Ignite II makes case for support of arts

Ten of Colorado Springs’ most creative minds tried their best Tuesday night to sell the merits of what they do — without actually concentrating on what they do best, which would’ve been simply performing.

They shared a different mission this time, making five-minute presentations at the second Ignite Colorado Springs event of 2013, educating 300 people in UCCS’ Berger Hall about the local arts and culture scene.

Ignite II, cosponsored by the university’s El Pomar Institute for Innovation and Commercialization along with CSBJ, gave the speakers a stage to make the case for more public awareness of their schools, programs and/or events.

Those opportunities don’t come often, especially with so many engaged listeners who would admit sheepishly how thin their knowledge is of the Springs arts community, and how limited their participation has been.

That was the whole idea of Ignite II, giving everyone a better idea of what’s happening around them at the Colorado Springs Conservatory, Ormao Dance Company, UCCS’ TheatreWorks, Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region (COPPeR), Millibo Art Theater, Bee Vradenburg Foundation, Indie Spirit Film Festival, Manitou Art Center (formerly Business of Art Center), Concrete Couch and the Peak FreQuency Creative Arts Collective.

About this time, I’m guessing some (or many) readers probably are no different from the rest of the Ignite II audience — largely uninformed but open to fresh ideas. We don’t have room here to describe all of those presentations. But some are worth singling out.

COPPeR executive director Christina McGrath gave the economic-impact sermon, guessing that if the attendees had heard it before, the message might not have stuck.

It’s a story of numbers: 240 arts and culture organizations, $72 million in annual impact, 1.3 million total attendance for events each year, 2,168 jobs sustained, $4.3 million in city-county tax revenue produced annually, 5,291 volunteers working 106,592 hours, and a fresh one — $42.7 million spent on art and related purchases.

That tells you how much the arts already mean to the Colorado Springs area, and how much their influence has grown in the past generation. But the goal of other presenters was not to boast about those statistics, but to develop them more.

If you aren’t a regular at TheatreWorks productions, you should have heard longtime executive director Drew Martorella’s refreshing references to pushing normal boundaries and learning from failures, saying, “Success is overrated. … We cultivate and celebrate failure. … We’ll continue to take risks, and it’s because of your support that we’re able to fail.”

“We need to take pride in our arts the way we take pride in Peyton Manning.”

– David Siegel,

Bee Vradenburg Foundation

And whether or not you had seen Jim Jackson, a famous clown but speaking on this night as the head of Millibo, you had to admire how he set aside his usual crazy antics to talk about developing his local theater business. And he freely acknowledged how little he relished “being stuck in the hell of fundraising … a special hell for artists.” Yet, now he has an excellent 110-seat venue for Millibo (a converted church across from Ivywild School), and the shows and guests there are worth seeing.

One speaker did figure out a way to perform, and it highlighted arguably the night’s most effective segment. David Siegel, executive director of the Bee Vradenburg Foundation, happens to be a Colorado Springs Conservatory graduate and gifted violinist who’s equally adept playing classical or contemporary music.

Siegel grabbed the audience by announcing his theme: “Why I Love You, My Violin and Peyton Manning.” Soon, Siegel pulled out his violin and, to make his point about music’s emotions, played a riveting excerpt from a Bach composition.

And how did this self-avowed “5-foot-5 music geek” relate to the Denver Broncos’ quarterback? “He’s ours,” said Siegel, obviously a devout member of Orange Nation. “And we need to take pride in our arts the way we take pride in Peyton Manning.”

In other words, he added, we should appreciate our performers and artists with national reputations, and spend more time enjoying our venues such as the Pikes Peak Center. Siegel then quoted the late, world-renowned violinist Isaac Stern, who once called the Pikes Peak Center’s acoustics “the closest thing I’ve heard to Carnegie Hall.”

There will be more Ignite Colorado Springs events, with another scheduled next spring, taking different directions.

But this one delivered in its own way, because it made you want to go to a play, a dance performance, an art gallery or a concert. Not just once, but as often as possible.

Obviously, that means it was a success. Bring on Ignite III.