A look back at some of the Springs' biggest art happenings in 2017 

click to enlarge Murray Ross changed local arts - COURTESY CSBJ
  • Courtesy CSBJ
  • Murray Ross changed local arts

Arts community remembers Murray Ross (Jan. 3)

In 1975, Murray Ross co-founded TheatreWorks, UCCS' professional theater company, the first in a long career of accomplishments that would prove to have an immeasurable impact on our arts community. When Ross passed away at 74 on Jan. 3, countless friends, family members, students, colleagues and collaborators honored his memory by sharing stories on social media, recounting his influence on their lives, their careers and the trajectory of local arts. In part, he was remembered for the shows he directed and produced — well over 100 in the Springs alone — and his passion for bringing professional Shakespearean productions to the region. But beyond his professional accomplishments, he was remembered for the support, humor, drive and determination that he gave selflessly to the creative community. Former Indy columnist John Hazlehurst said at the time of Ross' passing: "He taught thousands of students, entertained tens of thousands of Colorado Springs residents, and lifted a hundred thousand hearts."

click to enlarge Millibo honored - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Millibo honored

Local poets give voice to a nation's fears (Jan. 20)

President Donald Trump's inauguration — and the wave of protest that followed — set the tone for 2017, which has been a challenging year for everyone, no matter what side of the aisle you're screaming from. But powerful emotion inspires incredible creativity, and Trump has not gone unchallenged by our local artistic community. Poets Nico Wilkinson (community organizer and occasional Indy contributor) and Idris Goodwin (CC professor and playwright), along with printmaker Han Sayles, channeled their outrage into Inauguration, a chapbook of poems addressing the political/cultural landscape. Wilkinson and Goodwin's heart-stopping verse expresses the fear and anger felt by many minority Americans, but it also expresses hope in unity. Winner of the 2017 Pikes Peak Arts Council Award in the category of "collective/individual published work," Inauguration will soon be re-released with new limited-edition print copies, offering poetic respite from whatever 2018 has in store. Wilkinson's words (from their poem "fireworks") continue to resonate, nearly a year later: "angry is the most patriotic thing / we can be."

click to enlarge PPLD + punks = Flux - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • PPLD + punks = Flux

Colorado College and the Fine Arts Center join forces on the timely Force/Resistance (Feb. 22)

Force/Resistance was the first collaborative exhibit between IDEA space curator Jessica Hunter-Larsen and Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art Joy Armstrong, a symbol of unity between old and new administrations as the Fine Arts Center at Colorado College entered its first year as a college-run museum. The product is an exhibit that spoke to the intersection of race, ethnicity and government, a subject all those involved wish were a less timely issue. The exhibit amplified black and native voices, featuring works by local artist Floyd D. Tunson, UCCS alumnus Dáreece Walker, and Dwanna Robertson, CC assistant professor of race, ethnicity, and migration studies. Their works looked at state-sponsored racist violence from 1492 to the 2016 presidential election.

"I wish we could look at this from a totally historical lens," said Hunter-Larsen, "but these incidents are still happening and we need to keep talking about them."

click to enlarge Poets spoke truth to power - ALTA VISCOMI
  • Alta Viscomi
  • Poets spoke truth to power

Cybercy exhibit explores questions of self in the information age (May 3)

From an information perspective, the line between the physical and digital self blurs more every day. That was the question at the core of Cybercy, one of the more philosophical art exhibitions of 2017. Curated by UCCS student and former Rubbish Gallery owner Caitlin Goebel and GOCA director/curator Daisy McGowan, the exhibit was on display at the UCCS downtown Gallery of Contemporary Art between May and June. The exhibit curated three works: Psychic Barber, a performance piece; American Reflexxx, a film; and W3Fi, an immersive installation.

"When we think about a cyber situation, something like cybersecurity or cyber-shopping, [the algorithms that make them work] function in the way that a self-fulfilling prophecy does," says Goebel. If someone shops on a given website, when they log in to Facebook, all of their targeted ads will be from that website.

