The Green Box Arts Festival hearkens back to the days when professional artistic companies, such as ballet troupes and the Metropolitan Opera, took the show on the road during summer, bringing the arts to tiny towns all over the country.
"That doesn't happen anymore," said festival co-founder Christian Keesee, "but what does happen are small arts festivals. Green Box falls into this category. It's an arts festival with dance, installation art and art education."
That was the original intention behind the festival started in 2009 by Keesee, a New York City-based philanthropist and chairman of Kirkpatrick Bank and Kirkpatrick Oil & Gas Co., and Larry Keigwin, a New York City-based choreographer and artistic director of Keigwin + Co..
The festival begins Saturday and runs through July 9 in the tiny mountain town 11 miles west of Colorado Springs.
What began as an artist-in-residency program featuring Keigwin's troupe blossomed after folks from the town and surrounding communities expressed high interest. The event now attracts 750 to 1,000 people and has broadened to include music, the culinary arts and scores of classes and activities, including yoga, stargazing, conversations with artists, wine tasting and bingo.
New this year is a relationship between the festival and Manitou Springs School District. Although Green Box always has offered children's art classes, they will be fully integrated this year into the district's summer classes.
Other big names this summer include Houston's METdance. Eleven dancers will perform four 12- to 20-minute pieces by nationally known and award-winning choreographers, including Camille Brown's 2005 work "New Second Line."
"It's a fun dance, an audience favorite," said company artistic director Marlana Doyle. "It's very up and celebratory, with music from New Orleans. It was created after Hurricane Katrina."
Bruce Munro, an internationally known installation artist from England, will illuminate the night skies with two light-filled pieces: "Field of Light" in Flagpole Park and "Tepees" on Mountain Road Corner. Denver's jazz and swing band Joe Smith and the Spicy Pickles will provide the musical backdrop to a lively Fourth of July evening. Other featured bands include the Colorado Vocal Arts Ensemble, Colorado Springs Youth Symphony and a bluegrass band led by Keith Reed, a recording artist and faculty member and director of the bluegrass ensemble at Colorado College.
"It's a pretty fast and furious festival," said Keigwin. "What's nice to watch is how the community comes alive and how social it becomes. You see people come out of the woodwork, quite literally. There's a sense of bonding and appreciation you don't always see, and that's lovely."