Peak Arts Fund pairs business, arts organizations

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COPPeR Executive Director Christina McGrath and Nor’wood President Chris Jenkins pose for a photo during a launch party for Peak Arts Fund, an initiative that pairs business and the arts.

A new fundraising campaign aims to raise money for the Colorado Springs arts community.

The Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region announced the launch of Peak Arts Fund at Kirkpatrick Bank Tuesday morning.

The fund is a full-press effort to gain awareness and support for the local arts community and to substantially increase direct funding for area arts organizations, said COPPeR director Christina McGrath.

The program is reaching out to area businesses to encourage corporate and employee giving. Anyone who gives more than $60 a year receives a Peak Arts card, which entitles the donor to special discounts at the 15 participating arts organizations and several local restaurants. Interested donors can give online at www.PeakArtsFund.org.

McGrath said she’s looked at several of the 60 or so other communities in the country that have a similar funding program for the arts and has heard some really exciting success stories. She said that Kansas City has built its fund up to annual donations of $250,000 to $350,000 in just four years.

The money collected is distributed to the 15 participating organizations based on a formula that weights their operations budgets.

But the funding is just one piece of it, she said.

“We have a vibrant arts community here and this is also about audience development,” McGrath said. “Kansas City saw a 25 percent growth in revenue at its participating organizations.”

She said most of that came from increased ticket sales, more people going to events and workshops.

She hopes to get 1,500 people to participate in the fund in its first year, which she believes will drive increased awareness about the arts community.

She told a group of about 20 community members gathered at the launch announcement at Kirkpatrick Bank Tuesday that the arts in the Pikes Peak region are strong and that area arts organizations employ more than 2,600 people.

“Business and the arts are inextricably linked,” said Dave Csintyan, interim CEO of the combined Economic Development Committee and Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce.

He said he believed that strengthening the arts community will make Colorado Springs more attractive to young professionals and businesses interested in relocating or starting here.

“It’s hard to say exactly when the conversation got started on something like this because we’ve always been talking about it,” said Sam Gappmayer, president and CEO of the Fine Arts Center.

But he and McGrath said serious organizational talks began a year and a half or two ago and they were both hopefully the idea would get off the ground.

“I’ve lived in communities that have arts funds like this and they make a phenomenal difference,” Gappmayer said. “When she announced it today, I got chills. I really believe that in 10 years, five years, we’ll be able to look back on this moment as the one that changed the trajectory of the arts community in Colorado Springs.”

List of participating arts organizations

Business of Arts Center

Colorado Springs Children’s Chorale

Colorado Springs Chorale

Colorado Springs Conservatory

Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center

Colorado Springs Philharmonic

Colorado Springs Youth Symphony

Cottonwood Center for the Arts

Imagination Celebration

Millibo Art Theater

Opera Theater of the Rockies

Rocky Mountain Women’s Film Festival

Theatreworks

Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts

Velvet Hills Chorus