"Every move you make is fulfilled by your previous self," she says, "and your future self is still fulfilling your previous self."

click to enlarge Manitou Springs got creative - TMDEXTER PHOTOGRAPHY
  • TMDexter Photography
  • Manitou Springs got creative

Manitou Creative District finally gets its street cred (June 13)

We were all surprised (and admittedly confused) in 2016, when Manitou Springs was denied a creative district certification by Colorado Creative Industries. Thankfully the Manitou Springs Creative District was confirmed by CCI this June, marking a win for the determined community. With the certification comes $10,000 in matching funding, plus $2,000 to go toward a wayfinding and signage plan, $1,500 worth of professional training, and "street cred," according to Manitou Art Center director Natalie Johnson. Already the creative district has helped secure a $100,000 grant to establish a creek walk trail, partnered with Ormao Dance Company for a recent site-specific performance, decorated the town with creative holiday lights, and begun discussions with Old Colorado City and downtown Colorado Springs about establishing a creative corridor to link the three communities. Though the CCI perks may be different each year, Johnson says, "We took advantage of every single one. ... We're using this. If they're offering support or funding, we're grabbing it all."

click to enlarge Psychic Barber, part of Cybercy. - COURTESY GOCA
  • Courtesy GOCA
  • Psychic Barber, part of Cybercy.

Pikes Peak Library District houses DIY stalwarts Flux Capacitor (July 12)

2016 was rough on DIY spaces. The Springs lost Flux Capacitor, Mountain Fold Books and Rooted Studio, leaving a good portion of the Springs' underground arts scene feeling lost and scrambling for space. But members of the Flux community didn't just grumble and accept defeat; they reached out — including Kate Perdoni and Brian Elyo, who frequently performed at Flux. They set up a town hall meeting to look for new venue options, packing the Tim Gill Center with the Flux community and drawing attention from mainstream arts voices, including PPLD's Executive Director John Spears. Spears and Perdoni came up with the idea to use the Knights of Columbus Hall building next to Penrose Library for Flux shows, and broader plans for the venue grew from there. Today, the space hosts regular shows, arts events and more.

click to enlarge Force/Resistance - FLOYD D.T UNSON
  • Floyd D.T unson
  • Force/Resistance

COPPeR and the Pikes Peak Arts Council fund pop-up arts performances (Oct. 4)

As part of Arts Month, the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region (COPPeR) and the Pikes Peak Arts Council (PPAC) undertook a $10,000 partnership to fund free pop-up arts performances throughout the region, called ArtPOP. It was the first time that COPPeR's Arts Month funds went to pay artists directly. According to COPPeR Executive Director Andy Vick, that's because it's very difficult to find grants to fund artists — government agencies rarely pay for art directly, so the onus is on private donors and endowments. Through ArtPOP, COPPeR's dollars and PPAC's staff hours did double duty, funding local artists and promoting Arts Month by engaging communities in places that don't usually host arts exhibits. As long as the funding's available, Vick hopes to not only repeat the event but expand it next year.


Millibo takes home national honor and a good hunk of cash (Oct. 10)

The Millibo Art Theatre's Sweet 16 season got a little sweeter this October, with the announcement of a prestigious national grant. The American Theatre Wing (the same group responsible for a little theatrical hoopla called The Tony Awards) selected nine theaters across the country to benefit from their National Theatre Company Grants; the MAT was one. Sharing the honor with theater companies in such artistic hotspots as New York City and Chicago, the MAT now has a national commendation to prove what locals already knew — this place puts on good theater. Dedicated to new and original productions for kids and adults, the MAT prides itself on its ingenuity, presenting world premieres, plays by local playwrights and performers, and variety shows that promote local talent of all kinds. This $10,000 grant will help fund not only the MAT's original shows, but their education and outreach as well.


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