Arts

Monday, July 15, 2019

Local artist has big plans for community festival grounds, seeks collaborators and donations

Posted By on Mon, Jul 15, 2019 at 5:29 PM

ART BY BRIAN SEAL, PHOTOS BY ALISSA SMITH
  • Art by Brian Seal, photos by Alissa Smith
Fountain-based artist Brian Seal has walked a hard road, and often a lonely one, but he has maintained a vision and his hope for the future. When we talk to him, we can't help but want to see that vision realized — for Seal's sake and the sake of wherever he calls home.

That home used to be Wisconsin, first Fon du Lac, then Shawano. In the latter, he even built a little cabin with an art studio overlooking the lake, the place he thought he would retire. But life circumstances changed too many times to count. He dealt with destructive renters, lost his homes, and lost a great deal more than that.

In the late '90s, Seal's 2-year-old daughter, Miriah Lynn Seal, passed away, and Seal turned to his artwork to find refuge. He painted his first public mural in Miriah's honor, a piece depicting a young girl releasing a dove into the air. It was the first of four murals he would paint in Fon du Lac. His next mural was a tribute to 9/11; the next one promoting diversity with portraits of children of various ethnicities and races; and the final one “a message of love” — a white rose breaking through a wall.

After driving a truck cross-country for about 10 years, Seal returned to Fon du Lac to find the murals all painted over, with school sports trophies and pictures of middle school principals covering them. The intentional way in which his murals were obscured added to a long list of reasons he felt he was no longer welcome in Wisconsin. “So do you fight?” he asks, “Or do you walk away? … I just felt so jilted when they thought softball was more important than the kids in the community. They thought it was more important than people that gave their lives here, gave their lives abroad, and they thought it was more important than my daughter's memorial.”

ART BY BRIAN SEAL, PHOTOS BY ALISSA SMITH
  • Art by Brian Seal, photos by Alissa Smith

He ended up moving to the Fountain area not too long ago, with an eye on setting up a permanent home here, and creating a gathering place for artists like him to create work and share it with the community.

A multi-talented artist with more than 25 years under his belt, Seal does more than paint. He’s an architect and a builder, and he sculpts, usually fantasy creatures and characters like elves and dragons, inspired by video games and Lord of the Rings.

It’s characters like these that he hopes can populate his vision for a festival grounds of sorts, including a 14-foot-tall dragon sculpture, in progress, that will eventually mark the entrance. These festival grounds would serve multiple functions: Not only could local artists exhibit and sell their work at booths around the complex, but they could also work in studios on-site. Seal’s call to collaborators is open to anyone, from painters and sculptors like Seal to video game developers.

ART BY BRIAN SEAL, PHOTOS BY ALISSA SMITH
  • Art by Brian Seal, photos by Alissa Smith
On his website, Seal writes: “Art work to be created will be art for good and in the festival grounds will promote gender and racial equality. Other art and future art to be created will be to promote healthy habits.” He envisions video games that have players drink water to regain health, thereby promoting hydration, or games that don’t include violence.

“So that's kind of, you know, the kind of games I want to make,” Seal says with a smile, “and just stuff for nerds.”

But he has run into roadblocks on his path to making this vision a reality. Unable to find many funders or collaborators, Seal has been creating blueprints and concept sketches on his own. Unable to find a permanent place to settle, Seal recently lost access to the venue in Fountain where he had set up a sculpting studio.

Even so, Seal hasn’t given up hope. Hope, in fact, is his most clear and present quality. He has his eye on a property in Fountain that could support his festival grounds, and he hopes to continue seeking collaborators, grants and donations to eventually purchase it. Even small donations can keep the dream alive, and someday bring it to fruition.

“We could get together with people and build,” he says enthusiastically. “I mean, if you can draw and paint, you can swing a hammer, or run a screw gun, or carry a board. Yeah, that can be done.”

Artists, developers, community builders and others interested in collaborating with Seal on his concept for these festival grounds can reach him through sunchildrenstudios.com, email him at brian@sunchildrenstudios.com or call him at 920-268-2833.
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Thursday, July 11, 2019

Ormao Dance Company and TESSA partner with New York dance group for anti-bullying program

Posted By on Thu, Jul 11, 2019 at 1:13 PM

SCOTT SHAW
  • Scott Shaw

The concept of innovation is hardly new to Ormao Dance Company, a local organization that has trained and showcased dancers of all styles for more than 30 years. But with the announcement of a new project, the company plans to push the envelope just a little further than it ever has, and in an exciting new direction.

Ormao Dance Company in partnership with TESSA, a local organization focused on domestic violence and sexual assault prevention, will provide an in-school dance assembly program that is based on Gibney Dance Company's Hands are for Holding program. Gibney Dance Company, based in New York City, has worked with survivors of intimate partner violence for decades, but in 2013 they turned their sights not only to healing trauma, but to preventing that trauma from happening in the first place.

Thus Hands are for Holding was born. Using dance, conversation, interaction and movement, this program reaches students from elementary school to high school, and teaches them how to recognize abuse and where to go for help. And the program covers all corners. With four dances total, they address intimate partner violence, technological abuse, bullying and healthy relationship balance.

In the years since they debuted the program in 2014, Gibney has gone from 14 to 90 assemblies per year, and reached around 28,000 students, according to Yasemin Ozumerzifon, the company’s director of community action.

Janet Johnson, executive and artistic director of Ormao, says: “Gibney's Hands are for Holding provides a proactive and preventative approach to the social and emotional well-being of our youth. Dance provides this dynamic point of entry for meaningful dialogue.”

It is for this reason that she jumped on the chance to bring Hands are for Holding here; students in our area will be the first outside New York to benefit from the program,

Gibney dancers and directors recently flew to Colorado Springs for an intense five days with Ormao dancers, training them not only to perform the Hands are for Holding dances, but also training them to facilitate conversations with students around the dances. And it is here that the program’s true value becomes apparent. Contemporary dance can often be difficult for even adults to fully dissect and understand, but conversations after each dance ensure that the audience (no matter their age) sees what the movement represents, and give them vocabulary to talk meaningfully about the themes addressed by the performance.

