Thursday, January 6, 2011

On living in the Pikes Peak Region and loving the arts for more than a decade

A multitude of thanks to the many friends who attended my going away party at the Fine Arts Center on Wednesday, January 5. There were so many wonderful people in attendance and I didn't get a chance to talk to everyone. A few people have asked me to share my remarks from last night, so here they are.

This place is inextricably linked to creative experiences for me. My first visit to Colorado Springs was on a field trip with my high school orchestra, where I played Copland's Rodeo Suite on the Pikes Peak Center stage as part of the Cavalcade of Music. Later, after I had been accepted to Colorado College, where I would ultimately earn my degree, I saw a production of My Fair Lady at the Fine Arts Center Theater.
Since I moved here, I've played in orchestras, string quartets, bands, and acted in amateur dinner theater. I even started an underground music venue in my venue while at college, the High Life House. I've amassed a respectable collection of work by local artists. And all of those experiences added up to what ended up to be an extremely satisfying career in the arts; and ultimately, a job at COPPeR, the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region.

It has been my privilege and honor to serve as the first Executive Director for this organization. I have been so lucky to act as ambassador for the arts on behalf of all the amazing creative people who make this such a quality, vital place to live. To my friends and colleagues, the artists: You guys are AWESOME. The arts scene here is so rich, so vibrant and you all accomplish an astonishing volume of work with limited resources. My hat goes off to you.

I've been thinking a lot about what to say tonight. Having spent the last 13, very formative, years here, I have a lot to reflect upon. The past three years at COPPeR have been a period of exceptional growth. But in the past few weeks, as I have been packing up my belongings in preparation for my big move to California, I came across the document that is responsible for me being here in the first place.

The following is an excerpt from my college application essay that granted me entrance to Colorado College thirteen years ago. Keep in mind, if you will, that I was 17 years old when I wrote this. A little backstory - I was fortunate to have performed in the orchestra that inaugurated a brand-new Performing Arts Center with a performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. This essay is about that experience.

"After the standing ovations, I walked through the champagne reception and stood outside in the October air. I couldn't talk through my tears yet, and the conversations I'd overheard as I passed through the lobby contributed to my intense feeling of joy at having been able to contribute to something as so bold as fulfilling an artistic vision. This must have been what Beethoven felt as he was turned around on the conductor's podium to face the applause he could not hear: joy, triumph, pride, and above all a feeling of belonging to something with a greater power that that of beginnings or endings: a constancy of both the human spirit and the presence of beauty.

I have had many profound musical experiences, but this story seems to be the best illustration of why I want to pursue an education and career in the arts. Art has the ability to convey the entire spectrum of human emotion, whether it takes form in a sculpture, a poem, or a symphony. It guides us through our lives; it helps us overcome pain, and it enhances the joy of living. Art is a dynamic constant, a true manifestation of the human spirit-- there is always more to learn about it, since just like us, it is always changing."

I'm excited about the new adventure that faces me in California, but I'm also excited about the future for COPPeR. Christina McGrath will do a wonderful job moving the vision forward, and we've got great staff in place, like Brett Garman. I will miss working with you. Judging by the turnout tonight, there are so many people invested in the future of the Pikes Peak region. Say it loud and say it proud: We love the arts in the Pikes Peak region!

Monday, January 3, 2011

COPPeR Announces New Executive Director: Colorado Springs native Christina McGrath brings arts passion and organizational savvy

The Board of Directors of COPPeR, the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region, is pleased to announce the appointment of Christina McGrath as Executive Director, starting January 18, 2011.

Christina comes to COPPeR from El Pomar Foundation, where after completing the Fellowship program she was invited to stay on and manage several programs including: the Anna Keesling Ackerman and Freda Hambrick Funds, The Empty Stocking Fund, and the foundation's compliance program. McGrath will replace Executive Director Bettina Swigger, who will step down in January after having served in that position for three years.

"COPPeR is at such an exciting stage in terms of growth and development," said Amanda Mountain, board chair of COPPeR. "The board feels that Christina is the perfect fit to build on all of the tremendous work Bettina has done, and to further expand beyond what even we can see in terms of possibilities for the organization."

Christina has lived in Colorado Springs for over 20 years and says that her passion for the arts started as a toddler when she was first sprinkled with "fairy dust" by Mary Mashburn, long beloved locally as the Fairy Godmother of the Arts. Christina grew up taking classes at the Bemis School of Art, and as a student at The Colorado Springs School, she was exposed to and participated in all aspects of fine arts thanks to their strong arts curriculum. Christina has a Bachelor's degree in Architecture and a Minor in Arts Management from Miami University. While at Miami, she played Baritone in the Marching and Athletic Bands and was a member of the Kappa Kappa Psi National Honorary Band Fraternity. An active community volunteer, she serves on the board of Pikes Peak Habitat for Humanity.

"At El Pomar I've had exposure to hundreds of outstanding nonprofits, I am excited to now be working for one," said McGrath. "The vitality of a city depends on its arts and cultural scene and having grown up in this community I know we have a lot to offer."

"Christina's many experiences and leadership opportunities here at El Pomar certainly have prepared her for this new responsibility. We are pleased to see her take on this next challenge and believe that COPPeR and our entire Colorado Springs community will benefit from her skills, knowledge, and enthusiasm," said William J. Hybl, chairman and CEO of El Pomar Foundation.

"I am delighted to know Christina will be taking the reigns at COPPeR," said Swigger. "This vibrant organization has an active, committed board of directors, excellent staff, wonderful support in our community, and a solid plan for growth and development. I look forward to working with Christina in the next few weeks to ensure a seamless leadership transition."

Members of the community are invited to meet Christina at an open house/art opening in the COPPeR creative space in the Plaza of the Rockies on Friday, February 4, 2011 from 6-9 p.m. This celebration will happen in tandem with the opening of the Breaking the Sound Barrier, Sonic Art 1860-2010 exhibition at the UCCS Gallery of Contemporary Art next door.