Colorado Springs has for over a century been a magnet for artists. With the inspiring beauty of the Rocky Mountains, including nearby Cheyenne Mountain and Pikes Peak painters loved to come here, and they have always found a warm welcome at the Broadmoor Hotel, where you can find an artist teaching classes at almost any time. As you wander around the downtown streets of Colorado Springs notice the magnificent sculptures and other pieces of Art On The Streets, which are the result of the city sponsored annual contest in which artists from everywhere are invited to compete by submitting their work and a jury of prominent judges makes selections to be on display here for a year. Large monetary prizes are awarded and several pieces are purchased annually for permanent display. We were there for the ninth annual show and saw some amazing pieces and had fun guessing which ones will be chosen to be here always.
The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center has just recently celebrated its extremely grand opening after a massive renovation of the John Gaw Meem building (on the National Register of Historic Places) constructed in 1936 and the addition of 48,000 square foot, which cost over $30 million dollars. The entirely original design was done by a native or the city, David Owen Tryba, who is an award-winning architect. With large spaces, enhanced by natural light from huge windows, which also frame the beauty of the surrounding magnificent views, the art is displayed with perfect lighting.
And three Dale Chihuly chandeliers grace the building with colorful charm. The three permanent collections are now grandly displayed, each in its specific gallery. Tariana Navas-Nieves is curator of the Hispanic and Native American Art and is proud that the museum chose to keep the historic structure and build new space within its walls for these permanent collections. She wants visitors to view and appreciate in a new way the vast collection of art from the Hispanic and from Native Americans. These are installed in six of the new galleries. She says the opportunities for highlighting the pieces in different ways is endless because the collection is superb.
Blake Milteer is Curator of the 19th and 20th Century American Art. This collection features artists from all the Americas and he is focusing on increasing this collection in all areas. Knowledgeable of the history surrounding many of the works, he is a fascinating wealth of information, as are the docents whose tours will enhance your visit.
In addition to the permanent collections, FAC proudly presents some of the greatest traveling collections available on tour in the United States, with exhibits changing every few months. The grandeur of the building and the display of great art combine to make Colorado Springs now a cultural destination. Not only is FAC home to great paintings, photography, and sculpture but also the center for fine theater productions. Curtain Call Society brings in Broadway actors and major costumes, scenery, lighting and sound designs for excellent live productions at the SaGaJi Theatre. Here, within the FAC building, they will also host two annual film festivals.
To enhance the theater or museum visit, guests should plan to eat at the new Cafe 36, also part of the new space. Bruce S. Calder, an experienced chef, creates exquisite cuisine to complete your cultural experience at the center. And each first Thursday marks the FAC Wine Tastings with hors d’oeuvres and live music. Residents of Colorado Springs, no matter what their age, will love their learning experiences at the new Bemis School of Art. Each season will mark new classes with exhibition-related courses and excellent instructors in all kinds of artistic expression. School children to grandparents can learn while they have hands-on fun for a day or a lifetime. Area residents can have FAC memberships, starting at only $45 which entitle them to many privileges, including free admission to permanent collection and FAC Modern exhibits, discounts on other tickets, and Breakfast with the President on the third Saturday each month, and other benefits. Call 719-477-4317 to inquire.
Right next door to the Fine Arts Center we loved visiting the Edward C. Rochette Money Museum, the largest museum in the United States dedicated to coin collecting, or Numismatics. There 226,000 coins, tokens, bills, and collector medals all over the world. We were wowed by the actually U.S. $100,000 dollar bill in one case. We also saw the 1794 silver dollar thought to be the first silver dollar minted in the United States. There are coins of gold, bronze and silver and children will really enjoy learning all about money and could become collectors of coins by starting a collection in the little gift shop. You can also order the new U.S. Presidential gold coins in uncirculated sets here, as well. I had fun purchasing Harry Potter coins, which are actually legal tender on the Isle of Mann!
Nearby we also had an interesting tour of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum, housed in the original El Paso County Courthouse, which was almost raized in the 1970’s but at the citizen’s protest it was saved to become this beautiful museum. The building, constructed in the late 1890’s is on the grand and opulent scale of government buildings then, with real and faux marble and ornate trim, wonderful to appreciate. President Theodore Roosevelt was there to see it just before it opened in 1903. Visitors enjoy seeing the original third floor Division I Courtroom, carefully restored to its original at a cost of $350,000. The museum collects and presents the history of the Pikes Peak Region, including Western art, antique quilts, Plains and Pueblo, Ute, Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribe objects, and pop culture memorabilia. Beautiful murals tell the story of the region from earliest human civilization there until present. There are over 35,000 historic photographs of Colorado and this region. The paintings of Charles Craig and the pottery of Van Briggle are of special appeal to visitors and a source of pride for local. Be sure to visit the museum when you are in Colorado Springs. Admission is free and it is open Tuesdays through Saturdays 10 – 5.
Before you leave Colorado Springs you must visit one of the most beautiful city parks in the world: The Garden of the Gods where you’ll find spectacular scenery and weird red rock formations. You can drive or hike through this wonderful place, so plan plenty of time. And be sure to visit Colorado’s oldest Trading Post and largest gift shop and gallery, over 100 years old: The Garden of the Gods Trading Post. You’ll find thousands of souvenirs from very inexpensive to highest quality art collector items and lots of delicious snacks.
For some of the finest cuisine in the area, be sure to dine at Blue Star, which is nothing like its facade. For a fun dining experience request to dine in the kitchen at the Chef’s Table. The food is incredible and the restaurant is the local’s favorite, always a great recommendation for visitors!