Fine Arts Center curator Joy Armstrong moved to Colorado Springs at age 7 when her father was transferred here. She started second grade here, then graduated from high school and attended the University of Denver.
She studied photography and film production in college, worked various jobs including acting for a company that created government training scenarios, as a production ceramicist and a traveling photographer. She went to graduate school at Kent State in Ohio and moved back to Colorado Springs in 2008.
After a brief stint as director of youth programming at the Imagination Celebration, she joined the curatorial staff of the Fine Arts Center in 2010. In what can only be described as a meteoric rise, Armstrong was named the FAC’s executive director and chief curator in November 2015.
Armstrong, according to departing curator Blake Milteer, “brought a different skill set and vision” to the FAC. That energy and vision was displayed in a series of powerfully curated shows, beginning with Pamela Joseph’s Sideshow of the Absurd in 2013 and continuing through this summer’s All New Women, co-curated with Milteer.
Armstrong’s path seemed clear: to inspire, transform and strengthen the city’s most significant arts institution.
Then the bomb dropped. The FAC’s 80-year run as an independent nonprofit ended. Colorado College would bring financial stability to the merger and become the FAC’s senior partner. Armstrong’s position was redefined, and she was named curator of modern and contemporary art.
Such transitions are common enough in private business, but less so in mature nonprofits. Armstrong has accepted and welcomed the change.
“My mantra: Keep your eyes on your own paper,” she said. “We’ve all heard that in elementary school, and I’ve really tried to adapt that philosophy for my own worldview. We aren’t very productive when we judge ourselves or compare ourselves to others. I want to allow myself to be the best me that I can be.”
Armstrong doesn’t have career plans for the next five, seven or 10 years.
“I rarely think that way,” she said, “that by this time in life I’ll be in such and such a place. I try to be open-minded and open-hearted — you can’t always say yes, but you try not to be afraid. I believe that as long as I remain true to my passion, the world is a more loving place. When you let some of that [fear] go, the magic of life kicks in.”
“I feel so fortunate to have this job and to be here in Colorado Springs,” she continued. “I remember that people always used to say that there’s nothing to do here — now, you don’t hear that as much. There’s so much going on that you can’t possibly go to everything.”
Armstrong serves on the boards of the UCCS Gallery of Contemporary Art and Harley’s Hope Foundation. The latter’s purpose is to “ensure that low income pet parents and their companion or service animals remain together when issues arise.”
“[My husband and I] have four rescue dogs,” she said, “a sort-of golden/lab mix, a pit bull/cattle dog, a heeler and a cocker spaniel. We love our dogs, but having four is almost like having another job!”
And despite the demands of the dogs, Armstrong finds time for other pursuits.
“I love to cook,” she said. “Sharing meals with my husband and family is a favorite thing — and I’ve been learning to dance, studying ballet at Ormao.”
— John Hazlehurst