Imagination Celebration - CSPM

Imagination Celebration

What does a fairy wand and a”Water Dragon” hat have in common? They are both keys to a thriving, creative, curious, and connected community. Founded in the 1980s, Imagination Celebration was guided for many years by “Fairy Godmother of the Arts,” Mary Mashburn. Carrying her magic wand, she dispensed “Sprinkle, Sprinkle,” wishes for creativity and joy. For 24 years, renowned illustrator Michael Hague created yearly Imagination Celebration posters. In 2005, his charming image of a boy wearing a “Water Dragon Hat” was transformed into actual hats, awarded to stellar educators in the region. 

– From the CSPM Curator of History

For 35 years, Imagination Celebration (IC) has been instigating and shining a light on these very real experiences, throughout the Pikes Peak region and southern Colorado. The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C., founded the Imagination Celebration (IC) as a series of community-wide arts festivals throughout the U.S. In 1986, Colorado Springs became one of these national sites under the sponsorship of Joyce Robinson and the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. In 1989, Founding Director Mary Mashburn and the Pikes Peak Library District quickly developed it from a short-term festival to a robust medley of award-winning programs in the performing and visual arts. By January 2000, IC became an independent year-round nonprofit arts organization dedicated to connecting people to the brain-stimulating, community-building, life-enhancing power of creativity.

“Sprinkle, sprinkle” is the charming refrain frequently uttered by Mary Mashburn, the beloved Fairy Godmother of the Arts, while flourishing a wand and metaphorically sprinkling everyone with joy and possibilities. Mashburn and current director, Deborah Thornton (the Curious Choreographer of Creativity), have whimsical titles but underscore the seriousness of Imagination Celebration’s mission, sharing their concern: “There is a creativity crisis in America perpetuated by a focus on standardized testing and ‘right’ answers. Without creativity, we can’t find solutions to problems or develop new models of thinking. Brain research indicates we must be engaging children in music, movement and visual literacy to provide the advantages of a fully-developed brain capable of higher order thinking skills. A creative mindset is essential to a healthy, vibrant community!”

Over the years, a Steering Committee – Leadership Committee of over 75 organizations has addressed this challenge by collaborating with parents and teachers from 19 school districts, and thousands of volunteers to serve schools, community centers, family shelters, libraries, and nonprofit organizations, as well as towns that don’t have the resources of Colorado Springs.

75% of Imagination Celebration programs have focused on celebrating diverse cultures. Thousands of children and adults have enjoyed their first live performance through over 100 productions at the Pikes Peak Center ranging from West African dancers to Blues and Jazz musicians, African American history, Chinese Acrobats, Native American storytellers, an all-female Mariachi Reyna, and many, many treasured children’s books brought to life through the magic of theatre. Current programs at The Citadel mall focus on underserved families, active military and people with physical or developmental challenges.

What began as a festival, turned into a festival! On September 11, 2010, Imagination Celebration reclaimed a day known for destruction and launched an annual mid-September cross-pollinating celebration of creativity – the “What IF…Festival of Innovation and Imagination.” Over 50,000 people of all ages from every zip code in the region stroll among 6 city blocks to stretch their creative muscles with 100 hands-on activities from regional schools, businesses, and nonprofits, while experiencing the joy of live performance in poetry, music, dance and theatre. “What IF…” is the question that is posed before most creative endeavors.

What are your “what if’s” ?

Generously Submitted by Deborah Thornton, Imagination Celebration’s Curious Choreographer of Creativity

Collection Gallery

Additional Sources: