Art, while not impossible to define, is something defined differently by everyone, both experts and laypeople. A dictionary may provide guidelines, but few people consult dictionaries to determine what moves them in an ephemeral or forever way. But if you’re willing to make the drive from Denver to Pueblo you may find something that touches the artistic side of both heart and soul.
The Sangre de Cristo Arts and Conference Center has served as a lighthouse and cultural beacon for southern Colorado since 1972. In the nearly half century since opening as a modest two-building facility with a single gallery, a 500-seat theater and conference center, this little art engine that could has proved time and again that it can deliver the goods, everything from a world-class art exhibit to Broadway performances in a first class way.
“Our number one thing is our exhibits,” said Bob Campbell, Marketing and Events Coordinator for the Center. “They’re world class.” Beginning in June, he said, visitors will be able to see the largest Florentine Art Glass collection to ever be shown in southern Colorado.
Southern Coloradans who have a taste for theater have come to rely on the Sangre de Cristo for their theatrical fix. The Sangre de Cristo’s next offering is George Orwell’s “1984.” The New York-based Aquila Theater will bring ‘Big Brother’ and his dystopian and troubling peek into the future to Pueblo with a scheduled March 15th debut.
Despite sometimes turbulent economic times in Pueblo, the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center has navigated these waters and found a loyal base. Its popularity allowed for an expansion in 1982, adding three galleries, a gift shop and a children’s museum which has been chosen as the “second best children’s museum for art in the nation,” by Child Magazine.
Initial funding for the Center came from a federal grant from the Economic Development Agency and Pueblo County. While the Center generates much of its own budget, it still relies on support from both city and county governments. It also gets grants from various foundation. “If we had to rely solely on classes and admissions,” said Campbell, “we wouldn’t be able to do what we do now.” In April, he said, the Center’s annual rent will come due and it will pay the County the grand sum of $10 to cover 2021 rent.
Campbell estimates the Center will have “about 130,000” visitors walk through its doors this year, many from out of town. Much of its growth has been as a result of an expanded mission. Beside the Buell Children’s Museum, locals can sign up for classes offering glass and jewelry making, nationally recognized pottery classes, dance, digital media, photography and more.
Having southern Colorado’s largest cultural center just a few miles away is also a big plus for Colorado State University-Pueblo. “It’s fantastic for me personally,” said Dr. Rachel Zimmerman, of the University’s Department of Art and Creative Media. The Center, she said, is both “collegial and supportive.” Zimmerman said that it’s also been an asset for University students who have benefitted from internships at the Center.
The Center does a lot with a smaller resource pool, said Zimmerman. One of the things she’s looking forward to is the planned Ansel Adams exhibit scheduled for the Center in 2021. The Center also invited Zimmerman’s students downtown to experience a hands-opportunity to handle models of artist Michelangelo’s work from a recent exhibition. “They put them out just for us.”
While the Center is the heart of Pueblo’s art and cultural scene, Campbell said it belongs to all of southern Colorado. “We do outreach programs,” he said. “We’ll have a portion of our collection at other facilities,” including Del Norte, Salida, Trinidad and Walsenburg.”
The Sangre de Cristo Arts and Conference Center is located at 210 N. Santa Fe Avenue and is open Wednesday through Sunday.