Founded in 1919, the Broadmoor Art Academy was the brainchild of Julie Penrose, the engaging spouse of mining magnate and Broadmoor Hotel owner Speck Penrose. The couple donated their former family residence at 30 W. Dale St. to house the new art institution and also helped fund the ambitious art school startup.
Julie and the four prominent Colorado residents who served with her as founding trustees (Anne Gregory van Briggle Ritter, D.V. Donaldson, Francis Drexel Smith and Charles L. Tutt) sought to create a focal point for regional art and artists. The BAC would hire resident artist/instructors of the highest caliber, provide studio and exhibition space in the renovated mansion, and serve as a multidisciplinary facility. When opened, it hosted the local music society, the drama league and a dance studio, as well as offering apartments and private studios to local and visiting artists. The trustees hired two of America’s most famous artists, Robert Reid and John F. Carlson, as instructors – and paid them well.
The first three-month summer school session began in June 1920. Carlson didn’t expect much. “I thought 15 students in the first year would be all we could hope for,” he told the Colorado Springs Gazette midway through the summer term on July 27, “But now we have more than 50 students and more coming.” That early success continued, and the BAC lived up to Julie’s unlikely expectations. It created an “art colony” which would vault our little city into the artistic stratosphere, and lead to the construction of the Fine Arts Center 16 years later.
As well as their pay as instructors, Reid, Carlson and their future colleagues found buyers for their art among the prosperous gentry of Colorado Springs and Denver. Dr. Gerald Webb of Colorado Springs commissioned Reid to paint his daughter Marka, while Denver banker John Evans bought Reid’s magnificent “Moonlight, Garden of the Gods.” BAC students such as Tabor Utley, Lawrence Barrett, Charlie Bunnell and Archie Musick remained in Colorado Springs and became prominent artists in their own right. Springs native Laura Gilpin, a “professional member,” became a nationally renowned photographer. She had a studio at the Academy, promoted it through her work and served as a trustee of the BAC’s successor, the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center.
Contemporary photographs document an engaging truth about the BAC. While instructors and students spent a lot of time painting the abandoned mining towns and spectacular landscapes of the Pikes Peak Region, they also knew how to have fun. A 1920 photo shows Reid, Carlson and a dozen other BAC denizens dressed up for an epically silly Beaux Arts Ball at the building. Artists and their pals partying wildly two years after the 1918 flu pandemic? May we all be so lucky!
Generously Submitted by John Hazlehurst, Journalist & Historian