At a launch event on July 10, representatives from Ormao, Gibney and TESSA presented a short version of the program to a room of donors and community partners and explained the program and its benefits.

Paige Gunning from TESSA says that through the Transforming Safety Grant, TESSA already offers presentations on domestic violence to area schools. But, she adds, presentations are not always effective. “And through Ormao, and in programs and partnerships, we can create a low-barrier access point for all students to have this information and to develop a conversation around healthy relationships.”

A survey distributed after assemblies in New York found that 90 percent of students reported that they now knew what to do if they found themselves in an unhealthy relationship. That is a promising statistic.

Because Hands are for Holding is not a fix-all solution to bullying and the beginnings of intimate partner violence, but a way to start meaningful conversation.

“We are all in relation to one another,” says Ozumerzifon. “Yet in many states, it's not mandatory to have a curriculum around healthy relationships. … But as you can see, this is such a need. I did not have this training 'til I was late into my 20s. And I did it only because of my work. And when I did it, I was like, 'I wish I had some of these tools when I was growing up, when I was a young person.'”

Ormao plans to roll out Hands are for Holding in four schools in the fall semester of 2019, expanding to 12 in the spring of 2020. They’re hoping to raise $20,000 more through donations to fund the program. See ormaodance.org for more information.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that there was a lack of data about the program's effectiveness. We regret the error.
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Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Knob Hill Urban Arts District sends Pride Month message, city responds

Posted By on Tue, Jun 25, 2019 at 3:03 PM

The rainbow crosswalk created by the Knob Hill Urban Arts District - PAES164
  • Paes164
  • The rainbow crosswalk created by the Knob Hill Urban Arts District
The group of artists that make up the Knob Hill Urban Arts District (the stretch of Platte Avenue between Union and Circle) may be street artists, but could hardly be considered misfits. As they’ve worked to beautify this area of central Colorado Springs that seldom gets attention for its art and culture, they have coordinated with the city and with local business owners to ensure that the art they create will not only function for the benefit of the artists, but the community as a whole.

Even so, as artist Paes164 puts it, “The city is growing so much, the city is super freaking busy. And for them to pay attention to us and what we're doing — we haven't gotten nothing back from them.”

So in this case, fellow artist Muji says they figured it might be easier, and faster, to ask for forgiveness rather than permission.

In an effort to celebrate Pride Month, the month of June, and the upcoming Colorado Springs PrideFest the first weekend of July, Paes and Muji, along with fellow artist Pikaso210, spent the night of June 24 dodging traffic à la Frogger at the intersection of Platte Avenue and Platte Place, hurriedly spray-painting the intersection’s crosswalk in the colors of the rainbow pride flag.

“You know, we're not the first to do this,” Paes says. “A lot of cities are doing the rainbow crosswalks. A lot of those crosswalks are getting put in art district areas, right? So you know, we're thinking about what can we do to show support for Pride Month.”

It fits into the district’s vision, to proclaim inclusivity and artistic engagement. They’re taking the motto of Colorado Springs hero Fannie Mae Duncan to heart: Everybody Welcome. Duncan, the once-purveyor of the long-defunct Cotton Club, is a local legend whose legacy was one of integration and tolerance. They’re honoring her with a mural just a few blocks away from the rainbow crosswalk. The portrait is being painted by artist Molly McClure, with other arts district members contributing text and design elements.

The owner of the building, according to Paes, is “an old white dude — partied at Fannie Mae’s spot back in the day.” He supports the mural fully.

Molly McClure paints Fannie Mae Duncan, visible to drivers along Platte Avenue. - ALISSA SMITH
  • Alissa Smith
  • Molly McClure paints Fannie Mae Duncan, visible to drivers along Platte Avenue.

Unfortunately for Knob Hill, the rainbow crosswalk was not received with as much enthusiasm by the city of Colorado Springs.

Merely an hour after I visited Paes and Muji at Creator Supreme, Paes’ studio, and less than 24 hours after the crosswalk was painted, Knob Hill sent the Indy an email saying the city was buffing out the paint.

Sure enough, by the time I arrived, half the crosswalk was gleaming white as alabaster, the other half proclaiming its Pride colors in stark contrast. On the north side of the street, members of the arts district looked on sadly while city workers sprayed away the paint, which apparently would have lasted a few months without intervention.

City workers remove the rainbow street art from the crosswalk at Platte Avenue and Platte Place. - ALISSA SMITH
  • Alissa Smith
  • City workers remove the rainbow street art from the crosswalk at Platte Avenue and Platte Place.
Muji says, “We did this for free, we brightened this place up for free, and the city is charging us [taxpayers] to make it white again.”

Among the abandoned buildings, empty businesses and half-full parking lots, all of which the arts district looks at as blank canvases and opportunities, Muji says the city could do with paying more attention to what happens in Knob Hill when they need potholes filled or other issues addressed. “We were hoping they’d leave it [the crosswalk] alone like they leave everything else here,” he says. In his eyes, if it weren’t for the media coverage, the city may never even have known about the crosswalk.

According to one of the workers on the scene, response times to cleanup calls can be anywhere from a few hours to a day. Around 1:50 p.m. when half the crosswalk had been cleaned up, he said he received this particular call at around noon.

He added that crosswalks need to be visible at night, and are painted with reflective beads to make them stand out. The rainbow paint, he said, would make those beads invisible in the dark.

As of right now, the artists don’t know what the next step is, whether they will attempt again to go through official channels to create an official rainbow crosswalk in the area, or if they will leave this as is.

But their message has still been sent, loud and clear: Everybody Welcome. Whether you can see it or not.

UPDATE: We reached out to the city for comment about policies and response times. The city's communications department replied that the city has guidance for pavement markings that must be adhered to: "Signage and Pavement Marking Guidelines. This guidance is a supplement to the national guidance provided by the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices."

The city's response to us also said that a resident had previously requested permission to paint the crosswalk in question, and the resident received the below "very clear" response from the city, included here in full:

Good morning,

Pavement markings in Colorado Springs follow the guidance set by the City’s Signage and Pavement Marking Guidelines. This guidance is a supplement to the national guidance provided by the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. It is our standard practice to not
deviate from these guidelines in the striping of public roadways.

