Pikes Peak Community College received $1 million from the Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation June 29, its largest single gift in 48 years of operation.

The grant will be used to renovate PPCC’s Downtown Studio Campus and to create a portal into downtown Colorado Springs at 100 W. Pikes Peak Ave. Construction will begin this winter and be completed by Fall 2017.

“This level of cultural investment gives us more than upgraded programs, equipment and facilities,” Lisa James, executive director of The Pikes Peak Community College Foundation, said in a news release. “It gives us tremendous momentum. Where that takes us in the next decade will be nothing short of astounding.”

A multi-use art studio with digital and traditional art tools will be established through the project and named The Marie Walsh Sharpe Creative Commons. A garden, an outdoor studio and 2-D indoor studio will also be created to improve PPCC’s existing studio-based visual arts program used by students, the community and local artists.

The enhancements will provide a hub for regional arts education and a major destination for cultural events, according to PPCC’s marketing and communication director Warren Epstein.

 “It will be used by students and the community, with art gallery shows and possible dance and theater performances in the Creative Commons,” he told the Business Journal.

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Epstein said the project isn’t just a need for the college but a need for the community to expand its presence of studio-art instruction.

“I think we’re experiencing a kind of reformation in arts and culture, and not just in or community but everywhere,” he said. “People no longer want life to be a spectator’s sport. They want to get their hands dirty and create their own art.”

The Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation, founded by late businesswoman and philanthropist Marie Walsh Sharpe in 1984, also provided the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs $1 million this week to its Galleries of Contemporary Art. GOCA will be featured in UCCS’s forthcoming Ent Center for the Arts; the space will be named The Marie Walsh Sharpe Gallery of Contemporary Art.

PPCC has almost 1,500 visual arts students, 65 visual arts courses and two visual arts degrees, according to the release.

“We see this gift as the living embodiment of Marie Walsh Sharpe’s vision,” Steve Mulliken, president of the Board of Trustees for the foundation said in the news release. “Supporting emerging artists and inspiring fine arts education were her passion.”