quartet for the End of Time.” I think it’s one of the most stunning pieces of music ever written and recorded. But it’s written for a violin with three strings because that’s all they had. What he pulled out of those three strings made what he was attempting to say in the piece of music so much more direct and poignant. So what does this present (as an analogy to the exhibition)? It’s that we have to be more attuned to what we’re trying to say and deal with it creatively. What most people would say is …

Co: “… Can’t do it!”

Ch: Yeah, “can’t do it,” and you then (settle for) a more conventional solution like just putting up an existing body of work. Instead, it’s a great opportunity to develop another body of work by extending the timeline a little and articulating the space.

B: Some of the specific changes were that we had to push the show back a year at one point, and had to pretty dramatically change the gallery spaces for each of you.

Untitled (site-specific work from Divided Series) 2014
Wood, color-changing RGB LED's and Arduino controller
192 inches diameter x 4 inches deep

Co: I originally had the lower ceiling gallery, so I would have never been able to do the 16-foot diameter signature piece in the show.

S: And is this your largest piece?

Co: To date, yeah.

S: Wow. I really like that you responded to that opportunity. You saw that you could hike up the scale on this thing. Chuck’s piece is also site-specific. That came to you while in the space, is that right? That’s how you conceived it, in that space?

Ch: Yes. The theme was already developing, but to have the space in that specific room, my first comment to Blake was “I wanna use the (18-foot-high) ceiling by putting nothing up there above human height.” His comment was, “yeah, that’s pretty interesting, let’s explore it.”

S: The negative space?

Ch: Yes, but it’s not just the negative space — it’s that absence. That is what I’m intrigued with in a controlled interior space as opposed to the works I build at a particular exterior location.

S: I think you are both after something quite ephemeral. Whether you intend to or not, it’s a result. Collin’s work is quite atmospheric; it’s light in material and lofted on the wall and enveloping — completely enveloping. It alters the space in an obvious, quickly understood way, while Chuck’s work seems to have this great gravity of material. For me, the apparatus goes away when we’re within the spaces of your work. How important is that to you? Is that something you’re thinking about from the get-go, or is that a product you just discover? Is the apparatus — or the departure from it — the most important thing in the room?

Ch: You’re talking about form and content. You’re talking about that essential attempt to visually enunciate. The read on Collin’s work, and I don’t mean this in a dismissive way, is that there is an immediacy to his work. It’s not just the color, it’s not just the scale, it’s the cycles that are perceived quickly. Mine is the absolute opposite in terms of my attempt to slow time down; it’s as if Collin’s is ice melting and we can watch it melting before our eyes on a hot day. Mine is like marble that is dissolving but over a longer duration of time. There’s an immediacy to his work and there’s a denseness to my work. At times I envy the initial quick response that people give his work, but I realize that the driving forces in my work are the apparatus, the language of the materials, the use of the room, even the title of the work. It’s like when you listen to music and you don’t hear the instruments, you don’t hear the notes. You hear the music. That takes time in the music and it takes time in my art.

Co: When you mean apparatus, it’s the mechanism, right?

S: All the things that take up physical space.

Co: Then I would say yes, I create the apparatus as a mechanism to support the light. If I had my ultimate world, you’d go in there and experience an environment of thick light that you can grab and eat it like an apple. But you can’t do that, because you need these mechanisms. I create an apparatus but it’s less about the object than what (it’s) helping to convey.

Ch: There is light spillover from Collin’s gallery through the portals on each side of my work. When I sat there late on a Sunday night during installation I could see no object in Collin’s gallery, just the sheer light. Then suddenly the light turned a faint turquoise and for a split second echoed (the green tinted plexi) I just spent all day putting up. The joy of interaction! You can’t touch it but that feeling conjured up an awareness of the moment. That moment, for me, is ultimately what I’m looking for in art.

S: Discovering art, happening upon art when you least expect it — it’s a momentary thing, it’s something that you can’t choreograph, it’s something that you just stumble into and realize that you’ve just felt something. Collin’s work pushes and pulls on that a little bit because of the slow cycles of color changes.
Add caption

Ch: The color transitions are perceptible but not predictable. There’s a harmonic rhythm to it.

S: There is a kind of pulsation in your work.

Co: That’s why I use light. It’s not like, say, a red canvas on the wall; light can make that red feel different, feel more alive. I love light — it has a quality that is unknown, but you sense it.

S: Light permeates us — we’re ambient beings. I can make an object but it doesn’t penetrate your body. It registers with your vision and sense of touch, but it doesn’t emit. I think light reaches us in other ways.

