Arts & culture in the Pikes Peak region

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Evidence of the Pikes Peak region’s first artists, the Ute Indians, remains etched on the rocks at Garden of the Gods Park.
Since then, the area has continued to attract artists lured by the natural beauty of Pikes Peak and the brilliant sunshine abundant year-round. At the turn of the century, inspired by a trip to the summit of the Peak, Katherine Lee Bates penned what has become our country’s most famous poem and song, “America the Beautiful.” Today, from the world-class Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center to the historic artist colony of Manitou Springs, the region overflows with cultural offerings.

  • The Pikes Peak region — El Paso and Teller counties of Colorado — is home to more than 130 arts, cultural and humanities nonprofit organizations and thousands of individual artists.
  • Colorado Springs ranks 36th of 276 metropolitan areas in the number of arts businesses per capita (top 15 percent).
  • In 2007, American Style magazine named Colorado Springs among the top 25 arts destinations (midsize cities).
  • Visual arts and museums

  • Built in 1936, the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center was the nation’s first fine arts center west of the Mississippi, with a unique vision to provide a museum, theater performances and art school in one location. A satellite museum, the FAC Modern, opened in 2006. In summer 2007, the Fine Arts Center completed a $28 million expansion and renovation. The center houses a nationally recognized collection of Hispanic and Native American art, in addition to works by Georgia O’Keeffe, John Singer Sargent, Robert Motherwell, Arthur Dove and one of the largest collections of works by glass artist Dale Chihuly.
  • The Money Museum . home to the American Numismatic Association . features more than 250,000 rare objects telling the story of the history of money.
  • The historic artist colony of Manitou Springs is home to numerous charming galleries and the innovative Business of Art Center campus — combining gallery exhibitions, a performance space, a coffee shop, a gift shop and working artist studios on view to the public.
    Manitou is also home to “creatively inspired” events such as the Emma Crawford Coffin Races, the annual Fruitcake Toss Festival and ongoing drum circles.
  • Hundreds of people turn out for the First Friday openings in downtown’s Depot Arts District. Among the spaces are Smokebrush Gallery, The Bridge Gallery, Pikes Peak Community College Downtown Studio and Cottonwood Artists School, with more than 40 working artist studios open for view.
  • The UCCS Gallery of Contemporary Art brings to the region significant exhibits featuring artists such as Damien Hirst, Chuck Close, William Wegman, Andy Warhol, Jim Dine and scores more.
  • Music

  • Taking advantage of abundant sunshine and ideal weather, the region is home to more than 100 opportunities to hear free, live music in our parks and open spaces each summer, hosted by groups such as the Pikes Peak Jazz & Swing Society, Pikes Peak Blues Community, Little London Winds, Fountain Creek Brass Band and numerous others.
  • Under the baton of Maestro Lawrence Leighton Smith, the 70-plus professional musicians of the Colorado Springs Philharmonic perform nearly 40 concerts each season and are the featured performers at the Fabulous Fourth in Memorial Park, one of the largest Fourth of July celebrations west of the Mississippi.
  • Martile Rowland, founder of Opera Theatre of the Rockies, was named 2006 Teacher of the Year by Classical Singer Magazine, the definitive source for the field. Opera Theatre stages a full production each year and brings opera into local schools.
  • With more than 70 events — music, film, theater, dance, visual arts and more — the Colorado College Summer Festival of the Arts stretches over two months. In particular, the music festival has been home to superior chamber music since 1984 and continues to attract elite students and faculty from around the globe.
  • The region is home to scores of music ensembles, choral groups, and presenting groups, including the 150-voice Colorado Springs Chorale; internationally award-winning Velvet Hills Chorus of Sweet Adelines; Chamber Orchestra of the Springs; Out Loud gay men’s chorus; Pikes Peak Library District World Music Series and Black Rose Acoustic Society.
  • Youth and families

  • Colorado Springs is one of only six cities in the nation for the Kennedy Center Imagination Celebration, providing year-round arts education opportunities that serve more than 100,000 children and adults annually.
  • The Colorado Springs Youth Symphony, with 350 musicians, tours internationally and has performed at Carnegie Hall and the Sydney Opera House.
  • The 200-voice Colorado Springs Children’s Chorale tours internationally and took first place at the Prague International Choral Festival. It touches the lives of thousands of children each year.
  • Alumni of the Colorado Springs Conservatory, an after-school preparatory program in the performing arts, have gone on to attend prestigious academies such as Oberlin Conservatory and Eastman and Berklee music schools, in addition to headlining on Broadway and starring with the New York City Opera.
  • Theater

  • UCCS Theatreworks’ annual Shakespeare Festival has been called “as good, in absolute terms, as the best in the world” by the journal Shakespeare Quarterly.
  • Both UCCS Theatreworks and the Fine Arts Center Repertory Theatre Company continue to receive Denver Post Ovation Awards, recognizing the best productions and performers from throughout Colorado.
  • Manitou Art Theatre, dedicated to staging original works, received the 2005 Alliance for Colorado Theatre Community/Professional Theatre Award. It hosts a monthly children’s theater series in addition to its adult-geared series of cutting-edge productions.
  • Community festivals

  • Adding to the richness of the region’s cultural offerings are events and festivals attracting thousands of people annually, including Cinco de Mayo, the Colorado Springs Chinese Cultural Institute’s Chinese New Year Celebration, Commonwheel Arts Festival, Juneteenth, Pikes Peak Fine Arts Festival, Mountain Music Festival, the Japan-America Society of Southern Colorado’s annual rice-pounding ceremony, the Indian American Cultural Celebration and the Colorado Festival of World Theatre.
  • Film

  • The Rocky Mountain Women’s Film Festival is the oldest film festival in the country showing works exclusively by women filmmakers. The region is also home to the Pikes Peak Lavender Film Festival, spotlighting gay and lesbian films; the Christian-focused *altarnet Year-Round Film Fest; and the Wind Rider Forum film festival that focuses on spirituality and ethics.
  • History, heritage & science

  • Housed in an exquisite 1903 courthouse, the Pioneers Museum has more than 40,000 objects, including a nationally significant collections of quilts, Van Briggle art pottery, plus the finest regional art collection in the state. The Native American collection includes hundreds of items representative of the Ute, Cheyenne, and Arapaho cultures.
  • Situated on 146 acres at an elevation of 6,800 feet, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is the only mountain zoo in the country. More than 400,000 people visit each year to see more than 750 animals representing 142 species — including the most prolific giraffe breeding program in the world.
  • Sprawling on 27 acres, the Western Museum of Mining & Industry is the only accredited mining museum in the western United States.
  • Venues

  • Anchoring downtown, the 2,000-seat Pikes Peak Center for the Performing Arts features exceptional acoustics that have been called by Isaac Stern “the closest sound I have ever heard to Carnegie Hall.” It is the home to everything from Broadway shows to national dance companies to the finest local acts.
  • Opening in 2008, the Cornerstone Arts Center at Colorado College is designed by world-renowned architect Antoine Predock. Each year, Colorado College hosts lectures by luminaries such as Toni Morrison, Camille Paglia, Maya Lin, Azar Nafisi, Daniel Liebeskind and many others.
  • The 8,000-seat Colorado Springs World Arena is the venue for rock concerts and touring acts such as Blue Man Group and Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
  • The Black Sheep leads a diverse pack of nightclubs, and with its rare emphasis on metal, hip-hop and alternative groups, hosts many national acts such as Bowling for Soup, Daughtry, Slick Rick and Rev. Horton Heat.

For more information about arts in the Pikes Peak Region, contact COPPeR at You can download copies of this fact sheet at Visit for the most complete arts calendar in the region.