HIDDEN GEM UP THE PASS: GREEN BOX ARTS FESTIVAL
Green Mountain Falls, greenboxarts.org
Hidden in the hills about 11 miles west of town is a noteworthy summer event well-known to arts lovers but maybe not so much to others - the Green Box Arts Festival. The roots of the event started in 2006, after Keigwin + Company, a professional dance company from New York City, spent some time in the tiny village of Green Mountain Falls for a dance residency program. The festival became official in 2009 and has grown to feature local, regional and national musicians, professional dance companies, film and more, such as workshops for adults and kids and a s'mores and astronomy night. I especially look forward to each festival's amazing art installation. Last year's special guest was the internationally-known English artist Bruce Munro, whose large-scale, light-filled creations "Field of Light" and "Tepees" captured hearts and social media feeds.
SMALL BUT MIGHTY: TRI-LAKES CENTER FOR THE ARTS
304 Colorado 105, Palmer Lake, 481-0475, trilakesarts.org
This nonprofit organization in Palmer Lake has seen a surprising number of big names from a variety of musical genres cross its stage in recent years. Think Billy Bob Thornton and the Boxmasters, Judy Collins, Paula Cole, Branford Marsalis Jazz Quartet, Colin Hay, Marty Haggard, Crystal Bowersox and Moe Bandy. And there's more to the hopping venue than music, such as art shows, children's events, lectures, photo exhibits, theater performances and workshops.
BIG WORDS, BIGGER NAMES: CONVERGE LECTURE SERIES
George Saunders. Junot Díaz. Marie Howe. Holy amazing writers and poets. Somehow series founder Sam Stephenson managed to convince five internationally known wordsmiths to venture to Colorado Springs for his new lecture series that began in the fall and runs through Nov. 4. More than 200 folks attended the Howe event in early October, and Saunders spoke to a sold-out crowd in February. Next up: Richard Blanco on May 6. He was selected by President Barack Obama in 2012 as the fifth presidential inaugural poet in U.S. history. Get tickets now. And here's hoping Stephenson can work his magic for a second series.
WAY TO WORK FOR IT: MANITOU SPRINGS' CREATIVE DISTRICT DESIGNATION
Colorado Creative Industries finally officially recognized something that was a long time coming - the colorful quirky creativity of Manitou Springs. After three and a half years of trying, our little neighboring burg was finally deemed a Creative District through CCI's Colorado Creative Districts Program. The coveted designation comes with financial and marketing support, grant opportunities, leadership training and a sign on U.S. 24 and Interstate 25 that alerts passersby this is a town not to be missed. But you already knew that.
BEGINNING OF A BEAUTIFUL FRIENDSHIP: COLORADO SPRINGS FINE ARTS CENTER AT COLORADO COLLEGE
The two nonprofits became one last summer when Colorado College assumed full operational management of the Fine Arts Center. And so far, so good, seems to be the consensus. Programming has increased across the board, particularly in the number of museum exhibits. A few other changes have also surely attracted some first-time visitors along with faithful diehards: General admission is $10 and won't fluctuate for special exhibits as it did in the past; the museum is open later and features an additional free day - second Saturdays; and more theater performances take place on Wednesdays for a reasonable $20. Here's a big high five to more accessible, affordable art opportunities.
WAY TO FEEL LIKE AN ADULT: COLORADO SPRINGS PHILHARMONIC
Taking myself to the symphony is one of the few times I feel like an adult, especially when I attend a challenging piece of work such as Gustav Mahler's Sixth Symphony. It's one of the trickiest pieces the orchestra has pulled off, but they did it like the acclaimed champs they are during two April performances. All I had to do was sit and allow the music to wash over me as the musicians and music director Josep Caballé-Domenech wrung themselves dry playing for more than an hour, proving once again the high quality of classical music we plebeians have access to in our fair city.
To see the full 2018 Best of the Springs results, visit thebestofthesprings.com