Leah Veldhuisen ’19
Until this year, Colorado College has not had a spoken word poetry group. Now, thanks to the inspiration of Eliza Mott ’16 and Hollis Schmidt ’17, CC has its own troupe for spoken word. In its inaugural year, SpeakEasy was recently awarded “Excellence in Poetry Programming” by the Pikes Peak Arts Council, granting the group an honorary membership within the council and official recognition within the Colorado Springs art community, an accolade featured recently by the Catalyst.
Mott and Schmidt began the group in Fall 2016, but both had been thinking about it long before then. As Schmidt, the vice president of the group, SpeakEasy, says, the community of spoken word “just didn’t exist at CC. There were a few workshops for poetry, but nothing like slam poetry or spoken word.” For Mott, SpeakEasy’s president, her inspiration to start the group came last year, when Yolany Gonell, director of residential life and campus activities, began the “I am” poetry performance. Mott says that “the impact of that performance on myself, the other performers, and the students who watched, was incredible.” Mott says she wanted to continue to share the experience of spoken word with others and, while performing at other open mic events, noticed that there were other talented poets at CC. Schmidt and Mott recognized the lack of “space for these poets to gather” on CC’s campus.
With these ideas in mind, Mott began collaborating with Gonell and Schmidt, and SpeakEasy began to come together. Both students had their own visions for the group, but at the core, their goal was to create a place for students to come together to write and perform poetry that explores interesting and sometimes difficult topics. As a creative writing major with an emphasis on poetry, Schmidt says she hopes to provide a community “outside of the academic classroom where students can be creative and also be held accountable for continuing to write.” Mott says her goal for the group is to “create spoken word poetry and art that addresses issues of identity and personhood” and to “put on performances with our troupe that create conversation regarding these issues.” Mott also emphasizes her goal to explore powerful issues and allow people to share their own story though poetry.
SpeakEasy’s purpose has resonated with many CC students; after holding tryouts on campus, the troupe already has 18 members. Their first official performance is this Sunday, Oct. 16, at 7 p.m. in the screening room at Cornerstone Arts Center.
Colorado Springs Independent covers announcement of grants from three foundations.
The Catalyst sat down with Joy Armstrong, curator at the Fine Arts Center, for a feature article in the latest issue.
Check out an interview with Scott Levy, producing artistic director at the Fine Arts Center. He talks with “Theater Colorado Springs” about the CC-FAC Alliance.
By Leah Veldhuisen ’19
History students are making strides to educate the large community of southern Colorado about mass incarceration, and why Colorado is an essential part of this discussion through a digital project called “Past, Present, Prison.”
Starting with the Social Issues and Historical Context Initiative in 2014, the “Past, Present, Prison” project was created by students in the Colorado College Department of History. The initiative is funded by a grant from an anonymous donor that provides $200,000 over three years. The initiative’s goal is to inform people on how history shapes current issues and focuses on creating courses on the history of prisons in Colorado, as well as inviting visiting speakers on the topic. This fall, the initiative is also putting on an exhibit at the I.D.E.A. Space called “Incarceration Nation.”
As a whole, the SIHC initiative’s goal is to engage CC students, faculty, and staff with the Colorado Springs, Pueblo, and Canon City communities in conversations about the impact of prisons in southern Colorado. The “Past, Present, Prison” digital project is one of the main ways the grant is attempting to do so.
The project began, with help from the SIHC grant, in the history department with the goal of raising awareness of mass incarceration in the United States, and specifically how Colorado prisons play a role. Mass incarceration is a modern concept based on how quickly the prison industry is growing, the racial disparities within it, and the sheer numbers of incarcerated people. According to Carol Neel, professor of history, mass incarceration is a problem because “of a systematic racism and classism, and because the American people have let politicians blind them to the imprisonment of over two million of us.”
Helping young people learn about the past by demonstrating the connections between history and current issues is also an important aspect of the project. The digital project is a collaboration between students, faculty, and staff. On the “Past, Present, Prison” webpage, CC students have posted their extensive research pulled from archives of the Museum of Colorado Prisons and the Royal Gorge Museum and History Center, both in Canon City, Colorado. The two sets of archives cover many aspects of prison in a local and historical context.
The posted articles originated as papers written by students in the course Encountering the Past – The Long History of the Colorado State Penitentiary at Canon City, taught by Neel. The articles include topics such as the beginning of incarceration and criminalization, the economics of incarceration, and social dynamics in and around prisons. Right now, the webpage only contains the articles profiling the history of Colorado prisons, but the students hope to expand its reach. Neel explains that adding a blog to the project would aim to better engage the Colorado Department of Corrections in the conversation about mass incarceration and to explore the impact of the many prisons on the state of Colorado.
