Last week, Colorado College and the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center made it official: The two will merge and the FAC will become a permanent part of the college’s assets.
It’s a bold plan, one designed to create financial stability for the Fine Arts Center and increase Colorado College’s already impressive liberal arts education portfolio.
The two institutions are neighbors on Cascade Avenue and have collaborated in the past, with the Fine Arts Center acting as the college’s art department from the 1920s through the ’40s, the two co-hosting an annual conference in the 1930s and sharing programming and exhibitions for decades. In 2015, the FAC donated its art publication archives to Colorado College’s Tutt Library.
Not only will the merger preserve a Colorado Springs icon for the future — Colorado College has guaranteed permanent funding for the FAC — it brings a new potential to the city’s arts community. It stands to create ground-breaking arts education programs for the community and could jumpstart innovative student experiences by combining the outstanding galleries at the Fine Arts Center with the energy and enthusiasm of new artists in Colorado Springs.
The model isn’t new. Colleges and nonprofit cultural organizations frequently partner to benefit both groups, including alliances between Harvard and the American Repertory Theatre, Syracuse Stage and Syracuse University, Brown University and the Trinity Repertory Theatre.
As for the details — those are still being hammered out. The two organizations will spend a year on the planning process, with a name change scheduled for 2017, when the FAC will become the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College. By 2020, all the financial details and strategic objectives will be in place.
But they aren’t leaving the community out of the process. They’ve planned several town halls in the coming months to gain perspectives from artists, patrons and donors. For people engaged in the local arts scene, it’s a chance to shape the future.
It’s a great opportunity for the rest of us too. Arts organizations are a vital part of economic development — part of that intangible framework that makes a city attractive for businesses and professionals alike. The city is fortunate to have both Colorado College and the Fine Arts Center, and the two together will create a strong, vibrant arts community that will go hand-in-hand with other organizations like the Smokebrush Foundation, Cottonwood Center for the Arts, Millibo Art Theatre, Colorado Springs Conservatory, the UCCS Gallery of Contemporary Art and countless independently owned galleries.
Arts groups create jobs and generate local dollars that stay in the community. According to Americans for the Arts, the industry as a whole generated $61.1 billion in direct economic benefit nationally, with an additional $74.1 billion in event-related spending. Across the nation, both nonprofit and for-profit arts organizations provide 4.13 million full-time jobs and generate $86.6 billion in household income.
But the benefit of the arts goes far beyond mere dollars. Young professionals live and work in cities with vibrant, robust arts communities. Tourists are attracted to cities with cultural events and art galleries. Businesses relocate to cities that have creative industries for employees to enjoy.
And thanks to this merger, the Colorado Springs community is assured an exciting future for the cornerstone of its arts and culture activities.