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Square roots



Linked to a history that stretches almost all the way to the city's incorporation in 1886, the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center offers a lot of ground to recap. And often it's hilly terrain, fluctuating with the comings and goings of many of the era's major regional players.

The current building rises over the bones of its forebearer, the Broadmoor Art Academy, itself the old home of Spencer and Julie Penrose. (They donated it in 1919 after moving closer to one of their other ventures, The Broadmoor Hotel.) Famed muralist Boardman Robinson became the Academy's head in 1931, and five years later it transitioned into its current incarnation as the Fine Arts Center.

Over its years, the FAC's evolved into a three-headed beast of exhibition, education and entertainment, increasing its membership rolls from an initial count of 44 to more than 4,300 today, all while displaying jaw-dropping works and hosting the masterly and the memorable.


Local philanthropist Alice Bemis Taylor approaches the Broadmoor Art Academy's board of trustees about the creation of a museum to house her extensive Native American art collection.


The BAA's board votes to change the institution's name to the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. It later approves the architectural plans created by the husband of Taylor's niece, John Gaw Meem, for a building at the site of the Academy at 30 W. Dale St.


More than 5,000 people — comprising 15 percent of the city — attend the FAC's grand opening, seeing dances from Martha Graham and works from Cézanne, van Gogh, Picasso, Renoir, Matisse and more.


The Center hosts, among others, architect Frank Lloyd Wright, poet Langston Hughes, the Trapp Family Singers of The Sound of Music fame, and an exhibition of celluloid paintings from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first-ever exhibition of animated cels from the Walt Disney Co.


The Penrose's El Pomar Foundation begins funding art acquisitions, with an initial gift of $5,000.


In response to the U.S. declaring war on Japan, with the safety of coastal cities in doubt, many of the nation's finest art works — pieces from Goya, Honoré Daumier and more — are moved to the FAC for safekeeping. Later that year, Alice Bemis Taylor dies.


James B. Byrnes becomes director, expanding the Center's collection by acquiring pieces from Georgia O'Keeffe, Arthur Dove, John Marin, Marsden Hartley and more.


The FAC hosts scores of national legislators and more than a hundred members of the media for the unveiling of the yet-to-be-constructed U.S. Air Force Academy's architectural designs. The Associated Press quotes Rep. Porter Hardy Jr., D-Va., as saying the future academy "looks like a modernistic cigarette factory."


Julie Penrose dies and is placed with her husband in the Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun, which is decorated with murals by Broadmoor Art Academy instructor Randall Davey.


The Bemis School of Art for Children is constructed behind the FAC.


Under the guidance of local architect Carlisle Guy, the galleries and school are expanded, with additions added to the east side of the original building.


A $1 million renovation of the theater is completed in anticipation of the FAC's upcoming 50th anniversary.


Artist Mary Ann Bransby restores Archie Musick's basement waterfall mural.


The front-of-the-building murals by Boardman Robinson are restored by his former student, Eric Bransby. Later, the Center is placed on the National Register of Historic Places.


Director David Turner gives a lecture comparing the newly created sound barriers along Interstate 25 to the Berlin Wall. He tells the Independent, "It's not that it's ugly, but it's not beautiful."


Dr. Michael De Marsche becomes director of the Center, initiating blockbuster exhibitions from Dale Chihuly, Peter Max and Andy Warhol, and subsequently purchases more than $2 million in Chihuly artwork.


Driven by a $3.5 million donation, the theater is renovated again — with its sound, light and set capabilities modernized — and renamed the SaGaJi Theatre (taking the first two letters of the names of the donor's three daughters).


The FAC Modern opens in the Plaza of the Rockies with an exhibition of photography from Annie Leibovitz. It will close in November '09 before being turned into the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs' GOCA 121.


The Center finishes a $28 million expansion, expanding gallery space by some 49,000 feet. De Marsche tells the Indy it's "one of the seminal moments in the cultural history of Colorado Springs," and soon leaves for a job in Armenia.


The FAC celebrates its 75th anniversary. The lower-floor galleries feature an in-depth display of the FAC's collection celebrating its heritage. The upstairs galleries will later host solo exhibitions from Brett Weston (in June) and Joellyn Duesberry (in July).


The Center will exhibit a 40-year retrospective of the work of local artist Floyd Tunson.

— Bryce Crawford

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