McConnell: Ready to serve ‘culture with cocktails’

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Daisy McConnell is the new co-director of the UCCS Gallery of Contemporary Art. GOCA is a nonprofit art center and school. It offers visual art exhibitions from emerging and mid-career artists from its two galleries, one downtown at 121 S. Tejon St. and one on the UCCS campus, 1420 Austin Bluffs Parkway.The downtown gallery opened earlier this year. McConnell first came to Colorado Springs as the recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship to Colorado College. Like most CC students, she didn’t plan to stay in Colorado Springs but met her husband here during her senior year and decided to make this her home.

Tell us about your new position.

I just accepted the position as co-director (with Caitlin Greene) of the UCCS Gallery of Contemporary Art.

Our first show, Hypothesis, is about the links between science and the arts. We wanted to advertise the fact that the gallery, oddly enough, is located in the science building. There’s a natural affinity between science and the arts — look at Leonardo da Vinci. That’s the model of what we hope to do.

You need multiple entry points for a successful exhibit. We’re not saying that oh, you need to know your art history to understand and appreciate (the show). You can come from the sciences, you can come from any discipline, and there will be a point of entry.

Tell us about yourself.

I came from a big bohemian family. My parents were artists and we were sort of vagabonds traveling across the Continent. We came back to the United States in the 80s, and reality intervened. We lived in many places, but I consider Seattle my hometown.

How did you launch your own career?

I graduated from Colorado College with a degree in Studio Art, and waltzed right into the local arts community. At that time, the Coburn Gallery (then located in cramped quarters in the student center) really didn’t have a director, so I took it on. In the first year we tripled attendance, just by having someone there getting the word out and making a concerted effort to involve the community.

How did you involve the community?

For one thing, we had some very high-quality exhibits in a variety of media — book art, paper art, ceramics, many featuring work by visiting faculty members. I really learned from Jessica Hunter Larsen at the IDEA Space how to shape an exhibition, and how to involve all segments of the community that we could persuade — or coerce! — to take part.

Some claim that Colorado Springs is losing young professionals and becoming a cultural backwater. Do you agree?

I think that’s absolutely false. Look at the number of arts organizations, of creative, involved people. We now have two locations for contemporary art, and I think there’s an untapped audience for what we do. Call it “culture with cocktails,” continuing education for adults in a fun atmosphere. We have the cultural framework, and there’s a hunger for cultural opportunities. This year we’ll have nine different shows, five on campus and four in the downtown gallery.

Audio excerpt of the interview with Daisy McDonnell.