“Not a native, but I got here as fast as I could.”
I read that slogan on a popular green bumper sticker resembling a Colorado license plate everywhere. Like so many others, my family and I are transplants drawn by the mountains and the sunny days. When my sister, an artist and interior designer, recently moved across the country to join us, we decided to explore the artsy options around Colorado Springs.
The obvious starting point is the Bemis Art School at Colorado College. Part of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Bemis offers beginner to advanced courses taught by experienced artists across 30 mediums—undoubtedly the widest scope of expertise in the region. Some of their programs are seasonal: my daughter took an intermediate acrylics class there on Friday evenings for six weeks, which suited her work schedule. Other classes are one-day intensives. Bemis maintains an impressive emphasis on community outreach, recently helping victims of a
wildfire turn charred family treasures into works of art; they also offer art therapy classes to military members and their families. My favorite class is Mold Making & Chocolate Casting—edible sculpture!
My next recommendation was Concrete Couch. Basically a crowd-sourcing venue for artistic endeavors, Concrete Couch describes its mission as “art with a purpose.” When a juvenile detention facility, a senior center, or a military group contacts them with a need, their volunteer artists donate both time and talents. They have created decorative wrought iron gates, colorful murals, purposeful garden benches, and even the occasional concrete couch. I’m confident their community-enriching objectives and playful spirit will appeal to my sister.
Manitou Art Center offers Manitou Springs many arts options. Residents and tourists collaborate in the MAC studios via daily use rates or classes like pottery, printmaking, and “intensely messy events.” CrEATe Café,
known for its coffee and soups, is co-located and serves artists whenever the MAC is open. I love their food and art connection.
In Manitou Springs, I happily stumbled upon another creativity spot: Craft. My sister can drop by on open studio weekdays and choose from 10 to 12 genius projects. In the evenings, she can book a craft session to make new friends. Either way, Craft guarantees that every item is “locally made by you, the artisan.” Socials include studio space, all materials, and instructions from concept to creation. The comprehensive variety of projects means anyone can find an appealing craft; in August alone, Craft led sessions for eight different projects, including watercolor mugs, wire-wrapped jewelry, artisan body scrubs, and mini succulent gardens.
Since art and wine were made to be enjoyed together, I hope she will make a reservation at the Sweet Elephant at Vino Colorado Winery. Located in Old Colorado City, Sweet Elephant’s paint and sip classes make a great night out with friends. The winery, with exposed brick walls and lofty ceilings, makes an inspiring studio.
Down the street in Old Colorado City, my sister can also try Art@Altitude. Their evening “paint n’ sip” sessions offer a variety of projects from traditional canvas art to up-cycled furniture and home décor items. Art@Altitude strives to help aspiring artists elevate their art experience with a good glass of wine alongside old and new friends.
If she wants to make art on a budget, I’ll suggest Who Gives a SCRAP, also in Old Colorado City. Their creative reuse center is an artist’s dream. After accepting donations of everything from scrapbooking paper to paintbrushes and puzzle pieces to tech leftovers, they resell the materials inexpensively as art and craft supplies. Who Gives a SCRAP makes their money through donations, scrap purchases, art classes, and Make and Take It parties and won the 2017 Social Impact Startup of the Year award thanks to jobs they’ve created and the tons of trash they’ve kept out of Colorado landfills.
Heading north, the Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts is a gem. Tucked in quaint Palmer Lake, their studio offers adult classes for beginners to professional artists. My sister can enroll in their drawing, pastels, photography, or even stone sculpture classes. I wouldn’t be surprised if she eventually ends up teaching their interior design course.
The Pikes Peak region is home to a vibrant arts community, and many of our artistic options are community-based and meant to be enjoyed with others. Whether you’re enjoying a girls’ night out or a birthday celebration, there’s a studio for your party. For more experienced artists like my sister, there are collaborative spaces to refine techniques, expand into new mediums, and create beautiful pieces that bring joy to others. With many studios combining arts with good food, drinks, and fellowship, she won’t have any trouble finding a creative zone.