Thursday, April 15, 2010

Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center Isn’t for Everyone Anymore

Gee, what a shock. The catering company that has for two years provided delectable food at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center is not renewing their contract.

Join the Nonrenewing Club.

Garden of the Gods Gourmet has worked their arts off to provide Fine Arts Center patrons with a multicultural menu at FAC restaurant Café 36, but the proposed contract, prepared, I suspect, by the relatively new FAC management, will not allow the caterer to make a profit—the probable financial direction for the center itself. How democratic.

The Fine Arts Center was led from 2003 to 2007 by risk taker Michael De Marsche, who visioned a spectacular center in Colorado Springs and instituted a fund-raising campaign to build the FAC’s new wing. The drive included our entire community and beyond and attracted a lot of new blood. Annual attendance grew from approximately 20,000 to more than 120,000, an ever-expanding audience that I’ll bet has ever decreased during the current CEO’s tenure.

Under De Marsche’s innovative management, the Fine Arts Center had monthly wine tastings called First Thursdays, tempting hors d’oeuvres, and two groups playing live music that drew hundreds to purchase memberships who otherwise wouldn’t have joined. Through these soirées, people became more aware of other programs—plays, musicals, gallery openings, guest artists, and classes—by being in the galleries and via periodic FAC communications. Subsequently, members attended these events, bringing friends and family. Too quickly, however, De Marsche left the FAC to accept the challenge of becoming executive director of the Yerevan, Armenia, Gerard L. Cafesjian Center for the Arts and Museum of Art.

October 2008 when new permanent management stepped in, word leaked out that CEO Mark Samuel Gappmayer might end the wine tastings because previous leadership had spent too much money on the new wing, and the wine tastings weren’t making the FAC any money. The Fine Arts Center is a nonprofit organization. Apparently advertising and public relations—spending money to make money—were new concepts, which could be a blessing because FAC communications lack consistency anyway.

During Gappmayer’s decision-making period soon after his arrival, I had a lovely chat with him during First Thursdays, imploring him to continue the more-than-20-year tradition of attracting people to the FAC via wine tastings. I’d even served at the gatherings 24 years earlier.

With a genuine smile and obvious concern for the FAC’s financial well-being, he said, and I paraphrase, “But look at who these wine tastings attract: middle-class people who otherwise wouldn’t be here. They’re not interested in art,” he declared, as smiling patrons socialized, gazing at and discussing the exhibit.

Middle class. What is wrong with middle class? Who, specifically, does he want supporting his Fine Arts Center? “Welcome to my center…unless you’re middle class.”

Let’s mention some of the middle-class patrons. One friend paid cash for his $1.3 million home. Many own their homes. This CEO himself purchased his house for $505,000, financing $404,000 of it. The house I built with my ex would now sell for more than $600,000. We have careers and places in society that would connote other than middle class. But why should it matter who pays to be a part of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center?

Some things should not be spoken. I’ve always advised those new in their positions to observe for a time to learn the mechanics of an environment before making consequential decisions.

Contributing to his lack of decorum, Gappmayer had uncharitably stuck the only live music in the small gift shop’s northeast corner—three or four musicians trying to gift us with their songs in a 36-square-feet area. There was no dancing that night.

A very wealthy friend was one of Gappmayer’s few invited guests to a special midmorning presentation to discuss Gappmayer’s plans, the future, and how important their donations to the FAC would be, if they would simply write a check of four or five figures before they leave and place it right here, he suggested with his coat opened just a bit.

Yes, rather than asking everyone to contribute to our community arts center, Gappmayer chooses to eschew the middle class and confront those who are hammered by almost every nonprofit organization already.

Like the Garden of the Gods Gourmet, I suspect many former FAC’ers have not renewed their “contracts” to maintain membership. While it used to be a venue to socialize, discover, and be entertained, it now appears the community center’s culture is open only to a select club.

I see a lack of vision, a view that had started within. But don’t take it from me, take it from someone who works near him: “He’s an idiot.”

And now he could be getting hungry.

Monday, April 12, 2010


To my Internet gal pal: I just accidentally hit Report spam when deleting your last message. Hope that doesn't mess up the system.

My gal pal: No, well, let me know if you get this, then we will know if you spammed me or not.

Back to her: No problem receiving, so your message didn't get spamacized (sort of like circumcision but meatier).

To Sell or Give Away: That Is the Question

Seems that whenever I'd like to sell something, I end up giving it to someone for free anyway as an act of compassion. I suspect if I asked for money I'd feel guilty, so I remain demure, if you can imagine that.

Nevertheless, I thought I'd test my luck on eBay. Some people make a living buying stuff inexpensively or emptying their closets, then arousing a little action around the thing. Some gal with several kids once sold some Pokemon cards for about a thousand bucks because her story was so funny.

Wonder what I have that could give someone a rise.

