One Year In: A Look at How Students Interact with the Fine Arts Center After the Merger

In the fall of 2016, the Colorado Springs Fine Art Center (FAC) and Colorado College announced their merger. Now marks the beginning of the second year of the designated transition period for integration. Despite the free admission for CC students and the plethora of interesting events to attend, student attendance at the FAC is low, with some students having never even visited the FAC.

“It’s a really cool space that still remains pretty unknown to our student body. Because it’s so close to our campus it’s like—how can you not?” said senior art history major Anna Doctor. Doctor had a full-time internship with the FAC this summer, which transferred into a part-time position for the academic year.

Photo by Taylor Elwood

The name officially changed to the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College on July 1 of this year. The FAC and CC constructed a strategic plan called “Excellence, Access, and Collaboration.” Director Erin Hannan says students have a chance to be involved in each facet of the plan. The strategic plan is basing its measure of success on whether “more people from all places and backgrounds and ages are able to visit the FAC.” It sets six main focuses: nurturing a community of artists, inviting visitors to enliven the community, building an innovative program of arts education, inspiring creativity through collaboration, developing an arts corridor, and underscoring the sense of place.

Hannan says that the effort of communicating with the student body is “still evolving” but that a lot of work with the communications department has been done to make sure students know that the FAC is a resource available to them. Regardless of these efforts, the percentage of attendees at FAC events who are CC students continues to be low. “I think CC students tend to be really busy and don’t put in the extra effort to see what goes on beyond what they’re involved in, so even though the FAC is so close, it’s a couple steps too far for people to go explore,” said Doctor.

Hannan also hopes that channels will evolve for students to have a say in what goes on at the FAC. “We have an open door policy that good ideas can come from anyone, and student voices are absolutely welcomed in the processes of our programming,” she said.

Right now, in the beginning of the second year of the “transition period,” it seems that the FAC does play a significant role in some students’ lives and academic careers.  Students, like Doctor, can get internships or work-study positions throughout the center. Students have also been able to record music for theatre productions and other projects. Some students have even had the opportunity to have their artwork displayed at the FAC with help from Rebecca Tucker, who is transitioning from Art Professor at CC to Museum Director at FAC.

“It’s much better to see what you’re learning about in person versus just learning about it in the classroom projected on a screen,” said Doctor. “Being able to see the art and apply it is something that I think the Fine Arts Center is doing really well for people studying art.”

For students who enjoy art but don’t necessarily produce it, there are also many opportunities at the FAC. Free admission, discounted and free performance tickets, and events which focus on several mediums of art plus the additional tables of free food are only some of what lies in store. Several classes—some art and some not traditionally what you would consider art-related, like Beginning Fiction Writing—are held in the FAC. Classes and individuals can choose to attend relevant exhibitions with specific political or social messages like last year’s “Force/Resistance,” which focused on police and racial violence. With a brand new coffee bar, improved Wi-Fi, and later hours, the Fine Arts Center can also serve as a study space or meeting place for students.

“Hopefully, as the merge becomes more well-known, students will become exposed to the events that are happening,” said Doctor. “It’ll be equivalent to what’s happening at Sacred Grounds.”

From October 9 through 13 is Colorado College Art Week, during which there is an event every day of the week to celebrate the FAC. Today until October 29, the FAC theatre company is showing “Baskerville: A Sherlock Homes Mystery,” and soon “Bunnicula.” Students should also consider attending the First Friday Art Party which happens every first Friday of the month (happening today, October 6). The First Friday Art Party includes artist talks and demonstrations, live music, food, and a cash bar.

To see more events coming up and to learn more about this gem next door, visit csfineartscenter.org.

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