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PPCC Gets Record-Breaking $1 Million Grant for Arts Program

COLORADO SPRINGS – July 6, 2016 – Pikes Peak Community College has received a $1 million gift from the Marie Walsh Sharpe Foundation, the largest donation in the college’s 48-year history.

The gift will be used to advance PPCC’s plan to develop its Downtown Studio Campus as a cornerstone for regional arts education as well as a major destination for cultural events in downtown Colorado Springs.

“We couldn’t be more grateful and humbled by this profoundly generous gift,” said Lisa James, executive director of The Foundation for Pikes Peak Community College. “This level of cultural investment gives us more than upgraded programs, equipment and facilities. It gives us tremendous momentum. Where that takes us in the next decade will be nothing short of astounding.”

“We see this gift as the living embodiment of Marie Walsh Sharpe’s vision,” said Steve Mulliken, President of the Board of Trustees for theMarie Walsh Sharpe Foundation. “Supporting emerging artists and inspiring fine arts education were her passion.”

The Foundation had previously funded and operated a summer visual arts program held at Colorado College and a renowned studio residency program in New York City. Her graduates proudly bear the nickname “Sharpies.”

Following the death of the Program Director and Foundation President Joyce Robinson in 2015, Foundation advisors decided to disband the Foundation to expand existing fine arts programs, ultimately creating a $1 million gift to PPCC.

PPCC will use the grant to renovate the Downtown Studio Campus and create a new visually striking portal into downtown Colorado Springs.

“This grant is a game changer for the students of Pikes Peak Community College and the entire arts-and-cultural community,” said David Siegel, executive director of the Bee Vradenburg Foundation. “As the largest single gift in PPCC history, the grant speaks to the critical importance of art and creativity in developing the next generation of thinkers, innovators and problem solvers.”

Construction will start this winter, and by the fall of 2017, the PPCC campus at 100 W. Pikes Peak Ave. will be transformed. The centerpiece of the project will be the Marie Walsh Sharpe Creative Commons, a multi-use art studio with state-of-the-art digital as well as traditional art tools. That will be accompanied by a garden/ outdoor studio and another indoor 2-D art studio. Large airplane-hangar-style doors will open to Pikes Peak, taking full advantage of the magnificent view and natural light.

These enhancements will boost what is already the only studio-based visual arts program at a public institution of higher education in the Pikes Peak Region. It is used by students, community members and established artists.

With nearly 1,500 visual arts students, 65 visual arts courses and two visual arts degrees, the college is poised to produce a new wave of talented young artists.

“We will be mindful stewards of Ms. Sharpe’s legacy, and we are proud to continue her efforts to inspire young students through art,” said PPCC President Lance Bolton. “We also see these upgrades of our campus and programs fitting in well with the City of Colorado Springs’ Cultural Plan, leveraging its location in the cultural corridor, near the planned Olympic Museum.”

The architectural work will be done by Hord Coplan Macht, Inc., which will preserve the integrity of the original structure while making it more functional and stylish.



The Marie Walsh Sharpe Foundation, founded by Marie Walsh Sharpe in 1984, was dedicated to providing instruction, through workshops and seminars, to the gifted and talented student visual artist who has demonstrated a potential for excellence. And, through competition, identify the truly gifted adult visual artist and offer assistance to further develop their talent.


Born to Irish immigrant parents, Sharpe grew up on an Iowa farm, where her father was a rancher and banker. Following her high school education in Des Moines, she attended one of New York finest finishing schools. Upon discovering her talents in design and architecture, she entered Parson’s School of Design to study interior decorating. She later married, became a successful business person, world traveler and philanthropist. In 1983, Sharpe gave more than $1 million to the American Bar Association Fund for Public Education to establish a Legal Awareness of Older Americans Program. This gift, which brought her national attention, was designed to explore the needs, issues and legal problems that elderly people face and create a pathway for organizations to better support them. She spent the last 40 years living in Colorado Springs. Upon her death, her estate was used to create The Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation.



Pikes Peak Community College is in its 48th year of operation and has been accredited by the Higher Learning Commission since 1975. It is a two-year college offering 158 associate degrees and various certifications in career and technical fields. With three campuses and two military education centers in El Paso County, PPCC serves about 20,000 students annually.