Specifically with regards to crosswalks, The City’s marking guidelines for crosswalks require 1 to 2 foot wide white crosswalk lines across the intersection. Since crosswalks are a potential point of conflict between pedestrians and road users, we require all crosswalks to be striped by
our guidelines to provide consistency for both pedestrians and road users. For pedestrians, the crosswalk provides guidance by defining and delineating paths on approaches to and within intersections. For the road uses, the crosswalk alerts users of a designated pedestrian crossing point across a roadway. It is for these reasons that we do not deviate from the City’s marking guidelines as we feel that a deviation from these guidelines has the potential to create a safety hazard for both pedestrians and road users.

Thank you for your request,

Public Works Administrative Support
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Friday, May 31, 2019

Ent Center for the Arts presents diverse lineup for 2019-2020 Artist Series

Posted By on Fri, May 31, 2019 at 8:00 AM

Guangdong Modern Dance Company - COURTESY UCCS PRESENTS
  • Courtesy UCCS Presents
  • Guangdong Modern Dance Company

When Aisha Ahmad-Post, director of UCCS’ Ent Center for the Arts, curated the first UCCS Presents Artist Series, the Ent Center was still under construction, and she was still relatively new to this city. She says she put the first season and a half together “in a bubble,” though she had a clear and worthy objective: to bring diverse and conversation-starting performance art and music to Colorado Springs.

Now, as the Ent Center rolls out its Artist Series for 2019-2020, its second full season, Ahmad-Post’s confidence in her vision is well-deserved, and she’s got some impressive acts on the lineup to prove it. “I'm really excited about the about the diversity of voices and artistic experiences and traditions that are going to be part of the series,” she says.

The series is divided into five categories: Classical, Jazz, Cabaret, Dance and a new category that Ahmad-Post calls the “Global Get Down.” These are acts that could conceivably be placed in another category, yet showcase something vibrant and beautiful about another culture and its traditions and identities.

As a curator, she says, she struggles with putting performances into genres with arguable, or even problematic, interpretations. “And this Global Get Down series was really sort of my way to start working through as a curator: How can I eventually start to sort of blow away these boundaries and genres and let the music just sort of speak for itself?”

In the Global lineup, you’ll find such diverse acts as Slavic Soul Party, a Balkan brass band; A Celtic Family Christmas, Celtic fiddling; and Gaby Moreno, a Guatemalan singer-songwriter. But the diversity extends far beyond just the Global series, too.

Some of Ahmad-Post’s favorite acts on the lineup come from the dance category, including Guangdong Modern Dance Company, which explores the tradition of Chinese calligraphy through movement.

“Guangdong Modern Dance obviously is from China. But they take modern dance and then apply it to a more traditional art. And then Ballet Hispánico takes modern dance … then includes more traditional dance traditions from around Latin America. So you're using the form of modern dance to explore two different cultural traditions. That seems really important to me.”

Ballet Hispánico - COURTESY UCCS PRESENTS
  • Courtesy UCCS Presents
  • Ballet Hispánico

The dance category also includes Rubberband Dance Group, an innovative troupe that has forged its own style through modern and breakdance traditions; and AXIS Dance Company, the first dance group to highlight individuals with physical disabilities.

When it comes to music, Ahmad-Post, a “survivor of music school” herself, was very intentional about bringing different interpretations of classical music to the Ent Center stage, and ensuring that these acts were accessible. “And so, PUBLIQuartet felt really important to bring because I think they're doing an interesting thing when it comes to innovation and improvisation within a traditional classical music sphere,” she says, adding that they possibly could have been included in the jazz category, as well. It's a kind of classical music that we rarely, if ever, see in the Springs.

So no matter the genre of preference for Ent Center audiences, this season will likely break down boundaries and open up the stage to new voices. Among these voices, cabaret rockstar Justin Vivian Bond; guitarists Bill Frisell and Julian Lage performing a rare duo concert; The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Ian Neville and more presenting Take Me To the River: New Orleans Live; and plenty more.

Moreover, continuing a long-standing UCCS tradition of prologues and town halls to deepen understanding and engagement, the Artist Series will include community conversations and educational opportunities, many as-yet to be determined. “So we're going to have one [talk] on curating art in the political divide,” Ahmad-Post says. “I'd love to have a conversation at some point about audience expectations … And then, of course, conversations around the actual music, and work itself.”

Subscriptions are available for purchase now, including special packages. Keep an eye on the Ent Center’s social media pages for updates on talks and town halls, and see below for a full schedule of the 2019-2020 season:

GABY MORENO: AUGUST 22, 2019

RUBBERBAND DANCE GROUP: SEPTEMBER 26, 2019

TAKE ME TO THE RIVER: NEW ORLEANS LIVE!: OCTOBER 11, 2019

DEMARRE MCGILL: OCTOBER 19, 2019

CHARLES BUSCH: OCTOBER 26, 2019

BALLET HISPÁNICO: NOVEMBER 1, 2019

SLAVIC SOUL PARTY!: NOVEMBER 23, 2019

SPANISH HARLEM ORCHESTRA: DECEMBER 1, 2019

BILL FRISELL & JULIAN LAGE: DECEMBER 6, 2019

A CELTIC FAMILY CHRISTMAS: DECEMBER 18, 2019

GUANGDONG MODERN DANCE COMPANY: JANUARY 29, 2020

JUSTIN VIVIAN BOND: FEBRUARY 1, 2020

A FAR CRY: FEBRUARY 11, 2020

KAT EDMONSON: FEBRUARY 14, 2020
AXIS DANCE COMPANY: FEBRUARY 22, 2020

SAM BUSH: FEBRUARY 28, 2020

NICHOLAS PAYTON QUARTET: MARCH 7, 2020

PUBLIQUARTET: APRIL 2, 2020

MEOW MEOW: APRIL 17, 2020

EMANUEL AX: MAY 10, 2020
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Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Poet Jodie Hollander hosts local workshops for National Poetry Month

Posted By on Wed, Apr 10, 2019 at 12:56 PM

COURTESY JODIE HOLLANDER
  • Courtesy Jodie Hollander
Poet Jodie Hollander, author of The Humane Society and My Dark Horses, has made a mark everywhere she’s touched. From Australia, where she was included in multiple national poetry anthologies, to Italy, where she won a National Endowment for the Humanities grant, to South Africa, where she received a Fullbright Fellowship. Now living in Avon, Colorado, Hollander has made her mark on our state, too.

