Bettina Swigger, an Albuquerque native and a graduate of Colorado College, was most recently director of the Summer Arts Festival at Colorado College.
She left her alma mater to become the first executive director of COPPeR, the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region.
Swigger took time recently to tell CSBJ about herself and her organization.
Organization: Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region
Position: Executive director
Hometown: Albuquerque, N.M.
How long have you lived in Colorado Springs: 11 years
Education: Bachelor’s degree in comparative literature from Colorado College
A few words about your organization: COPPeR is a nonprofit organization dedicated to connecting residents and visitors in the Pikes Peak region with the arts and cultural opportunities that exist here.
We provide an umbrella service encompassing areas such as marketing and communication, broad-based data gathering and strategic programming, and advocacy for the arts industry in its entirety. We also form strategic partnerships to ensure that arts, culture and creativity are at the forefront of all activity, including economic and community development.
Recent accomplishments: From a personal standpoint, I was named a CSBJ Rising Star during 2008. COPPeR was named Best New Arts organization by The Gazette in the 2008 Best Of issue. But I am quite proud of the work Dream City: Vision 2020 is doing to engage people in thinking imaginatively and dreaming big about their community. COPPeR is one of the presenting partners for this grassroots effort.
Biggest career break: I am extremely proud to have been named the first executive director of COPPeR. But I have to track all my professional success in arts administration to the first time I realized you could get paid for being creative – thanks to the Albuquerque Youth Symphony quartet program.
The toughest part of your job: Not having a clone – there is a real appetite for the services we provide. The ongoing cultural renaissance in the Springs means that dozens of businesses and community groups are looking for information about the arts. There aren’t enough hours in the day for me to meet with all of them.
Someone you admire: Robert Egger. He founded D.C. Kitchen, a community kitchen that recycles more than a ton of surplus food each day that would otherwise go to waste and turns it into 4,500 meals for the hungry.
About your family: My mother is an artist and lives in Seattle. My father is an English and humanities professor in Albuquerque. My sister is a piano professor and teaches at Gettysburg College. I live in the Shooks Run neighborhood with Aaron Retka, a writer and musician. We have a dog named Annyong.
Something else you’d like to accomplish: I’d like to see the Pikes Peak region truly make a statement to reclaim its legacy as an arts community.
How your business will change during the next decade: We’re living through intense change and upheaval right now. However, I firmly believe (and history confirms) that dark times inspire real creativity and innovation. I’m confident that arts and culture will survive and move to the forefront of what we do.
What book are you currently reading? “American Wife” by Curtis Sittenfeld, “Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood” by Alexandra Fuller and “Cringe,” a collection of excerpts from a Brooklyn reading/performance project in which people read excerpts from their teenage diaries, journals, notes, letters, poems and abandoned rock operas.
What is the one thing you would change about Colorado Springs? I wish I could go back in time and stop them from tearing down the Burns Opera House. I also wish they had never paved over the trolley lines. I would ride the trolley all around downtown and to the Westside and get rid of my car. CSBJ