Although Joy Armstrong spent the first chunk of her life in other parts of the country, Colorado Springs is the place the artist — along with her artsy family — calls home. Armstrong, 36, has always shown a healthy interest in the arts, first in performing and later visual. After graduating from the University of Denver with a degree in studio art, she earned her master’s in art history from Kent State before returning here and becoming assistant curator of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. Armstrong talked about her four-year stay at the FAC, how her passions have evolved and why she prefers to call the Springs her home.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself and your background?
I consider myself to be from Colorado Springs, although I was born in Omaha and my family lived a few other places before we came here. My dad was transferred here when I was 7, so I started here in second grade, graduated from high school here and went to college in Denver — so I stayed pretty close to home. I studied photography and film production in college, which was great and tons of fun. That was really my first foray into being serious about visual art. Before that I was more interested in performing arts. Then I moved away and went to graduate school at Kent State in Ohio, graduated from there and moved back to Colorado Springs in 2008. I’ve been here at the Fine Arts Center since 2010, and I consider myself super-lucky to have found a job in my field — my master’s is in art history and my background before I came here was in museum studies, so I feel incredibly fortunate to have found such a job in the state that I love.
Why did you decide to return to the Springs after school?
I love so many things about Colorado Springs. Of course there are things that I would love to see change in this town, but our natural environment, the weather is incredible, people are really nice … maybe it’s just part of getting older and worrying about the more practical elements of life, but I feel like the quality of life is really great here. And my family is here, which is really important to me. I feel very invested in this community.
How did you get into the arts?
I’m really lucky to have had super supportive parents in that regard. Both of my parents are artists — my mother is a pianist and my father is a singer, but he was also a scientist. They respected so many different disciplines and really encouraged me to pursue things like science — I was very interested in astronomy and physics and things like that — but they were also very supportive of creative pursuits.
What is your day-to-day like at the FAC?
Every day is different, which is something I really enjoy about working here at the Fine Arts Center. We have a small staff, and at a larger institution my job would probably be much more defined. … On a typical day I am usually doing research, working on an upcoming exhibition, maybe doing some writing, working on our collections (being able to spend time with the art is very important to me) and also working with other departments to plan events. So I get to do a wide variety of things but all focused on the core goal of planning exhibitions and thinking about education and outreach.
Has the local arts community provided a good environment for career development?
This can be a tough town, because we are a small community and there might not be as much opportunity as if you were in the arts in New York, or Chicago, or L.A. By that same token, I feel like I have been embraced in many ways and there are so many connections I have made in the community, because it is so small. … Once I was able to get my foot through the door, I feel like a lot of other doors were opened for me.