S: Backing up to the making of the art itself, here’s something that sticks with me: Carl Reed is one of the longtime instructors here at Colorado College, and he’s a wonderful artist. His work will make you reconsider all of the objects in your world and their relationship to one another. I remember one time on an art discussion panel, Carl said, “good art just needs to happen. It’s not dependent on — should not be dependent on — any kind of other processes; it just needs to happen.” I’m paraphrasing, but this is one of the more truthful things to me as an artist who is putting work in front of people and taking earthly resources and committing them to this kind of intent. I thought it was a very good thing to hear, and a good observation that good art just needs to happen, regardless of the process it takes for it to happen.

Ch: I love reading Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. He self-published it seven different times before it was picked up. I mean, that pretty-well says that if it needs to be done, do it. I have a protestant work ethic. If it’s that important, you’ll find a way as an artist. The challenge is to make some concessions in materials or in scale, but not to the art’s intention and merit.
Art doesn’t always need a huge audience. I’ll give you a quick illustration: my two sons and I had just installed a work next to the Brooklyn Bridge. We were going to drop-off my truck and trailer at aunt Jean’s house on Long Island, and between she and her husband we could not get clear directions. The truck was pretty big and the trailer was even longer so we parked it in their little suburban neighborhood with meandering little single-lane roads. I knew their house was somewhere nearby, so we (went) walking and suddenly heard Jean’s voice singing. Now this is a woman who had in a previous year performed at the Kennedy Center as a soloist; this is a woman who had just had major public television specials done on her 40th album. We rounded a bend, walked up a little drive, and then figured out we’d come in the back way. She’s on the back porch with no audience except a cat and she is singing for the sheer joy of singing! That’s Carl Reed, in essence, saying it’s gotta be made.

S: There’s that old question of who you make your art for — why do you make art? To be honest, I make art so that I can see it. I need to get something out of me, I need it to be out there in the room and I need it to talk back. So I’m the first audience for the things that I make. For me as a maker, that “live” art moment is when I get the thing up in front of me and I can confront it physically, frontally. That’s the moment when I have to consider it and have to start living with it. I get to respond to it and I’m working in a syntax and a language that is all my own; it’s very unique, but I am the first person who encounters it.

Co: I think that’s not unusual.

S: That’s actually as sincere as I can be. I’m getting something out of me and I have to then live with it and respond to it. Now, one of the wonderful things that happens is that other people respond to it too, in ways that I could never anticipate. So (the art) has a life beyond that moment.
Another aspect is that when I make something, I am also confronted by the idea that it didn’t exist until I made it.

Ch: There’s great satisfaction in making. But then you put ideas — the concept — into (the art). I’ve had times when I’m getting ready to go to bed after supper and I’m so curious about an idea that I go out to the studio in my underwear and find myself two hours later, shivering and still working on something.

Co: It’s a physical need.

Ch: An issue I ran into in academia is that the idea of art as being heroic is obsolete. Well, I think making art is a very heroic activity in today’s culture!

S: And noble.

This artist discussion is an excerpt from the Continuance catalog, available for purchase at Alice's. Food. Art. Coffee.

Jan 16, 2015

Meet our latest Members of the Month: Jimmy & Katelyn Do - Fine Arts Center, members for 2 years

Why did you become a member of the FAC?

Jimmy: Regular visits to the opera, museums, art exhibits, concerts, and galleries, was part of growing up and highly encouraged by my family. I performed in show choir, acted on stage and sang in musicals, played in the orchestra, and appeared in film. These experiences developed a foundation and cultivated my appreciation for the fine arts, which I am now passing onto my daughter. With the family membership plan, we have access to the theater, galleries, and Bemis School of Art. The FAC offers a local home for our artistic inclinations.

Katelyn: I’ve always loved making art and it’s fun. I’m a member of the FAC because I am on the plan with my dad and I take art classes at Bemis.

When did your interest in the arts begin?

Jimmy: Instead of an alarm clock to wake us, my mother played vinyl records of Beethoven’s 5th and Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, regularly turning the volume up to 11 on our monstrous speakers. I remember regular visits to the Getty, Huntington Library, and the Orange County Performing Arts Center. My mother also sent us to art school so we could get some fundamental training in areas such as lighting and composition – these classes were invaluable.

Katelyn: I remember taking several classes at the Bemis School of Art and loving the experience. I especially loved the cooking class. Painting and sculpting were also favorites. I hope to attend another class to learn how to throw pottery, so I can make vases and pots just like the ones on display in the Bemis student gallery.

What has been one of your favorite plays, classes or exhibits at the FAC?

Jimmy: The Wizard of Oz?

