By Ashleigh Hollowell
“Community” and “connection” are two words commonly used by Angela Seals. Hailing from Pittsburgh, Pa., Seals moved with her husband to the Colorado Springs area in 2013. At the time, she was hired by the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region in a part-time position that eventually grew into director of community partnerships. Last week, after four years of advocating for the local arts, writing grants and engaging the community in the arts scene, she was promoted to deputy director.
Of growing the impact of and enthusiasm for culture, Seals said, “I’ve always had people in my career ask, ‘What’s next for you?’ or ‘Where are you going next?’ And at some point, there’s a moment where you say, ‘I love where I am and this is where I’m going to make my impact.’ That’s how I feel right now.”
Why did you move to the Springs?
I’ve been working in arts management for 15 years. It had been about 11 years when I moved here. I’ve worked with all different sizes of organizations, largely with programming and arts education.
When I moved to the Pikes Peak region, I was really interested in getting involved in the arts scene here. I love mid-sized cities because they have fight in them. Underdog cities are the best because, especially as a young professional, you have something to cheer for and advocate for and you can be actively building the city you want. I loved that part of Colorado Springs. … Even in just my four years here we have so much more momentum now than we had before as a creative community. So, I came to join that story of the arts community. I came very consciously wanting to be part of that story.
How did you get the job at COPPeR?
I was hired by the cultural office in a seasonal position to oversee the Peak Arts Fund, which was just a short-term project. Over four years later, here I am and I’ll be here for a long time. …
I love to surprise people with how much there is to do here, with the quality of the arts that are here. … We work a lot with tourists and with residents and sometimes residents are the ones that need the most convincing. Getting people more engaged with arts makes them love where they live even more.
What’s COPPeR’s mission?
We connect residents and visitors with arts and culture to enrich the region. … We promote the arts, we advocate for more investment in them and we build more connections between the arts and our region.
How do you advocate for art?
A lot of that work is done by our executive director. He meets every year, several times a year, with elected officials to help them understand the value of the arts. It’s also sitting on influential boards and committees all over the region to make sure the arts have a seat at the table when we’re talking about our shared challenges.
Artists and creatives offer an incredible way of thinking that offers solutions to things you would never think the arts can. For example: transportation. People are speeding through downtown; we know that we can slow them down with public art. There’s all kinds of ways the arts are relevant in the city and in cross-sectors.
We also do research into economic impact. On July 12, we will be releasing the results of our newest study. We worked with Americans for the Arts. Every five years the cultural office works with Americans for the Arts to conduct an arts and economic prosperity study. This is the fifth one.
What advice would you give to other young professionals?
I think it’s very easy to be consumer-minded about where you live and it is very important at some point to make that pivot and say, ‘I’m going to make where I live what I want it to be.’ You’ll hop from city to city looking for the perfect city. At some point you’ll stop and say, ‘Here I’m going to start to make change and I’m going to be a positive agent of change where I am right now.’
I think this is a great city to do that in. … If you don’t see it here, make it. n CSBJ