By Alana Aamodt ’18
From climbing fourteeners in the Collegiate Peaks, to rafting in Moab canyons, to hiking up to lakes and hot springs in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, dozens of first-year students spent their first block break experiencing some of the most beautiful parts of the Southwest’s wilderness. Each year, more than 150 students participate in trips like these, free of cost, thanks to the Outdoor Recreation Committee’s First-Year Outdoor Orientation Trips program.
The program, affectionately called FOOT trips, has been bringing together first-year students and upper-class student leaders during every Block 1 block break since 1984. The student-led trips are open to all experience levels with 15-20 FOOT trips taking place every year.
Student leaders plan out FOOT trips at the end of each school year for the next year’s first block break. In September, leaders are randomly assigned a group of about nine first-year students. Right after class on Wednesday of fourth week of Block 1, groups depart in vans for the FOOT trips.
Over the course of an extended weekend, first-year students are introduced to outdoor skills like backcountry cooking, reading topographic maps, and “Leave No Trace” principles. While often challenging, FOOT trips largely focus on bonding within the group and taking in the beauty of the outdoors.
Eliza Guion ’20 participated in a FOOT trip this year and spent four days camping in the San Isabel National Forest outside Leadville, Colorado. Trip highlights included swimming in North Halfmoon Lake, summiting Mount Massive at 14,428 feet, and enjoying campfires under clear starry skies.
“One memorable moment on our FOOT trip happened when we were on our way up to the summit of Mount Massive,” Guion recounts of her trip. “We were pretty cold, the wind was blowing hail into our faces, the trail was steep, and the visibility was super low. We were just trudging up the gray rocks in the gray mist. Then out of nowhere a big gust of wind came and cleared the whole valley of the fog and the hail. Suddenly there was sun on our faces, and we turned around and watched as the whole view was unveiled before us. As the fog was swept away, we could see the red bushes and the yellow aspens, and miles and miles into the blue hills. It was magical!”
After completing a FOOT trip, students can continue to participate through ORC trips and may eventually choose to become trip leaders themselves. Through inclusive programs like FOOT, the ORC hopes to inspire new generations of outdoor leaders within the CC student community.
Photo by Orren Fox ’20.
Colorado College and the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center have received grants from the John E. and Margaret L. Lane Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation to support arts in the community and new educational initiatives. The gifts, which total $3.5 million, come from local as well as national philanthropic foundations, and follow on the heels of the recent announcement about the historic alliance between CC and the FAC.
“These incredible investments in the Fine Arts Center and Colorado College are a resounding endorsement of our new partnership and our bright future together,” says Colorado College President Jill Tiefenthaler. “The support from these three foundations, as well as the enthusiasm we’ve heard from the community in the listening sessions, is creating great momentum as we develop a new vision that supports the missions of both the FAC and the college. We are imagining ways that the alliance will create new learning opportunities and enrich arts programming for the entire region. These gifts will help make this exciting future possible.”
The $2 million grant from the John E. and Margaret L. Lane Foundation is committed to a permanent endowment held by Colorado College for the exclusive support of the Fine Arts Center. This newly established endowment will provide funding in perpetuity for the FAC’s diverse, ongoing mission to inspire community vitality through performing arts, visual arts, and arts education. The addition of these endowed funds enhances the ability of the Fine Arts Center to build on its decades-long tradition of producing art exhibitions in its museum, theatre, and performing arts experiences on its stages, and classes and workshops in the Bemis School of Art.
“We believe the mission of the Fine Arts Center is vital to the city of Colorado Springs,” says Phil Lane, trustee of the Lane Foundation. “We hope the Lane Foundation’s support will inspire others in our community to redouble their investment in this vital institution, now stewarded by Colorado College.”
Tony Rosendo, executive director of the Lane Foundation and a Colorado College trustee, says “Leveraging new partnerships that now exist as a result of the alliance will benefit both the Fine Arts Center and the college — and ultimately the Colorado Springs community and CC students. These grants represent the beginning of truly exciting possibilities for the arts in our region and for our region from a national perspective.”
The potential of the recent alliance also has aligned with the priorities of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, a leading international foundation making grants in higher education, humanities, and the arts, which awarded a $1.2 million grant to forge deeper academic connections between Colorado College and the interdisciplinary arts. The grant will allow Colorado College to expand existing teaching strategies and introduce a more diverse set of individuals on campus and within the community to the arts, with particular focus on programs related to the American Southwest.
