Manitou Arts Group Distributes $55,000 to Local Organizations and Individuals

Additional Monies Available Later This Year

Gabriel Paulson

Funds for Manitou Arts Culture and Heritage programs come from a three-tenths of 1 percent increase in sales and use taxes in Manitou Springs, which was approved by voters in 2019.

Under the program, 66 percent of the funds are earmarked for facility improvements and operations at Carnegie Library building, Manitou Arts Center, Manitou Springs Heritage Center, Miramont Castle and Hiawatha Gardens, all buildings determined culturally significant, or providing access to the arts.

All those buildings fall under Tier I funding, Under the current funding cycle, the library and Hiawatha Gardens each received $41,278, The funding for Hiawatha Gardens remains on hold until the fate of the property can be determined once the task force has completed its work and the newer portions are demolished to restore the historic older portion of the structure.

Tier 2 funding goes to smaller non-profit groups that have to apply for the funds through the Manitou Arts Culture and Heritage board of directors.

The board received 30 applications, requesting $111,000 in funds, but there was only $77,500 available. The board granted funding totaling $55,000 to 16 of the organizations that requested funds. The remaining $22,500 is expected to be granted during the mid-year cycle.

One of those receiving funds was Brenda Blondo, a Manitou photographer who features natural landscapes and conservation issues in her works. Her project “Bee Kind” was granted $1,425.

Using the funds, she created a composite image depicting a native bee and elements of Colorado’s natural environment. She will apply the artwork to an exterior wall of a downtown business. The mural will be an 87-inch by 58-inch sheet of vinyl laminate that will be applied using heat. Once completed, it will look to the viewers as if it was painted directly on the building. The project will be revealed during the week of June 21, which is National Pollinator Week. The mural will contain a QR code that can be scanned and direct viewers to a Website containing information about protecting bees and butterflies.

Blondo said this will be the first in a series of public art designed to bring attention to protecting the environment. Posters of the work will also be available for sale to help non-profit agencies with their efforts to focus awareness on pollinators. The installation will be carried out by Creative Consortium that handles Colorado Springs’ Art on the Streets Program. Two-thirds of the funds will go to the consortium.

Another organization that received funds is Manitou Springs Arts Academy, which received $2,800 for the ART Stacks Program. The Academy began in 1992 under the leadership of Gary Miller, who was then the superintendent of District 14. The mission of the academy is to provide intensive education and training in the arts in an enjoyable and supportive environment. The program will provide children with equal access to materials that will support the arts curriculum and provide guidance to parents and guardians. The materials can be used across the various disciplines of visual art, music, theater and movement and are refillable.

 A third recipient of funds was Deborah Thornton, the executive director of Imagination Celebration, which received $4,000 For Manitou Connections. The project focuses on the Portal, which is a large gold shipping container that sat at the Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Center during the Covid-19 lockdown.

With these funds, the project will support global conversations and possible collaborations among a range of Manitou creatives and cohorts around the world, Thornton stated. This is possible because of the technology of the portal, which contains an 8 foot-by-8-foot screen and cameras that allows for interaction virtually with other portals around the world.

Thornton sees this project as a way to drop social and racial barriers, dissolve stereotypes and foster creativity and a deeper understanding of our place in the global culture. These connections will allow Manitou Springs residents and visitors to share their unique experiences with others, she added. Although only in operation during the pandemic,  Thornton hopes to be able to get the portal up and running again soon and will bring on Mary O’Meallie as the curator. She has managed connections with Africa, Berlin, Australia, Afghanistan, Mexico, Honduras and the Netherlands.

The MACH board of directors will keep funding projects as funds are available and is always looking for ways to assist the community in growing positive connections through the arts and heritage as allowed by the sales tax.