April, National Poetry Month, always proves to be Hollander's busiest month of the year. She spent the first week of the month in Flagstaff, Arizona, where she was the poet in residence at the Museum of Northern Arizona last year. Now, she’s coming to Colorado Springs to conduct four free workshops for local poets — and the poem-curious.

Hosted by Pikes Peak Library District at libraries across the city on April 12 and 13, Hollander’s workshops include a variety of topics: Poetry of Grief and Healing (East Library, April 12, 10 a.m.), Poetry of Place (Rockrimmon Library, April 12, 3 p.m.), and Poetry of Memory and Childhood (Penrose Library, April 13, 10 a.m. and Ute Pass Library, April 13, 1:30 p.m.)

“It's meaningful for me, not only as a teacher, but also as a poet, and really, as a person to see people able to sort of take things that maybe they've struggled with, or suffered from, and really transform them into something beautiful through poetry. And I think that poetry can serve so many different roles for people, all good,” Hollander says.
COURTESY JODIE HOLLANDER
  • Courtesy Jodie Hollander

These workshops, though taught by an internationally recognized poet, aren’t just for seasoned writers. In fact, Hollander emphasizes that no experience is necessary for any of her classes. “Sometimes I think people get intimidated by the word ‘poetry,’” she says. “And they're, you know, they might be interested in prose writing or fiction writing, and they've never done poetry … But I would just really encourage everyone who might be even just a little bit interested to come and try it out and see what poetry has to offer, because I think it has something for everyone.”

Hollander’s workshop style proves accessible, as well. She’ll start with some examples to learn from, some discussion of technique, and then writing prompts to get people started on creating their own poems. Participants are welcome to share at the end, but there is no obligation to.

More than anything, Hollander just wants people to experience what poetry can do for them. “Sometimes people don't realize how badly that they might need poem until they actually have that private moment with one,” she says, “whether that be reading or writing a poem. And then they realize really how transformative that experience can be for them.”

Celebrate National Poetry Month with Hollander at any of her weekend workshops, details below:
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Monday, March 18, 2019

Peak Arts Prize announces 2019 winners

Posted By on Mon, Mar 18, 2019 at 4:16 PM

Thom Phelps' ambitious art exhibit idea, A Farewell to Bees won the public's support in the category of "Individual Artists." - THOM PHELPS
  • Thom Phelps
  • Thom Phelps' ambitious art exhibit idea, A Farewell to Bees won the public's support in the category of "Individual Artists."

After receiving more than 1,800 votes in its public voting period, the Peak Arts Prize has selected its 2019 winners, getting ready to dole out grants equaling $15,000 to support new projects in local art.

Peak Arts Prize, run by the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region, with funds from the Pikes Peak Community Foundation’s Fund for the Arts, announced the winners of its second-annual contest on March 18. The three categories combined (large arts organization, small arts organization and individual artist) drew 33 applicants this year, and on March 1 the Peak Arts Prize judges selected three finalists for each category before opening up public voting.

In a press release, COPPeR deputy director Angela Seals says: “The community has chosen inspiring winners this year, whose projects will engage people in new ways with local art. Peak Arts Prize is all about community connection. We invite the public to watch for when the Prize winners’ projects unfold this year near you and attend, participate, and support the winners!”

See the winners and a short description of their projects below, from the press release:

LARGE ARTS ORGANIZATIONS
FORGING GENUINE HUMAN CONNECTIONS & EMBRACING EMPATHY
BY BLISS STUDIO & GALLERY

Bliss Studio & Gallery will present welding and iron pour workshops to introduce new local audiences to ironworking and spark conversations about empathy. Participants will collectively create a public art sculpture, led by Jodie Bliss and her team, culminating at the second annual Bliss Studio Iron Pour in Monument, CO.

SMALL ARTS ORGANIZATIONS
CREATIVITY LABS
BY THE UNSTEADY HAND – AN ARTIST COLLECTIVE

The Unsteady Hand will grow its artistic programs for people living with Parkinson’s Disease and their caregivers. Creativity Labs and an annual art show develop participants’ creative expression, fine motor skills, and community connections. They hope to reach many more Coloradans living with the disease.

INDIVIDUAL ARTISTS
A FAREWELL TO BEES
BY THOM PHELPS

Thom Phelps will sculpt a large dead bee out of steel to be the centerpiece of a local art exhibition engaging the public in discussion about bee extinction. The artist will raise public awareness about pollinator protection by provoking a collective, emotional response about the loss of bees.
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Friday, March 1, 2019

Peak Arts Prize individual artist finalists want to spark conversation and share stories

Posted By on Fri, Mar 1, 2019 at 1:00 AM

The Peak Arts Prize, a grant contest run by the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region and the Pikes Peak Community Foundation's Fund for the Arts, kicked off public voting for its second year on March 1, open through March 15.


Anyone in the community may take a look at the videos on Peak Arts Prize's page, and vote on the project they most want to fund in three categories: large arts organizations, small arts organizations, and individual artists.

We at the Indy chatted with each of the finalists in the individual artist category to learn more about their projects, what they wanted to do with the funds, and what value they feel their work will bring back to the community that invests in it.


See our print issue on Wednesday, March 6, for a chat with Angela Seals of COPPeR about changes made in the prize's second year.

Kailani Dobson: Atlas.Promisi

COURTESY KAILANI DOBSON
  • Courtesy Kailani Dobson
Local dancer Kailani Dobson proves unique among the finalists in this year’s Peak Arts Prize, as she has been here before. Last year, she and her project partners Robert Stokes and Bailey Wilde made it into the finals for their ambitious photography project. This year, however, Dobson’s proposal proves more personal.

“I lost my grandma last year in November,” Dobson says. “And she was a really big part of, like, why I do art and why I dance. And I was stuck with these weird kind of feelings of what to do with the promises that we had left with each other.” She asked herself whether or not she still had to follow through with the promises she had made, or if any of those promises changed now that her grandma had passed away. “I got interested in what other people would say if I asked them to share a promise with me.”

