Yes, we have an arts scene worth recognizing

Ron Brasch remembers reading a newspaper article about 15 years ago, shortly after he had moved to Colorado Springs.

The article was anything but flattering about our city and its appeal to outsiders who might consider moving here. In particular, the piece sent a critically negative message about the local arts scene and its shortcomings, deserved or not.

The reality then, at least for those of us with some history in the area, probably would have been better described as suffering from a lack of unity.

This many years later, the scene and the vibe certainly have changed, as was obvious to the crowd of 300-plus gathered Tuesday at the Antlers Hilton for the sixth annual Business and Arts Lunch. A cooperative effort of the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region and the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance, the event’s stated purpose is to recognize “business and business leaders that support the arts and integrate arts and creativity into their companies.”

Besides the awards, this luncheon also includes a handful of performances from across the local area. Once again, this collection of talent provided an impressive glimpse into the variety (and quality) in our midst — from the Colorado Springs Chorale’ Chamber Singers to Colorado College playwright and instructor Idris Goodwin, the Thin Air Theatre Company of Cripple Creek’s Butte Theater, artist and muralist Douglas Rouse, the Pikes Peak Philharmonic’s horn section and bluegrass standouts Grass It Up.

Just having these honors each year goes a long way toward emphasizing how Colorado Springs has placed a higher priority and value on the arts.

Brasch, a merger and acquisitions specialist at First Business Brokers Ltd., and his wife Una Ng-Brasch, who works in Colorado College’s education department, are prime examples of relative newcomers who have emerged as important civic leaders.

For their efforts, Ron and Una Brasch were honored by COPPeR as the local Business Arts Leaders of the Year, which involves commitment beyond just philanthrophy to include board involvement, advocacy and personal creativity. For example, Una serves on the boards of the Colorado Springs Philharmonic as well as the Friends of the Pikes Peak Library District. Ron, also an artist in his own time, has been heavily involved with the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center and the Business of Arts Center, among others.

“I don’t see the arts and the business world as mutually exclusive.” 

– Ron Brasch

“This is completely different” now from 15 years ago, Ron Brasch said. “I don’t see the arts and the business world as mutually exclusive.”

Una Brasch added to that message, saying, “A city without art is incomplete, and doesn’t have a soul,” clearly meaning that she was not talking about Colorado Springs today.

They weren’t the only finalists, either. Also in that group were Kathy and Sam Guadagnoli, who not only own several night-time downtown spots but also have been big supporters of the Colorado Springs Conservatory and other events; and Martha Marzolf, a Realtor who has served as chair of the Fine Arts Center board plus a leading role in cultivating local arts support.

Two other awards at the luncheon underscored how the local arts scene has evolved in the past few years.

The Philanthropy Award went to the Mining Exchange Hotel, brought to life by attorney/developer Perry Sanders, which displays the work of local artists and also provides free accommodations to guest performers for the FAC and Colorado Springs Philharmonic. But convincing cases also could be made for the other finalists, the Space Foundation and Poor Richard’s Complex.

Finally, the Creative Workspace Award went to the Ivywild School, which has been reborn as a business (food and drink) and arts center of its own, chosen ahead of Kratt Commercial Properties (University Village Colorado, with its developing public art) and Wells Fargo Advisors and the Private Bank for its many sponsorships.

Sanders, in a taped interview played for the audience in announcing that honor, pulled the lunch and the setting together with an eloquent outlook on his adopted home.

“Art is like a magnet,” Sanders said, adding that without a thriving environment, “there’s no chance we could develop our downtown in a significant way. I didn’t realize how awesome the arts scene here truly is.”

He knows now, just as anyone who has attended the Business and Arts Luncheon each year knows.

Colorado Springs might not be perfect in every way, but anyone who pre-judges our city as lacking in arts and culture simply (a) doesn’t know what’s happening here, and (b) is wrong.