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Fine Arts Center and Colorado College discuss motivations behind pending alliance

Partners in arts


David Dahlin sees deal's potential. - COURTESY FINE ARTS CENTER
  • Courtesy Fine Arts Center
  • David Dahlin sees deal's potential.

Colorado College and the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center have approved some details for their long-discussed alliance. The organizations' legal teams currently are reviewing the proposed framework. They hope to reach a decision before the end of summer, according to FAC President and CEO David Dahlin.

When the Independent spoke with Dahlin last week, he wanted to make clear the FAC's intent.

"People tend to focus on the financials and other aspects, and that's not the main emphasis," he says, adding that it's about the "potential to continue and to expand our mission into the future."

According to Dahlin, the best research shows that the most successful art institutions have one of three drivers supporting their growth. One is city funding and support — famous institutions like Carnegie Hall and the Art Institute of Chicago receive major funding from city governments of New York and Chicago, respectively. Another indicator is a big endowment. The third option, which Dahlin calls increasingly common, is support from a higher education facility.

While finances may not comprise the entire deal, they're part of what inspired negotiations in the first place. Initially, Dahlin was interested in expanding the FAC's endowment, adding to what Alice Bemis Taylor set up when the institution was founded. Dahlin felt that, due to the political climate, seeking city funding was unlikely to succeed.

Adding to the endowment would not have been without its hurdles. He notes that raising funds for an expansion or major exhibit is much easier than raising funds for operational costs.

"Nobody particularly likes to pay for heat and lights and basic core services, and that's a big part of our costs," he says.

Dahlin credits the idea of working with CC to a variety of unnamed people within the community.

"The more we looked at it, the more we liked it, and the more we thought [that] this has some real potential for both institutions," he says.

As part of its mission, the FAC has assembled and would continue to amass a collection of local and regional art and cultural objects. That collection is a huge resource for students in some CC programs. In an email, Leslie Weddell, CC's director of news and media relations, says the college's Southwest studies and anthropology programs would benefit most. CC's art and museum studies would also gain prestige from additional hands-on education and internship opportunities at an American Alliance of Museums-accredited facility.

"The bringing together of a fully accredited museum and CC's Block Plan, with its emphasis on field study and hands-on learning, would make CC a national leader in teaching with museums," Weddell says. "It would allow us to do what we're already doing even better; things such as innovative teaching, community-based learning, fostering innovation and working with underserved populations."

The alliance also would help CC engage more with the local community. Weddell says that the allied institutions would have an easier time offering arts, cultural and educational opportunities to a broader audience.

Dahlin says, "We entered this conversation saying that we only want to do this if we can come out with a win-win-win. ... It's got to be a win for CC, obviously. It's got to be a win for the Fine Arts Center, but it has to be a win for the community."

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