Since then, Dobson has been collecting written promises by leaving submission boxes at the coffee shop where she works, and asking friends to collect promises from people they know. These promises can be simple, Dobson says, the “tiny contracts we make in a day” like telling someone you’ll call them when you get home. But Dobson has collected promises that delve deeper, too. One promise reads simply, “Me time,” while another says, “I promise to live through you and for you, dad.”

“And after I started collecting them, I realized that it was this weird kind of untapped vulnerability in the community,” Dobson says, “and that people wanted to share these things, but they didn't have a platform.” She has collected more than 100 promises already.
Her project, Atlas.Promisi, aims to combine these hand-written notes into a physical art installation which will provide an environment for Dobson’s culminating performance. She plans to choreograph a dance to a custom soundscape, all inspired by the promises she has received. But that’s far from the last of it. In conjunction with the project, Dobson will host workshops to help people tap into whatever their promises happen to bring up — memories, sadness, joy, guilt — any emotion that needs an outlet. She hosted her first workshop already at Ormao Dance Studio, and encouraged people to explore their promises through journaling and movement. 
KAILANI DOBSON
  • Kailani Dobson


Should Dobson receive the Individual Artists grant from Peak Arts Prize, she hopes to spruce up her submission boxes and place them in more locations throughout town, and to make the workshops more accessible to the wider community by traveling them to different locations. Then, later, she will use some grant money to copy and bind these promises in a book so everyone who anonymously submitted their promise may take home a piece of the project. “They can also see the vulnerability of the entire community … all the other things people are struggling with,” she says.


Thom Phelps: A Farewell to Bees

COURTESY THOM PHELPS
  • Courtesy Thom Phelps

Thom Phelps may have gotten his start in cartooning, and may consider himself a cartoonist at heart, but over the course of his career his artwork has taken plentiful turns. For decades he worked in graphic design, and more recently he has become a prolific sculptor.

His sculptural works can be spotted throughout town, such as the “Giving Tree,” crafted in steel and stone, situated outside Giving Tree Montessori School, or “High Plains Desert Flower,” a sculpture purchased by the city of Colorado Springs in 2017 to occupy a flower planter near Acacia Park on Tejon Street.

Phelps’ most ambitious sculpture project to-date, though, will take on a different kind of design, moving away from his usual abstract works to focus on a poignant image that he hopes will spark conversation. “We love bees,” Phelps says. “I love bees … and they're usually such a sweet image. But then when you see one dead, you know, it kind of hits us viscerally.”
After seeing a great many articles about the slow extinction of Earth’s pollinators, then conducting his own research into the depth and breadth of the problem and its controversies, Phelps was struck by this image of the dead bee as a representation of climate change and our planet’s future. “The conversation needs to be made, and I think it should be a conversation about the image ... And I personally feel very strongly about it, but I wanted to come at it from a sense of 'well, let's look at this objectively.'”

He hopes to recruit other artists for a gallery show, to be titled A Farewell to Bees. Whether contributing artists and visiting community members believe bee extinction is a genuine problem or a natural process whose impact is up for dispute, Phelps simply wants people to talk about what the bee means to us.
THOM PHELPS
  • Thom Phelps
Should Phelps win the Peak Arts Prize this year, he plans to put most of the money into the centerpiece of “A Farewell to Bees,” a massive steel sculpture of a dead bee, legs curled as it lies on its back. With any extra funds, he hopes to compensate other artists contributing to the gallery show, and perhaps offer a cash prize for an opening night “people’s choice” award.

He believes drawing attention to this in Colorado Springs, especially, can be valuable, because this city hosts so many different viewpoints.

“You've got the, you know, the right and the left, right here on … the environment and climate and GMO and all these different topics; this is a great place to have that kind of conversation.” He hopes being confronted with such visceral imagery may encourage people to “be more aware of the images that you are taking in, that are being put in front of your eyes — and not necessarily ‘be wary,’ but be aware.”

Adam Williams: Humanitou 2.0

Xanthe Alexis, photographed for Humanitou - ADAM WILLIAMS
  • Adam Williams
  • Xanthe Alexis, photographed for Humanitou
Three years ago around Christmas, photographer Adam Williams moved from St. Louis with his family to Manitou Springs. Both he and his wife worked from home, and they struggled to find ways to engage meaningfully with their new community. However, with a background in journalism, and with an entire town of creative, fascinating individuals surrounding him, Williams hatched an idea for a project to not only connect him to the community, but to allow him to share that community’s stories with the world.

In 2017, Williams launched Humanitou, a website where he has since collected almost 60 interviews with Manitou Springs locals, especially the town’s artists. But these interviews don’t just scratch the surface of what these people do for a living or how they make their art. Williams doesn’t document small-talk or chit-chat. “I want to get at the heart of how they see life, maybe where they — well, definitely where they've learned that from. That comes from life experiences.” He mentions a 65-year-old man he interviewed recently who lost both of his parents suddenly when he was only 15. “You know, these are things that really have influenced him, of course, through the rest of his life,” Williams says. “And I think when we talk about those things, that can be about resiliency, struggle, can be about love and marriage, or any kind of relationship that people are in.”
Williams has interviewed some of the area’s biggest names, from nationally recognized artist Floyd D. Tunson to prolific illustrator Charles Rockey to drummer and dancer Dallo Fall. But Williams wants to spread the wings of this project, and he wants Peak Arts Prize’s help to do it.

Dallo Fall, photographed for Humanitou - ADAM WILLIAMS
  • Adam Williams
  • Dallo Fall, photographed for Humanitou

“The 'humanness' aspect of [Humanitou] is about inclusivity and diversity in every way that we can think of that,” Williams says. “So I want that in age, and I want in race, and I want it in religion and I want it and sex and gender matters, and just every way that a person, you know, holds their story.” His goal is to expand into Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region at large, and to open up both the audience and the participants in order to better share the region’s stories.

