The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, more commonly known as the FAC, is so close that it could almost be considered a part of Colorado College’s campus. Nestled next to the Money Museum and across the street from Cornerstone Arts Center, the FAC houses “a museum, theater, and art school” all under one roof. Three “distinct and unique exhibitions,” The Migrant Series, Front Row Center, and Mary Chenoweth Works on Paper make up the FAC’s newest presentation.
Joy Armstrong, the FAC’s Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, has emphasized that “there is exceptional work happening in Colorado and the Southwest, and its diversity is astounding.” In fact, all three of the featured artists are originally from Colorado, and their work reflects the talent and multiplicity of the region.
“The current exhibitions on the second floor, though extremely diverse, are a celebration of our region and the creative brilliance within, and on a deeper level, statements of the important role that art can play when addressing issues of social justice,” said Armstrong.
The exhibition opens with painter Don Coen’s Migrant Series, a collection of large-scale paintings depicting the lives of migrant workers. According to a press release on Coen’s work, the artist aims to expose “the essence of America’s migratory labor and the human psyche” and to “inspire us to take notice, to respond and to care about these incredible people, their lives and contributions to our society.”
When first entering the room, the viewer is greeted by a wall-sized portrait of a man’s face, shielded from the sun by a bandana and a baseball cap. The paintings inside have a similar essence—the colors are soft, warm, and inviting, and the people depicted exude the same feeling.
Having grown up on his family’s farm in Lamar, Colo., Coen feels a deep connection to the Latino families that “lived and worked alongside [him] throughout his childhood and early adult years.”
Armstrong added that “The Migrant Series was developed over nearly two decades and is a testament to the artist’s respect for the workers who, far too often, go unrecognized and unappreciated for their vital contributions to our society.”
Front Row Center, the next exhibit of the three, also exclusively features artwork of people, although the nature of Larry Hulst’s photography differs significantly from Coen’s narrative paintings. “Compiled over a period of several decades,” Front Row Center is a collection of over 80 black and white photographs of musicians, taken “from an audience’s stage-level perspective.”
Armstrong described Hulst as “a music lover first,” emphasizing that his photography career stemmed from a pre-existing passion for music. Having seen an estimated “3,500 to 4,200 bands in the past 40+ years,” Hulst’s career began in northern California, where the majority of the photographs in the exhibition were taken.
His subject matter ranges from Keith Richards to Janis Joplin to Stevie Nicks, with each image capturing the essence, energy, and passion of the performer. Included in the middle of the room are various objects signed and gifted to Hulst by some of the musical legends he photographed.
The final room houses the Mary Chenoweth Works on Paper, a comprehensive collection of art by Mary Chenoweth, described by Armstrong as “a prolific artist with an adventurous spirit who traveled all over the world.”
Her worldly experience is reflected in her artwork, since “papers collected from Africa and Asia appear in many of her collages and she kept wonderful journals along the way,” sad Armstrong. Chenoweth’s artwork ranges from prints to paintings, with a colorful display of postcards hanging in the middle of the room giving the exhibit a whimsical feeling.
Chenoweth has been “a highly influential historic artist for the Colorado Springs community, Colorado College, and the Fine Arts Center,” said Armstrong. “It’s always an honor to work directly with artists whenever possible, usually over the course of several years. In this case of Mary Chenoweth Works on Paper, we wanted to demonstrate her enormous impact on people’s lives and collections, so we embarked on an unprecedented method of curation for the FAC and crowd-sourced part of the show.”
A large part of the preparation for Chenoweth’s show involved participation from CC to provide a significant portion of the artwork. “My favorite part of nearly every exhibition revolved around collaboration, in this case between colleagues at the college, the FAC, and the community, as well as with the living artists,” said Armstrong.
One of the FAC’s main goals is to present a diverse selection of art to the Colorado Springs community. “We make every effort to provide a balanced exhibition program that represents many cultures and time periods, including significant artists from our region as well as internationally-renowned artists,” said Armstrong.
Curators from the center are “constantly visiting studios, collectors, and other institutions for inspiration and to develop new and maintain ongoing relationships with artists and colleagues.”
The FAC extends the same privileges to all CC students as they do to their paying members, “including free admission to the galleries and reduced ticket prices.” They also periodically feature collaborations with CC, such as Force/Resistance, “a gorgeous new response to the Butler Center’s focus on police violence” that opens next week. Coen, Hulst, and Chenoweth’s exhibitions will be on view through May 21 and “there are many more opportunities for deeper engagement to come, including a conversation between Larry Hulst and [CC English professor] Steve Hayward and Kate Pardon [of the Pikes Peak Arts Council] on April 1 and an artist talk from Don Coen,” said Armstrong.
CC students are welcome and encouraged to attend and participate in all events, and to explore the resources that the FAC has to offer.