FAC History

No institution has played a more important role in Colorado’s art history than the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. – Westword

The Fine Arts Center’s story begins as a burgeoning art colony at the foot of Pikes Peak. Colorado Springs founder Gen. William Jackson Palmer had envisioned a city he nicknamed “Little London” — an oasis of culture and refinement amidst the untamed rugged landscape — and from 1919 to 1935, artists from around the country streamed in to make that happen.

In the former home of philanthropists Julie and Spencer Penrose, they established the Broadmoor Art Academy (BAA).

The New York Times commented on the Broadmoor Art Academy growing prominence in 1920: “An art school with competent instructors in a place remote from centres of art exhibitions and teaching has a more direct influence (on a community). People are always more interested in what they do than in what they see, and there is an admirable chance to develop a fresh and strong school of landscape painting in the Western part of the country.”

Muralist, cartoonist and illustrator Boardman Robinson from the Art Students League of New York joined the academy and took the helm as director in 1931. Instructors during this decade also included Willard NashWard Lockwood, Kenneth AdamsTabor UtleyLaurence B. FieldErnest FieneWarren ChappellGeorge BiddlePaul BurlinCharles LockeHenry Varnum Poor and Frank Mechau.

These instructors taught inside the Penrose mansion and out in the field in Monument Valley Park, Garden of the Gods and elsewhere. Students would take five-hour long “Life Classes” five days a week. During this time, Robinson, Mechau and other BAA instructors and students were commissioned to paint many Works Progress Administration (WPA) murals. In fact, it was Broadmoor Art Academy instructor George Biddle who wrote to his former classmate, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, proposing a program for artist relief through murals.