Of his project’s importance, Williams speaks with passion for the people he has met, and those he hopes to meet as Humanitou breaks out into its next phase: “Humanitou is about those connections of humanness especially, and creativity. And I think especially in the current ongoing climate of negativity, division, fear, anger — it's probably fair to even say, hatred — then to have this project be about bringing us together, to learn about each other, to hear from voices we're not necessarily always connecting with, whether that's socially or professionally, I think it's important that there be a project that focuses on the common ground of our humanity.”
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Thursday, February 14, 2019

Art on the Streets sculpture vandalized, Downtown Ventures searching for missing piece

Posted By on Thu, Feb 14, 2019 at 4:26 PM

COURTESY DOWNTOWN VENTURES
  • Courtesy Downtown Ventures

Though Downtown’s Art on the Streets program has seen isolated incidents of vandalism and theft, generally the community has been respectful of the public art on loan to the city from the program's many contributing artists. Unfortunately, the Downtown Partnership announced on Feb. 13 that a piece of the 20th anniversary Art on the Streets exhibit has been stolen.

The sculpture, You, Light as a Cloud, was created by South Korean artist Byeong Doo Moon, and depicts a large cat sitting on a bench beside an unlikely friend, a small snipe. It is the snipe that has fallen victim to thievery, as it is reportedly no longer attached to the sculpture and has gone missing.

You, Light as a Cloud, which can be found at Boulder Crescent Park on Cascade Avenue, is valued at $70,000, but according to a Downtown Partnership press release, “because the bird was stolen, it is considered incomplete and no longer valid for sale. Downtown Ventures, the nonprofit organization that runs the Art on the Streets program, is seeking the public’s help to find the stolen bird.”

According to their Facebook page, the Downtown Partnership has already contacted scrap metal businesses and the Colorado Springs Police Department in their search for the snipe, but they hope to enlist the public’s help in finding the stolen bird.


From the press release:

“In the past, vandals of another public artwork were identified through a public call for information, so we’re hoping someone who knows about this incident will come forward,” said [Urban Engagement Manager Claire] Swinford.

“It is especially disheartening to see this sculpture vandalized. This artist worked with local donors to have another of his sculptures – a stunning wire deer titled I have been dreaming to be a tree – acquired and gifted to the city’s permanent collection of public art,” said Swinford. In fact, the artist so appreciated the beauty and friendliness of our community when he visited that he applied for a visa to move here with his family. Swinford continued, “It is a shame that such a talented person, who so admires our community and who so badly wants to be part of it, would have his generosity repaid in such a selfish, uncaring way.”

If anyone has any information as to the bird’s whereabouts or any information that could lead to a suspect, the Downtown Partnership asks that you call 719/886-0088.

COURTESY DOWNTOWN VENTURES
  • Courtesy Downtown Ventures
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Thursday, January 24, 2019

Anniversary exhibits showcase dynamic history of Fine Arts Center

Posted By on Thu, Jan 24, 2019 at 3:26 PM

Anniversaries can mean different things — joy, remembrance, even sorrow. For the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College, their year-long 100th anniversary celebration seeks to honor the rich cultural history of the region, and the people and events that shaped its growth from the Broadmoor Art Academy in 1919 to the FAC in 1936, and beyond.


For curator of modern and contemporary art, Joy Armstrong, this means crafting a series of four museum exhibits that tell a story of always-evolving artistic ideals across a century.

O Beautiful! Shifting Landscapes of the Pikes Peak Region follows a timeline from around 1870-1970, examining the earliest artists in the region, why they came and how their artistic ideals started to coalesce. In those early years, tracing the artists is fairly equivalent to tracing the history of the academy and FAC. They were founding personalities, board members and key figures in the transition from the academy to FAC, helping develop the region’s art identity.
Another component of the exhibit is “shifting perspectives,” sidebars that provoke attendees to be critical of historical truth, reexamine the art from our modern perspective and explore their own alternative viewpoints.

The second exhibit opening of the year, Scenes from Life: Drawings by Bernard Arnest, is a series of 51 large drawings that showcase his reactions to a world he decided was essentially tragic.

“[Scenes] is really a demonstration of his thoughtfulness as an artist,” Armstrong says. “They are difficult works to be with — he was responding to the global events of the '70s — but they feel contemporary.”

Arnest served as both the head of the FAC Art School (which became the Colorado College Art Department) and professor of art at Colorado College.

Bernard Arnest instructs a class, circa 1950-60s. - COURTESY OF THE COLORADO COLLEGE SPECIAL COLLECTIONS
  • Courtesy of the Colorado College Special Collections
  • Bernard Arnest instructs a class, circa 1950-60s.

Notes from the Musick Collection will open Aug. 3. Archie Musick was a student at the academy, and had relationships with many of the founding characters. He even published a book — Musick Medley: Intimate Memories of a Rocky Mountain Art Colony, which looks at his experiences and local contemporaries in an entertaining tabloid format.

In concert with his daughter Pat, the exhibit will focus on the family collection Archie accumulated through the years, which includes art but also historical FAC artifacts, including diaries, announcements and postcards.

The Broadmoor Art Academy and Its Legacy, 1919-1970 will premiere in the middle of Arts Month this October, focusing on how the artists that studied and worked in the area influenced each other, and how that influence spread throughout the country and across time. It’ll include private and public works, with pieces from the Smithsonian and Denver Art Museum.

“This will really demonstrate the influence of the academy,” Armstrong says. “It’ll look at the art artists brought with them to the region and what they learned and experienced while they were here, and what they did when they moved on. There was a really powerful impact on the development of American art identity.”

A class of the Broadmoor Art Academy out and about. - LAURA GILPIN, ©AMON CARTER MUSEUM, COURTESY OF THE FINE ARTS CENTER
  • Laura Gilpin, ©Amon Carter Museum, Courtesy of the Fine Arts Center
  • A class of the Broadmoor Art Academy out and about.

This exhibit will also explore how artistic approaches that are now widely accepted may have been reviled and misunderstood in their time.

“We can look to the past to come to terms with the styles,” Armstrong says. “There is this continuity in the continuum of art history — if we can understand where things come from, then hopefully we can at least appreciate them.”

Part of Armstrong’s work is to look forward, to where she sees the FAC in the future, both through these exhibits and beyond.


