Edmonson works to strengthen local culture

Filed under: One on One |

* Name: Susan Edmondson

* Organization: Bee Vradenburg Foundation

* Position: Executive director

* Hometown: Bakersfield, Calif.

* How long have you lived in Colorado Springs: 13 years.

* Education: Bachelor’s degree in journalism, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Master’s degree in public administration, UCCS.

* A few words about your company: The Bee Vradenburg Foundation advances the legacy of Bee Vradenburg by fostering excellence, innovation and collaboration in the arts community. In addition to providing grants to arts-and-culture nonprofits within the Pikes Peak region, the foundation is committed to advocacy, research, training and building liaisons that will strengthen the culutral community and ensure that the arts are better able to serve all people.

* Recent accomplishments: Finishing my master’s degree while working full-time.

* Biggest career break: Getting this job. I feel fortunate to have made this career transition – going from covering the local cultural community (in my former job as entertainment editor at The Gazette) to working alongside artists and arts groups in a different capacity.

* The toughest part of your job: Unfortunately, like all foundations, we can fund only a fraction of the requests we receive from so many worthy organizations. The needs are great, but the resources are limited. We hate having to say “no.”

* Someone you admire: My parents. I learned the importance of civic engagement and giving back to your community from them.

* About your family: I’m single. But like many ex-Californians, my family – my father and my sister and her family – have migrated to Colorado as well.

* Something else you’d like to accomplish: I’ve got a few novels and stories taking up space in my brain that I need to get out. I’d like to be a monologuist – sort of like Spalding Gray, only female and a bit more upbeat.

* How your business will change in the next decade: I fear that the growing financial crunch at the city and state levels – much of it due to TABOR – will put increasing pressure on the relatively finite resources of private funders. In the arts alone, Colorado ranks 49th in state funding, and Colorado Springs ranks last nationwide in city/county funding for the arts. That hurts our quality of life, and makes the region less competitive for economic growth. Foundations and other donors are doing all they can, but they can’t alone close the gaps that arise from severe government cutbacks in many critical areas.

* What book are you currently reading? “Dry” by Augusten Burroughs, “Under the Banner of Heaven” by Jon Krakauer and “Good to Great” by Jim Collins.

* What is the one thing you would change about Colorado Springs? I’d like us to restore our historic reputation as a cultural oasis in the Rockies, and I’d love for the city to be recognized nationally as a place where all people truly feel equally welcomed and respected.