Spotlight COlorado  

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Carol Kleiner, the “straight shooting” Chair of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center Board of Trustees, believes that our lives belong to the whole community and that we all have a moral responsibility to do our part to shape the future. Carol eloquently states: “A commitment to voluntarism gives me the power to change the face of things.”

The culturally aware Mrs. Kleiner has proven to be a reliable, significant civic leader. Carol Kleiner was confirmed as Board Chair of the Fine Arts Center in December of 2005, and she has served on the FAC Board for 4 years, previously as Vice Chair. When asked about the impact the new additions to the Fine Arts Center have had, Carol remarked: “This project is as historic as the FAC’s early beginnings in 1936. Those who have committed to the Campaign recognize that this project will have a tremendous cultural and economic impact on our entire region.”

Carol’s leadership commitment extends deeply into the community of Colorado Springs as she is the Vice President of the Girls Scouts Wagonwheel Council – and a member of the statewide Girl Scouts of Colorado Realignment Committee. Carol served for 9 years on the Board of Education with the Cheyenne Mountain School District 12 and has been on the Boards of: the Cheyenne Mountain Heritage Center, Pikes Peak YMCA/USO, Beth El College of Nursing, Pikes Peak Hospice, Citizens’ Goals - Leadership Pikes Peak, and the El Paso County Medical Alliance.

If the aforementioned isn’t impressive enough, add Carol’s past service as President of the Junior League of Colorado Springs - and President of the Association of Junior Leagues International, an organization of 200,000 women in the U.S., Mexico, Canada, and Great Britain. Carol speaks highly about the mission and purpose of the Junior League by saying: “The Junior League is an organization dedicated to developing the potential of women and giving them a voice in the community.”

Carol Kleiner has let her voice be known and heard in her community, and proudly says: “Making time when there is none and working with other dedicated volunteers is extraordinarily fulfilling. I can not imagine a more rewarding way to invest my life.”

How did plans to first start a Fine Arts Center in Colorado Springs come about? And What separates the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center from all the other art facilities in Colorado? We were founded by three amazing women; Elizabeth Sage Hare, Julie Penrose, and Alice Bemis Taylor. They envisioned an institution that did more than house Alice Bemis Taylor’s world class collection of Native American and Spanish Colonial Artifacts. They wanted to build a comprehensive art center. The result was the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center that uniquely combines the Bemis School of Art, The Fine Arts Center Theatre, and a world class museum under one roof. In addition, we are set apart by our historic John Gaw Meem building which is a treasure in itself. The renovation and expansion of our building was done with true sensitivity to the original building.

What have you had to focus on the most in the last year? I was very involved in the building’s design, especially paying attention to the details in order to bring the project in on budget. Working with David Owen Tryba and his architects and Jim Johnson of G.E. Johnson Construction Company made that work enjoyable. I have a 30 member Board of Trustees and as the building was being constructed, we attended to the business that Boards do: strategic planning, monitoring policies, and working in partnership with Dr. Michael DeMarsche, the Fine Art Center’s President and CEO.

What partners/people were instrumental in helping you get the Fine Arts Center Open? No organization takes on a project of this magnitude without relying on many, many people. I am worried that if I start to make a list, I will miss someone important. However, that list would include David Owen Tryba Architects and Jim Johnson of G.E. Johnson Construction Company.

Certainly we owe a huge thank you to Buck Blessing and Kathy Loo, the co-chairs of our capital campaign. Raising $30M+ dollars without tax support means tapping into many generous individuals, foundations, and corporations. Our donors really care about The Fine Arts Center and about the future of Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak Region. So far, $18M has come from individuals.

We also raised $9.5M from Foundations with the El Pomar Foundation leading the way. The El Pomar Foundation has been a steadfast supporter and a generous and encouraging partner in all of our endeavors since the early days with Mrs. Penrose.

Norwood Development Company facilitated the opening of the FAC Modern downtown so that we had a museum venue while our building was being renovated. One of our Trustees, Chris Jenkins, was instrumental in making that happen and has been a valuable friend for the Fine Arts Center in many other ways as well. In addition, there are at least 10 years of trustees who dreamed and laid the foundation for the grand opening we are enjoying this month. There are so many others from business, the media, and other enterprises; I cannot possibly list all of the important partners.

