As a kid, I was a bit of an anomaly. My grandfather created wood carvings, but, otherwise, I seemed to pop up out of nowhere – an artist born to an accountant and an engineer. An oddball, but never a misfit. My parents could not have been more supportive.
My family moved to the countryside of Black Forest when I was three, but Mom and Dad schlepped me across miles of ranch land and persevered to the core of the city. There, they introduced me to the Bemis School of Art, a creative community that has inspired artists for a century since its beginning as The Broadmoor Art Academy, founded in 1919 on land donated by Spencer and Julie Penrose. With artist Boardman Robinson at its helm as the first director, the Art Academy quickly earned a national reputation and established itself as the cultural heart of Colorado Springs.
In 1936, the art academy morphed into the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center (CSFAC), housed in a new structure designed by architect John Gaw Meem. The complex, encompassing an art school, theater, and museum, married the old pueblo style of the Southwest and the Spanish mission style in what was known as the Santa Fe style, a perfect showcase for one of the finest collections of American Southwest art in the world, founded on the donations of Alice Bemis Taylor.
In 2007, the CSFAC expanded from 48,000 to more than 100,000 square feet with an addition designed by Denver architect, David Owen Tryba.
Of course, as an eight-year-old kid, I had no idea of Bemis’s storied past. All I cared about was that I had found my tribe. I felt at home there, shaping ceramic dragons and coil pots and learning how to paint and draw. Stumbling into magic.
It was only when life came full circle in September 2018 that I realized the incredible heritage of this place that had nurtured my fledgling dreams of becoming an artist. With three out of four kids graduated from high school and two living on their own, I contemplated re-joining the workforce. An opening at the CSFAC, which had been acquired by Colorado College about two years prior, caught my eye: Patron Experience Guide. With that rather obscure job title, I decided to investigate. Not many months after commencing the job, on a crowded Saturday, I welcomed people to the 100th celebration of the CSFAC.
Encapsulating my love for people and for art, I walk its galleries several times each week in the role of what is affectionately known as a “PEG,” engaging patrons in conversation and protecting the art. All whilst admiring the enduring beauty of the architecture, the ever-changing inspiration of one exhibit chasing the heels of another, and most of all, the stunning artistry of the people who walk its halls.
On quiet days, sometimes I create art from art (with a cell phone and an app, Pixlr) – admiring shadows that shine as masterpieces in and of themselves or searching out alternative viewpoints for artwork that starts out novel but can become everyday as an exhibit continues.
But, most of all, engaging the magic and mystery of the people who come and go within its historic shapes and textures.