Auction ends Wednesday before 10 a.m. MDT.
Vintage Hippie Bell-bottom Jeans

Take time to read my jeans' description. It's worth the ride.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Presents and George’s Prickles

When I walk around my house, I see an abundance of wonderful gifts my friends have shared with me throughout the years. Hand-crafted ceramics from Kat and Sue. My first teddy bear from Kathy. Gifts from friends’ travels, housewarming presents, and etiquette gifts offered when coming over for dinner or a party.

My soul friend has traveled around the world a few times and has brought back a multitude of cool things: a hand-painted, long-beaked bird created from a gourd, two caramel-colored Indian elephants all decked out for stomping, a marble box with side holes to allow the scent of good-smelling things placed inside to flow through, a Kama Sutra device that serenades while in use, and a wood giraffe from Africa to join my giraffe collection.

My best guy friend Ray used to buy me gorgeous earrings. With artist’s eyes, he’d select jewelry fit for royalty, and now he shares his gifts with his bride (the artist on this column’s right, Redfish Artwork).

A handsome neighbor, Jim, brought me a percussion instrument from Australia, since I’m a musician and can’t keep a beat. Plus, on another venture, he found an exquisite glass wine stopper in New Zealand and presented it to me for all the wine bottles I should stop.

My hiking bud Bob, also a world traveler, always brings me earrings from faraway lands. He’s been to Australia enough times (five) to be aboriginal. The earrings from there are usually made from shells, wood, or other natural materials, such as an ostrich egg shell and echidna spines, but none of marsupial gonads—too heavy. His numerous givings, and misgivings (a hopping appendage from Amsterdam), are displayed about my home and ears.
But the prickliest gift anyone has ever given me was a pair of cacti. My high-school friend, George, came to visit me at college, and as he walked into my room (see previous post), he said, “It’s polite to bring a gift when you come and visit someone,” and handed me two cute, little saguaro cacti, two and three inches tall.

I’ve always had a green thumb, so I was crushed when one of the little fellas dried up. But the sole survivor moved with me to 10 locations in two states and kept on growing. So here’s my cactus, Aquarius, named after my friend’s astrological sign. He's at least 31 years old.

But I’m still trying to figure out why dear George chose to give me a succulent with a thick, fleshy stem that grows spines, not leaves, and is shaped like a phallus.

What to Wear to a Frat Party

In my second year of college, there weren’t enough dorms to house all UW–Eau Claire students who wanted to live on campus, so the university worked a deal with a nearby Ramada Inn to accommodate several students, two to a room. So began my memorable nine months at the Ramada.

I gave myself a lot of exercise that year. Ramada was quite a distance from campus, and the Board of Education administration building where I worked was even farther away. I chose to use my Motobécane more than my geometric form (Opel sportwagon), so I became thin.

Marcia, my roommate, an English major with a theater minor, was a stitch, literally. She was a seamstress. She and I would come home to the motel from class, sit, and talk in those ubiquitous ’70s green vinyl arm chairs next to the usual motel round table beneath the typical wall mirror. She liked having the TV’s picture on while wearing headphones, listening to music. She’d puff a cigarette, sip on Diet Pepsi, and occasionally fire up and inhale smoke from her one-hit bong. Then she’d just grin and try to think, all pink-faced and squinty-eyed, giggling her high feminine giggle.

Marcia had a way of making me feel wanted, no, needed as her leader. She’d ask me childlike questions, appearing inquisitive, holding her breath awaiting my sage advice. “How do you think I’ll be as an English teacher?” Or, “Do you think green or pink ribbon would look good on this character’s little armor skirt?” I still don’t know if her questions were genuine, but I ate it up, even if I did roll my eyes.

During the first couple months I knew her, Marcia discovered she was attractive. She had long, sort of wavy, dark blonde hair she loved to brush while listening to Eric Clapton sing. “And brushes her long blonde hair. And then she asks me, ‘Do I look alright?’ And I say, ‘Yes, you look wonderful tonight.’”

Staring into the mirror, never taking her eyes off herself, she would talk to me for an hour, stroking her hair, smoking her bong, uttering sweet nothings in her soft, breathy, high voice.

I remember taking her to frat parties, walking with her, but always following so I could watch the swarm of guys turn and watch Marcia wiggle. She had a body guys loved: perfect breasts, not-too-thin waist, and wider hips. And though I could have felt insecure, given all the attention she garnered and receiving none myself, I got a kick out of it, because later I would tell her what the guys did, and she ate it up. I crack up thinking of those days.

At one frat party, the guys lit the room with black lights, probably so we couldn’t see how disgusting the place was. Marcia had worn a semisheer blouse that probably had ruffles on it, just to slather her soft, sweet femininity all over the house. When she stopped and turned around to ask me where I wanted to go next, I saw her bra all aglow in the black lights almost as if it were protruding past her blouse.

“Look down,” I gasped at Marcia. “You can see right through your blouse with these black lights!”

As much as she liked to flaunt what God gave her, she started giggling embarrassingly and pulled me aside. “What should I do?” she breathed in her cute, spacey way.

“Enjoy the attention.” I suggested. And she did.