What opportunities have been created by the Fine Arts Center? We have a most important opportunity to support and pursue everything that is good about artistic expression and discovery. We have plans for exhibitions and programming that will both delight and enlighten our audiences. In addition, we are striving to be a cultural and economic anchor for Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak Region. A recently released study showed that not-for-profit arts organizations brought nearly $95M per year back to our community.

What made you decide to accept your position with the Fine Arts Center? What was the defining moment? I believe the words of Marion Wright Edelman, who said, “Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time.” Most of my adult life has been dedicated to involvement with organizations that impacted women and children. As a collector of art from the Broadmoor Art Academy, being asked to serve on the Fine Arts Center Board of Trustees not only seemed like a good fit, but it was a very different organization from those I had served in the past. I do not think there was a “defining moment,” I just said yes.

I hear you have another quote you like in addition to Marion Wright Edelman’s, what is it? Yes, the great Margaret Mead once said: “Never doubt the power of a small group of committed people to change the world.”

Throughout this process, who is the most interesting person you have met or worked with? I have had the opportunity to work with fascinating people during my time as Chair of the Fine Arts Center Board of Trustees. The most interesting has been working with Sally Hybl, my vice-chair. Sally and my oldest daughter walked to elementary school together, so I have known Sally since she was a little girl. My role was to be a mentor for her, but in the process I found that she has taught me. Sally grew up at the Fine Arts Center, performing on our stage. She still performs, most recently in the role of Cinderella in our production of Into the Woods. Her passion for our institution is infectious! I am a pretty seasoned leader, and yet, Sally has given me the gift of enthusiasm and energy. It is so affirming to see the next generation of young women leaders take their rightful place in leadership of our city’s institutions.

What do you love most about living in Colorado Springs? I love the beauty of the mountains, the clean air, and the opportunities here for young and old. This is a city where anyone with a passionate cause can be involved and make a difference.

Carol, what do you like to do as a hobby or during your leisure time? I love to garden and collect art from the Broadmoor Art Academy era.

What is your favorite vacation spot in the world, and what do you love about it? My husband, John, and I travel a good bit, and we have been to many beautiful and exotic places from Mali, West Africa to the Maldives. My favorite vacation spot is anywhere I travel with John and our friends. We often laugh that we could have fun in a box.

What do you think is the greatest problem we are facing in this country today? I believe the greatest problem is the poverty of spirit suffered by too many of our nation’s children.

As Americans, what can we do to improve our image abroad? I feel very blessed to live in a country where I am free to give freely of my time and talents. America’s biggest export should be teaching the value of volunteerism.

What can we, as parents and grandparents, do to make sure our children develop an interest in the arts? What can our educators do better to instill a love of the arts in their students? I believe that there should be a fine arts requirement for graduation in every high school. Exercising the right side of the brain is essential for creative thinking and problem solving. Studies show that children who are involved in the arts are better students and that there is a significant cross-over between the arts and math and science. The Bemis School of Art at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center is a good place for children and young adults to explore their artistic side. Parents should also bring their children to cultural events. Our current exhibit of the Weisman Foundation’s - The Eclectic Eye: Pop and Illusion has wonderful works that will delight both young and old.

Also, how do we get the younger generation interested in philanthropy? It is important to teach children from a very young age to be “contributing citizens.” Giving of time, talent, and resources takes practice just like learning to play the piano or learning to add and subtract. There are many ways that parents can encourage their children to be givers and not takers. The El Pomar Foundation’s EPYCS (El Pomar Youth in Community Service) is an example of a good program to teach high school students the importance of philanthropy while empowering them directly to make an impact on Colorado communities through grant making.

What do you consider your greatest achievement? My greatest achievement is being the mother of four wonderful children who, today, are contributing citizens.

What would you still like to accomplish in the future? My life’s to-do list is pretty long! I would like to be an inspiration to my grandchildren; and I want to continue to serve where I can make a difference.

How would you like to be remembered by future generations – what will history say about you? I am a small frog in a big pond and have no expectations for being remembered in history. I hope those close to me will remember, at least for a short time, that I was someone who cared deeply, used her voice for good works, and was a good friend.