Visitors to Pueblo don’t usually put cultural pursuits high on their list of activities, so those who discover the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center and Buell Children’s Museum are in for a treat. This expansive facility hosts a variety of cultural and artistic activities, and is a thriving part of the community..
The center opened in 1972 with a two-building complex that contained a single gallery, 500-seat theater and a dance studio, along with classroom space and a conference facility. Some three decades later, expansions have added several galleries, the award-winning Buell Children’s Museum and the Jackson Sculpture Garden outdoors.
“Child magazine recently recognized us as the second-best children’s museum focused on art in the nation,” says executive director Maggie Divelbiss.
Encompassing over 89,500 square feet in three buildings, the center receives more than 200,000 visitors a year. Not bad, given that surrounding Pueblo County has a population of roughly 153,000. The center also draws visitors from miles away.
One of the big family draws at the center is the Buell Children’s Museum, which offers interactive activities for children and their families. “Our concept is that adults come here with children to do things together,” Divelbiss says.
In Sensations, visitors bring lights, sound and video to life by activating wall and floor sensors. Kids can watch performances at the El Pomar Magic Carpet Theater, or jump on stage to create and star in their own production. Paper, ribbon and plenty of sparkly, gooey materials await at the Artrageous Studio, and the Buell Baby Barn plays home to the under-4 crowd.
The center also hosts a variety of performing and visual arts, offering everything from world-class to home-grown exhibits and productions. The Children’s Playhouse Series recently presented a Missoula Children’s Theatre performance of Robinson Crusoe, along with The Velveteen Rabbit, by the Enchantment Theatre Co. The Center Stage Series has featured the Count Basie Orchestra, and Irving Berlin’s I Love a Piano.
The Helen T. White Galleries showcase a number of permanent art collections, many of them Western and southwestern. One important permanent exhibit is the King collection, donated to the center in 1980. It includes more than 250 pieces, and features the work of each of the “Taos Ten,” a group of notable artists who lived and worked in Taos, N. M. in the early-19th century. “We feel that the focus of our own collections is southwestern,” says Divelbiss, “although southwest art can certainly be contemporary.”
Along with the variety of cultural arts, the center serves as a hub for the community. Festival Fridays is a year-round mixer, with a crowd of up to 1,000 gathering in the Jackson Sculpture Garden in the summer and indoors in the conference center when the weather turns frosty. Live music, catered food and a full bar make for one of the most popular gatherings in town.
The center reaches out to the school community with Art Start, an after-school hands-on arts program that keeps preschoolers busy on district-mandated early dismissal days. The six-month-old program is popular in the community. “The kids can come to our program for much less than the cost of child care,” says Divelbiss. “They get to take classes in painting, drawing and pottery, music lessons or participate in a small choir.” Additional art classes range from one day to several weeks in length, and cover the gamut from salsa dancing to Pilates, stained glass workshops to Girl Scout art badges and dozens more.
The center uses themes, each changing with the seasons, to unify the broad reach of its offerings. Spring features an environmental focus at the Children’s Museum, and a variety of temporary exhibits under the umbrella nature/human/art.
If You Go
Sangre de Cristo Arts & Conference Center, 210 N. Santa Fe Ave., Pueblo, CO; www.sdc-arts.org; 719-295-7200
Hours: Tuesday-Friday, 9-5p.m., and Saturday, 9-4p.m.
Helen T. White Galleries & Buell Children’s Museum, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday
Admission to the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center and Buell Children’s Museum is $4 for adults and $3 for children. Members of the Arts Center are admitted free.
Free adjacent parking
Kelly Smith, who is married and the mother of two daughters, is a longtime Denver resident. She is an editor at Colorado Parent magazine and a former editor at Mountain Living magazine. Her stories have appeared in numerous magazines.
From the Editors: We spent a heap of time making sure this story was accurate when it was published, but of course, things can change. Please confirm the details before setting out in our great Centennial State.