Moving the FAC Forward: Nicole Herden Shares her Vision

It’s an invigorating new era for the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center (FAC) at Colorado College. A new visionary wants to breathe new life into the cultural icon that has served as the foundation for the arts in the Pikes Peak region for more than a century. FAC Executive Director Nicole Herden has spent the past eight months getting to know the inner workings of the museum, the theatre, and the Bemis School of Art, plus all the professionals that comprise the heart of this triad.

“I am feeling really energized, motivated, optimistic, and excited for the future,” says Herden. “I am so thrilled to be part of the FAC for many reasons. It has a unique workplace culture, and every place has its unique challenges. But the potential I foresee here is exhilarating!”

Herden’s arrival in July 2023 follows a successful $36 million dollar capital campaign she led at the Museum of Nebraska Art, which is affiliated with the University of Nebraska. Also credited with overseeing exceptional growth and community engagement in spite of the pandemic, Herden has prioritized a new vision for what will happen at the FAC in the coming years.

Community Partnerships

“Strengthening our relevancy to the community at large,” she says is her top priority. “My background includes a strong history of developing dynamic partnerships with the community for the institution and doing great work. I believe in the power of partnership strengthening the institution’s impact upon the community.”

One way she’d like to do that is by analyzing how the FAC has been serving the community and what she can do to optimize its internal operations to become more effective. She says she’s having inspiring conversations with FAC leadership to shape that vision. The feedback and input from existing staff have been tremendous.

“Needs evolve, institutions evolve. I’d like to accommodate what that should look like moving forward.” Herden is getting to know the greater community and the multitude of different stakeholders—members, donors, artists, and friends—to learn about their history and involvement with the FAC.

“In my conversations with community members, everyone has been eager to share their opinions and tell me what their experience has been,” she says. “They are passionate about the FAC. The good old days were ambitious and there was a lot going on. But there are ebbs and flows. It’s a natural part of an institution’s evolution.”

CC Partnership

Another key priority for Herden is deepening the partnership with faculty, staff, and students at Colorado College to promote artistic excellence and foster a creative space to showcase artwork at the highest level.

“Being a cultural enrichment space, I’d like to broaden the perspectives and exposure of the different cultural educational programs we offer to develop the next generation of artists and art enthusiasts,” she says. “I’m developing an Engagement Department here at the FAC. It’s one key path to bolstering our programming for the community. It will be charged with creating events, activities, presentations, and workshops that bring people together to celebrate the arts and contribute to fostering vitality within our local community.”

As someone who emphasizes growth, Herden is focused on long-term sustainability as an organization through strategic planning, fundraising, and innovative partnerships.

Re-envision FAC’s Roots

While looking forward, Herden is also embracing the past. The Fine Arts Center began as the Broadmoor Art Academy, which had novel, artistic origins that continued through the official opening of the FAC in 1936. Local philanthropists Julie Penrose donated the land, Alice Bemis Taylor donated her Southwestern art collection and library, and Elizabeth Sage Hare volunteered to be the first President of the Board of Trustees. Some of the most renowned 20th century American art teachers and students had roots at the Broadmoor Art Academy before becoming the Fine Arts Center.

“We hope to emulate those roots as we move forward, quickly. We acquired national stature in the 1930s. At the opening gala in 1936, the FAC brought in 5,000 people. The population of Colorado Springs was around 30,000 people. That means nearly 20% of this region’s population came to celebrate the avant-garde programming we had on display. What a phenomenal moment in our history! I don’t take that lightly. I envision a future when we can have a similar turnout with our population today.”

Coming Full Circle

The art history of the FAC also aligns with Herden’s academic research on western American landscapes in photography--exploring landscapes, spaces, and systems that perpetuate the myth of the west. “This was my thesis. I grounded my research in historical art of early 20th century,” she says.

Art is woven into the fabric of Herden’s pedigree, which makes her feel ideally suited for this role. “I love to collect oddities, vintage typography and scientific illustrations. I’m still an artist and the things that inspire my work include science-related topics, such as cellular pathology and microscopic images. I enjoy microbiology because it allows me to examine how cells communicate and cooperate within the human body to fulfill a purpose. In some ways, it makes for a nice analogy to what we’re now doing at the FAC.”

Herden is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Social Impact Strategy Executive Program. She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Arizona, a Master of Fine Arts from Boise State University, and a Master of Arts from Arizona State University. She has also held curatorial roles at the Boise Art Museum, Phoenix Art Museum, and the Arizona State University Art Museum.

She says her family is excited to live in a beautiful city like Colorado Springs where the Front Range is simply breathtaking. “The West” has always felt like home to Herden. Born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, her family moved to Arizona when she was a teenager. Living in Colorado is the best of both worlds - situated in the West and close to the Midwest.

“I’m a Midwesterner at heart. I’m down-to-earth and have an empathetic spirit. I try to instill the ‘midwestern work ethic’ approach in my leadership and institutional values.”

This past October, Herden welcomed her first child Theodore, which means presence has new meaning for her life. “What makes any leader great is broad perspective, and there’s no way to imitate the perspective that having a child gives you,” she shares. “I’m so blessed to have this opportunity to lead the phenomenal team I am building at the Fine Arts Center at Colorado College and foster community relationships. Then I get to go home at night and be present with this little one. I truly have the best of both worlds. We’re so fortunate to be near family in Denver and eventually my mother-in-law hopes to relocate to Colorado Springs to help raise her grandson.”

“I am looking forward to an amazing future with the FAC by emphasizing innovation and creative problem-solving. We were founded by an eager, dedicated group of benefactors with an ambitious vision in the community that will flourish in our second hundred years.”

Meet Nicole Herden

Friday, April 5, 5 p.m.

Join us for a special First Friday Art Party as the FAC unveils the 2024-25 theatre season, showcases upcoming museum exhibitions, and introduces exciting Bemis School of Art classes with live demos from talented instructors.

5–6:15 p.m.: Chat with Bemis School of Art Director Tara Sevanne Thomas and watch live demos from Bemis School of Art instructors; music by J. Chang-Tablada in Deco Lounge

6:15 p.m.: Welcome from Executive Director Nicole Herden and upcoming museum exhibitions with Director of Visual Arts and Museum Michael Christiano in Taste Restaurant

6:50 p.m.: Upcoming theatre season announcement with Producing Artistic Director Chris Sheley in the Mainstage Theatre

Report an issue - Last updated: 04/05/2024