“The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is pleased to support Colorado College in this important initiative,” says Cristle Collins Judd, senior program officer of the Mellon Foundation. “The college’s historic dedication to innovative teaching and its commitment to diversity and inclusion now promise to integrate the arts and material culture within the liberal arts curriculum at Colorado College in ways that will benefit both students and, more broadly, the Colorado Springs community.”
A major gift to the Fine Arts Center from the Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation also supports educational initiatives by providing a scholarship fund for youth who show interest, initiative, and talent in visual arts and who don’t have the financial resources to undertake serious arts education. The $330,000 gift was made to the Fine Arts Center Foundation, which continues alongside the alliance with the college. The Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation has funded arts education and aspiring visual artists for many years, and this year, their board made the decision to close the foundation and disperse its assets to like-minded arts programs. This carries on the legacy of their founder, Marie Walsh Sharpe, and is being made in honor of the foundation’s late executive director, Joyce Robinson, who had deep ties to the Fine Arts Center and served as the FAC’s director of education for many years.
“We are pleased to continue an important tradition of supporting youth in our community who aspire to achieve success in the visual arts through the Fine Arts Center’s excellent programming,” says Steve Mulliken, board president of the Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation. “Marie and Joyce would be happy to know that financial barriers will not keep young people in our community from receiving quality visual arts education, thanks to this scholarship fund at the FAC Foundation.”
“These new commitments provide validation of the synergy that is possible between these important institutions,” says David Dahlin, CEO of the Fine Arts Center. “We expect that this is only the beginning of exciting new developments as we begin planning for our combined future.”
CC and the Fine Arts Center are already joining forces as strategic planning for the CC-FAC alliance gets underway. Both institutions gained new expertise, and four individuals from the Fine Arts Center are officially CC employees.
Joy Armstrong has been with the Fine Arts Center for about seven years and currently serves as the curator of modern and contemporary art. Prior to joining the FAC, she was the assistant director of galleries for Kent State University and the senior exhibition technician at the Akron Art Museum. All the while, Armstrong says, she was dreaming of a return to Colorado!
She shares, “I love contemporary art for many reasons, but my favorite part of the job is the opportunity to work directly with living artists. The most rewarding experiences I have had as a curator have been the exhibitions in which my role has included collaboration in addition to interpretation of existing work, with the museum and exhibition serving as a catalyst for the creation of an entirely new experience (and often new artwork(s)!) that has never been viewed elsewhere and will not be recreated in the same way ever again. Because all art is contemporary to its own time, it is a unique occasion when a conversational relationship with a living artist is established; we are challenged to fulfill their vision and create the most authentic record of the work in that moment for future generations. My career in the arts began in performance — theatre, vocal, instrumental — and I believe that spirit of creative teamwork, collaboration, and engagement has dramatically informed my approach to the visual arts.”
Armstrong says she’s enthusiastic about engaging the entire Colorado Springs community in development of the CC-FAC partnership, which “presents tremendous possibilities for the future of the arts, locally and beyond. The arts are alive, vibrant, relevant, and critical to the way our society will be judged in the future — this opportunity to expand the conversation is essential to ensuring that the arts will continue to be increasingly valued indefinitely.”
A few fun facts: Armstrong is vegan and an animal advocate and she and her husband are proud dogparents, the guardians to four furry rescue pups. You can contact Joy Armstrong at email@example.com, or stop by the museum!
Jeremiah Houck is museum preparator and art instructor. “I install and de-install art and teach clay classes and my favorite parts are touching the art and being surrounded by ever-changing groups of students,” says Houck. Before joining the FAC, Houck was the assistant art teacher at St. Scholastica Academy in Canon City and he had moved from Pennsylvania to Colorado. “I am most excited about all the new (and returning) visitors to the museum galleries. Come visit us!” says Houck. Something you might be surprised to know: Houck works in the huge working clay studio just across the street from the Honnen Ice Arena. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’ll meet the two other new CC staff members in next week’s newsletter. Plus, share your input on the CC-FAC alliance at upcoming listening sessions Monday, Sept. 26, or Monday, Oct. 3, or by submitting feedback online.
Michael Howell, Manitou Springs resident and registrar and collections manager at the Fine Arts Center, talks about the CC-FAC alliance with the Pikes Peak Bulletin. (click image to see PDF)