“We are product of what has come before. [These shows] allow us an opportunity to see what they are as part of the era gone by, though they may be offensive or shocking now. We don’t condone them, but we can dig into them and attempt to understand where they come from and where they’ve gone,” Armstrong says.

One of the growing challenges for cultural institutions Armstrong sees is growing competition for time, attention and dollars.

“We can no longer expect that when we do something we feel is important, that people will come to us,” Armstrong says. “We have to ask questions of ourselves and be open to criticism.”

The Fine Arts Center lobby in the 1930s. - COURTESY OF THE COLORADO COLLEGE SPECIAL COLLECTIONS
  • Courtesy of the Colorado College Special Collections
  • The Fine Arts Center lobby in the 1930s.

Beyond preserving the existing collection and remembering their core values, Armstrong hopes the FAC seeks out new opportunities — to intentionally reach new audiences and serve the whole community, take risks with challenging and provocative work, and utilize technology to evolve the role of the museum. And, fight the notion that a museum is full of dusty objects that you possibly can’t relate to. It is a place for learning, connecting, experiencing and growing.

“There are different ways to view what a museum does. It’s a shift from museum as temple, playground of the elite, and exclusive to museum as classroom, community center,” she says.

“I’ll be disappointed if, in 100 years, we are what we are today.”

But why, now, come to the FAC?

“People from any background can develop a relationship with something that will leave an impact," Armstrong says. "You won’t like everything, but there will be something you fall in love with.”

Exhibit Schedule
Through 2019 | O Beautiful! Shifting Landscapes of the Pikes Peak Region
Through June 9 | Scenes from Life: Drawings by Bernard Arnest
Opening Aug. 3 | Notes from the Musick Collection
Opening Oct. 12 | The Broadmoor Art Academy and Its Legacy, 1919-1970

Public Open House & Museum Free Day - 100th Anniversary Kick-Off Event
Saturday, January 26

  • Guided tours of featured exhibitions O Beautiful! Shifting Landscapes of the Pikes Peak Region and Scenes of Everyday Life: Drawings by Bernard Arnest at 12 and 12:30 p.m.
  • One-act play reading of the first play performed by the Academy Players in 1919, Suppressed Desires, in the galleries at 1 and 3 p.m.
  • Hands-on art activities and demonstrations 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Complimentary hot beverages and sweet treats 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Taste open for lunch 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Jonathan Toman serves as the Peak Radar Manager for the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region. PeakRadar.com connects you to over 4,500 local events, 450 creative groups, & 350 artists — all in one beautiful website for the Pikes Peak region. Jonathan can be reached at jonathan@culturaloffice.org.

To sign up for the weekly Peak Radar Picks email, which includes 8-10 great local events, click here.
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Friday, December 14, 2018

Independence Center's Art of Accessibility program honored by Colorado Business Committee for the Arts

Posted By on Fri, Dec 14, 2018 at 5:16 PM

CAYC WOLFF
  • CayC Wolff

On Dec. 11, the Colorado Business Committee For the Arts, which encourages collaboration between businesses and arts organizations in order to elevate the arts throughout Colorado, announced its 2019 Business for the Arts Award honorees.

Among the six winners: The Independence Center, an Indy Give! nonprofit based right here in Colorado Springs. The Independence Center provides resources, services and community events to people living with disabilities in the Pikes Peak region, and advocates for their rights. Among their diverse programs, which include independent living services, health care resources and more, they offer an “Art of Accessibility” program.

Here’s what The Independence Center has to say about the program, in part:

Over the past two years, the Art of Accessibility initiative has invited and celebrated local people with disabilities as practitioners of art. By using the Independence Center itself as a pop-up gallery, the greater Colorado Springs community has been empowered to consider those questions of access and inclusion through the inviting and universal lens of art.

Though arts programming falls well outside its mission or range of experience, the Independence Center used this outreach tool more and more effectively with each successive iteration of the Art of Accessibility (AoA), which grew from a one-off exhibit into a semiannual festival of inclusive creative expression, from tactile paintings to adaptive fashion design to music and dance. At each juncture the arts served as a font of joy and a tool for advocacy, with intriguing results.

We wrote about one of AoA’s initiatives recently, a photo project meant to document barriers to accessibility throughout the community, as well as situations in which people with disabilities felt empowered and seen.

The CBCA honored The Independence Center for the entirety of the Art of Accessibility initiative, which will no doubt help the organization create their template “so other communities across Colorado can use their local arts scene as a driver for inclusion. “

Awards will be given to all honorees at a luncheon in March at the Denver Performing Arts Complex. See the full list of honorees on the CBCA website.
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Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Moxie adds art gallery, exhibits Springs artist Beth Eckel

Posted By on Wed, Dec 5, 2018 at 1:12 PM

BETH ECKEL
  • Beth Eckel
Nearly a full year after its 2017 opening, local restaurant Moxie still has a lot going on — more, even, since they have officially established themselves as a staple of Springs vegan eating. Owned by Nissa and Mike Buth who also own Ola Juice Bar, Moxie has added a reliable plant-based dining option to the Eighth Street corridor, which — a bit south of Moxie — is also home to vegan eatery Burrowing Owl.

This week, Moxie will launch a new aspect of the business: the Moxie Art Gallery. Nissa Buth says this is the restaurant’s first big structural addition. “We’ve always had that [an art gallery] in mind, but it’s just been put on the back-burner so we can get restaurant operations where we want them,” Buth says.

She enlisted the help of her father, Dan Wecks, to establish the gallery space. He brings plenty of experience and expertise to the table, having worked with the Business of Arts Center (now the Manitou Arts Center), the Kennedy Center and Imagination Celebration.

Opening Dec. 6, the Moxie Art Gallery will feature its first artist: recent Colorado Springs transplant Beth Eckel. Hailing from Dallas, Texas, Eckel works in mixed media, creating unique realistic artwork on a canvas of book pages and sheet music.

Opening night will also feature a special Moxie menu, so you can enjoy some vegan fare with your art.

Buth says they plan to rotate artists monthly, and she encourages local artists to get in touch if they are interested in exhibiting on Moxie’s walls. Interested artists can get in touch through Moxie’s website.