Katelyn: …because of the wonderful things he does! ♪♩♬ ♬♫♪

Jimmy: We loved Oz, best show last season. It’s difficult to create and deliver a performance that stands with nostalgia, but Oz did it marvelously and so did Mary Poppins. Halfway through this interview, we attended Poppins – one of the best shows I have ever seen. Words can’t describe the pure joy and excitement I felt watching this performance…well, there is a word (even though the sound of it is something quite atrocious). It was also great to see many familiar faces returning to the stage in Poppins.

Katelyn: I loved the Bemis art classes, especially the painting and cooking classes. Really loved cooking, did I mention that?

Jimmy: A memorable exhibit showcased the work of wounded warriors in the Bemis student gallery. I’m glad to see the FAC provide a safe space to display our military veterans’ talents in their time of healing.

What is your favorite work of art on display at the FAC right now?

Jimmy: There are quite a few. Anish Kapoor, specifically Shadow IV – Orange Plate is quite soothing as I move between meticulous gradients or color. It’s done well. Ahn’s Forked Series #29, is pretty awesome. I could take it in for hours. Sanchez’s pair, San Vato and María, are great takes on the retablo.

Katelyn: Kasahara’s Between the Lines was great during the summer. I really liked the umbrellas. Right now, Collin Parson’s Divided is my favorite. We should sit in front of it for a longer time on our next visit.

Jimmy: Art is enjoyable at any age. You can marvel in the process of
creativity, think deeply about the meanings behind each piece, or just appreciate its beauty. You can do all or none of these. It’s up to you.

What else do you like to do for fun in Colorado Springs?

Katelyn: Camping! Biking! Fishing! Skiing! Playing video games! Does that count?

Jimmy: Colorado is the ultimate outdoor playground. We enjoy staying active during all seasons and love to take in nature in any weather.

Katelyn: …and let our dog swim in the lakes!

Jimmy: This city has a great variety of activities.
We’re members of the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and visit often. We are regular season ticket holders for AF Academy hockey. Downtown is on the rise and there is always room for work on
this. There are so many things we enjoy about our city it’s difficult to list
them all here. Katelyn: There’s no place like home!

Jan 6, 2015

Eric Bransby gets the attention he so richly deserves

Colorado Public Radio produced a wonderful piece on artist and local living treasure Eric Bransby.

It aired Saturday on NPR's Weekend Edition. An extended version will air on CPR stations (in Denver, Boulder and Pueblo) on Wednesday (1/7/15)  at 6:51a, 8:51a and 5:50p. The segment will be part of a weekly podcast on cpr.org on Friday. You can see the transcripts and hear the original NPR report here.

Here's a brief tribute to Bransby and his work by FAC Museum Director and Chief Curator Blake Milteer:

Since the 1940s, Eric Bransby has been among America’s most renowned mural painters. Over the course of his esteemed career, Bransby has developed a signature style of traditional Renaissance-based figurative compositions, and has adopted a strong abstract sensibility that allows him to integrate depictions of the human figure with architecturally-based geometric shapes.

As a young artist in the 1930s, ‘40s, and ‘50s, Bransby nurtured his skills studying under renowned American artists Thomas Hart Benton and Josef Albers. Of great significance to the Fine Arts Center’s history is that he also studied under master muralists Boardman Robinson and Jean Charlot at the Fine Arts Center School, where he later taught. His association with these artists in the 1940s represents one of our enduring connections to the FAC's predecessor, the Broadmoor Art Academy.

Bransby became an important muralist and draftsman in his own right, creating permanent works for Kansas State University, the municipal building in Liberty, Missouri, the University of Missouri, Brigham Young University, Colorado College, the Pioneers Museum, and the Air Force Academy among others. In the mid-1980s, Bransby was commissioned to restore the FAC’s badly-damaged façade mural originally painted by Boardman Robinson. Bransby, who still lives and works in Colorado Springs, received the 2007 Pikes Peak Arts Council’s Lifetime Achievement Award. At 98, Bransby continues to create art in his classic realist style and depicts the nobility of human endeavors.

The Fine Arts Center has been privileged to maintain a 70-year relationship with Eric Bransby. The FAC has curated many solo and group exhibitions which included his work, including the major exhibition From Roots to Soaring Visions in 2000-2001, which highlighted both Eric and Mary Ann Bransby's work. In 1985, Bransby skillfully restored Boardman Robinson's mural on the FAC facade, and in 2012, he completed a spectacular mural celebrating the FAC's 75th anniversary. The FAC collection also boasts 1 oil painting, 3 drawings, 4 lithographs, and multiple studies for his 75th anniversary mural. Our painting The Good Book, 1941 is currently on loan to David Cook Gallery, Denver for their exhibition Transcending Figuration: Bransby in Retrospect, which is open through January 31. - FAC Museum Director and Chief Curator Blake Milteer