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Monday, December 3, 2018

Peak Arts Prize hosts information session for interested artists and organizations

Posted By on Mon, Dec 3, 2018 at 8:54 AM

peak-arts-prize-final-logo.png
In early 2018, the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region and the Pikes Peak Community Foundation launched a competitive grant initiative, the Peak Arts Prize, aimed at funding the pursuits of local artists and art organizations.

In three categories — large organizations, small organizations and individual artists — the program chose three finalists and opened voting to the public to choose winners. These winners were awarded prizes ranging from $2,500 to $7,500 to fund their pursuits.

Locals who want to get in on some of that sweet funding action might consider attending an information session on Dec. 4, 3:30-4:30 p.m. at the Tim Gill Center for Public Media. Last year’s winners will be on-hand to answer questions, including representatives from the Chamber Orchestra of the Springs (large organization), Colorado Street Art Company (small organization) and Jasmine Dillavou (individual artist).

While the Peak Arts Prize will not begin accepting applications until Jan. 10, this Q&A and info session should help artists begin to shape their ideas.

More information, including application requirements and last year’s winning video applications, can be found on the Peak Arts Prize website.

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Friday, September 28, 2018

Pikes Peak Litter Letter project draws attention to trash in local waterways

Posted By on Fri, Sep 28, 2018 at 1:46 PM

Concrete Couch has begun assembling the 3D letters to fill with litter. - ALISSA SMITH
  • Alissa Smith
  • Concrete Couch has begun assembling the 3D letters to fill with litter.
Unlikely pairings tend to spring up during Arts Month, an annual initiative by the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region to fill the month of October with artistic experiences. During Arts Month, organizations of all kinds, even those that don’t tend to focus on art, contribute space for art events, lend their name and supporter base to arts organizations, or even partner with those organizations to make something unique. One such partnership: The Cultural Office itself and the Pikes Peak Outdoor Recreation Alliance.

Together, the two organizations have established the Pikes Peak Litter Letter Project, modeled after the national Litter Letter Project — with permission, a press release specifies. “[The] local Pikes Peak Litter Letter Project aims to inspire artistic creativity, inspire passion for the outdoors, and inspire environmental stewardship by creating a public art piece that focuses on the efforts to keep our public lands and waterways clean,” the release reads.

The creation of this public art piece included another local arts organization, Concrete Couch, which has assembled giant, 3D letters out of recycled metal. The letters spell the word “INSPIRE.” Volunteers cleaning up public lands and waterways during Creek Week (which runs Sept. 29-Oct. 6), will fill these letters with litter and display them throughout the month at the intersection of Highway 24 and 21st Street.

Watch the final letter come together at the dedication ceremony on Wednesday, Oct. 3, at 11:30 a.m. Colorado Springs mayor John Suthers and Colorado Tourism Office Director Cathy Ritter will be there to make it official.

Little litter is off-limits. - ALISSA SMITH
  • Alissa Smith
  • Little litter is off-limits.
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Thursday, September 20, 2018

Fine Arts Center town hall will address historic (and problematic) murals

Posted By on Thu, Sep 20, 2018 at 4:40 PM

COURTESY COLORADO SPRINGS FINE ARTS CENTER AT COLORADO COLLEGE
  • Courtesy Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College

The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College
contains a great deal of history — not just the items in its museum or the historical art pieces in its permanent collection, but also its own history as an institution. It celebrates its 100th anniversary next year.

But a lot has changed within the last century, and the FAC is not blind to the fact that aspects of its public art must be held up to modern scrutiny. Specifically, the FAC wants to address murals within the building that contain “problematic content,” according to Colorado College art professor Rebecca Tucker. This problematic content tends to relate to portrayals of race.

“They [the murals] are part of the historic fabric of our structure, and have been there since the 1930s,” she says, adding that “these are important pieces for us, part of our history, literally attached to our walls. They’re made by artists who are important in the region; they’re important to the FAC’s own history.”

However, the FAC understands that the historical significance of these murals is not the only important aspect of them, as modern interpretation has changed the way they’re viewed and received. While the FAC and Colorado College have had internal and campus conversations about how best to live with the murals, they have decided to open up the conversation to the community.

Their upcoming town hall, “Race, History and the Arts at the FAC and Beyond” is meant to give the public an opportunity to talk about these murals and what to do with them, in the context of a larger national conversation that has sprung up largely around Confederate statues and other such public art.

“I see this as an ongoing conversation about this really fundamental human question,” Tucker says. “How do we live with our past?”

While hiding the murals is an option, and the FAC currently uses curtains to keep them under wraps but accessible, it is not the only option. Tucker says they are open to community ideas, whether it means commissioning an artist to respond to the murals or approving a different, yet-unknown solution.

The town hall, co-hosted by the FAC and Colorado College’s Butler Center, will include four practitioners that Tucker hesitates to call panelists, who will provide different perspectives on the issue, but the conversation will largely be steered by community participants.

“We don’t have any easy solutions,” Tucker says. “I don’t think anybody right now has any easy solutions, but if there is a solution, it’s getting people together to talk about things that can be challenging.”

Attendees must RSVP for the town hall, which will be held at the Fine Arts Center’s restaurant TASTE on Sept. 24, 5 p.m. Light refreshments will be served.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Gallery Below's Art Parties are for all artists to come and play

Posted By on Wed, Aug 29, 2018 at 9:00 AM

Arty Party, Aug. 30, 7-10 p.m., The Gallery Below, 718B N. Weber St., $5, facebook.com/thegallerybelow. - JON BATAILLE
  • Jon Bataille
  • Arty Party, Aug. 30, 7-10 p.m., The Gallery Below, 718B N. Weber St., $5, facebook.com/thegallerybelow.
Got an ongoing art project that you can’t seem to find time or inspiration to finish? Looking to dip into different mediums but don’t know where to start? The Gallery Below isn’t just a place for artists to display their work — it’s also for artists of all skill levels and genres who come to play. These last-Thursday Arty Parties come with a built-in group of supportive artists, as well as materials to experiment with (though folks are obviously welcome to bring their own). Surrounded by the artwork on the walls (currently The Weird and Wonderful World of Joshua Coates), attendees can get inspired, listen to music and — for a little extra inspiration — partake in some adult beverages.
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