Our Mission

Awaken Creative Institute empowers and mobilizes passionate and concerned arts leaders, putting innovative tools in their hands to fuel community transformation.

Our Vision

We will inspire and lead an international movement of artists who purposefully use their art for the good of humanity.

What we do

Awaken Creative Institute is a center for the development of arts-centered, outcomes-based, contextualized, community engagement programs called Arts for Community Action, which occupy the space between the fine arts for expression and arts therapies, a space where the arts intentionally target specific community issues and make real change possible. We create reproducible, community-focused programming that is shared with arts leaders who contextualize our tools for use in their own communities alongside their own arts programming. By training arts leaders and providing an accessible, flexible framework within which they can participate, we will inspire and empower an international movement of artists in community action.

Specifically, our Arts for Community Action tools and programs utilize intentionally-selected, multidisciplinary, creative practices that borrow from education, the arts, and community engagement methodologies. Our programs offer fun, engaging, and cooperative experiences alongside facilitated dialogue on tough issues in a safe, neutral space. Here, empathy and authentic, reciprocal relationships are built, barriers that block community cohesion and cooperation are broken down, and problem solving can begin.

Our Values

Who we are

Geoff Peters, Board Member

Geoff Peters is an artist in business wrapping and currently serves as the international Chief Marketing Officer for Operation Mobilisation. After starting university as a vocal performance and conducting double major, he took a turn and finished with a BA in communications and public relations and an MBA in Entrepreneurship. He also holds certifications in Christian studies, change management, product development and innovation. As a vocalist, Geoff has performed in the Europe and the US, most notably in Romeo and Juliet with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. As a marketing leader, Geoff has guided business development and marketing strategy for non-profit and ministry leaders in 48 US states and 60 countries over the past 20 years. His creative and innovative efforts have raised $500M+ and connected many thousands of people with causes that help communities thrive. He and his wife Belén live in Colorado with their son and infant daughter.

David Quintanar, Board Member

David Quintanar is natural musician, an accomplished and active trombone player with a fantastic teaching experience in the Colorado Springs area. He began making a living playing trombone at the age of 14. He was sought out later by the prestigious John Swallow of the Yale School of Music on a full ride scholarship to complete a Masters Degree. Since 2002, he has taught and performed with orchestras in Northern California and served as conductor of the Bravura Youth Brass Ensemble, which he founded in 2004. David has performed as principal trombone with the Mexico State Symphony Orchestra and for the past 20 years has held positions with the Aguascalientes, Guanajuato, and Queretaro Symphony Orchestras as well in chamber music with the Alacran del Cantaro Contemporary Music Ensemble and the Cuevano Brass Quintet. In Europe, David has toured with the World Junesses Musicales Orchestra and performed with the Orchestra de la Comunidad de Madrid, Spain. He has also served as Trombone Professor of the Guanajuato and Zacatecas University Departments. Presently, David performs as freelance trombonist with Colorado Springs Chamber Orchestra, the Village 7 Brass Ensemble and maintains a busy schedule teaching and performing between Mexico and the US.

Jane Sandstrom, Board Member

Jane Sandstrom enjoys a dual career that embraces her passions for education and music. She entered the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as a flute performance major, and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology. After several years of graduate work in genetics/molecular biology, she enrolled in the teacher education program at Arizona State University, student teaching in England and earning a Master’s Degree in Secondary Education. She has been a classroom teacher since 1988 in Arizona, Nebraska, Alaska, and Colorado. She is the recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Education (presented by President Barack Obama) and is a Nationally Board-Certified Teacher in Science. As a musician, she held the Piccolo chair for the Fairbanks Symphony Orchestra, was Principal Flutist for Opera Fairbanks and Fairbanks Light Opera Theater, and performed with the Fairbanks Flutists. In her Colorado Springs community, she is the Principal Flutist with the Little London Winds, Piccoloist for the Rocky Mountain Wind Symphony, and Principal Flutist for productions by Village Arts of Colorado Springs and Sunrise Players. She holds the piccolo/third flute chair in the Pueblo Symphony. Jane is a founding member of the Skylark Flute Quartet. She has served on the board of numerous arts organizations, including serving as the Assistant to the Director of the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival, Treasurer for Opera Fairbanks, Vice President for the Colorado Flute Association, and Secretary for the Pikes Peak Flute Choir and the Colorado Springs Alumni Chapter of Mu Phi Epsilon professional international music fraternity. She and her husband, Greg, share their home with three rescued dogs, including one who is an active Therapy Dog.

Vince & Holly Hoppe, Advisory Council

Vince is the founding pastor of Grace and Peace Church in downtown Colorado Springs. As the son of an immigrant mother and a military father, he values diversity and loves authentic discussion of ideas within genuine relationships. He sees the work of the art community as a vital contribution to the flourishing of his city

Holly is married to Vince and is the mother to their 4 children. She believes all people are created to be creators, and that art in all its forms can reveal to us something of the truth, beauty, and goodness of the Creator. She studies theology and enjoys being both a teacher and a lifelong learner.

Ime Lopez, Advisory Council

Ime has a deep love and commitment to serving and bettering the lives of others. She is a public interest attorney with years of experience in the nonprofit sector. Her greatest treasures are her two children and they all make their home in beautiful Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Belén Peters, Advisory Council

Belén has 15 years of experience working with internationals, and nearly seven years of experience coaching workers in Europe and Southeast Asia. She has a degree in Interpretation from the American School of Translators and Interpreters (EATRI) a TESOL certification, and over a decade of experience with live language interpretation, translation, and teaching English and Spanish. Originally from the south of Chile, Belén now lives in Colorado, USA with her family. She is passionate about helping people reach their purpose in life and seeing personal and community transformation along the way. She loves coffee, quality time with family and friends, getting to know new people, traveling, dancing, and cooking.

Kellyn Waters, GhostLight Ensemble Assistant Director

Kellyn, a Colorado Springs native, found a love for the performing arts at a young age after singing endless karaoke songs and writing cheesy Christmas plays for her family’s entertainment. In 2016, she earned a position to train with Riverside Performing Arts, a theatre company based in Birmingham, England. After a year of training, she was offered a job to work for the theatre company for another year, and help write, direct, and tour a collection of shows to schools, churches, and big festivals all over the UK. In August of 2018 she moved back to Colorado where she spent time interning with Village Arts of Colorado Springs, and as Co-director for James Irwin Charter High School. She now is so happy to be married to her husband Matt, while working part time at Rocky Mountain Calvary. She is so excited to be a part of the beginnings of Ghostlight Ensemble, and can’t wait to see all the exciting things to come!

Andy Brown, Communications Director

Andy has bachelor degrees in Piano Performance and Computer Science and has been a video producer with Compassion International since 2015. Over the past 13 years he has directed media productions in 23 countries and led cross-cultural teams of media professionals in videography, photography, graphic design and web development. Andy has also played with professional jazz, cabaret, afrofusion, motown and musical theatre groups for 20 years and is the music director for Collective Groove, a Colorado Springs based funk/soul horn band. He and his wife, Lesa, are also music directors at Grace + Peace Church COS.

Lesa Brown, Founder & Executive Director

A life-long learner and educator, Lesa has taught and trained leaders, teachers, and students in Asia, East Africa, and North America. As a curriculum developer, her teacher-training workshops, youth goal-setting curriculum, and other resources on cross-cultural teaching are being used in over 30 countries around the world. Lesa began her arts directing career in college, directing seven high school fine arts camps and, after graduating, teaching choir, drama, and visual arts in inner-city Denver. She now has 25+ main stage theatre productions under her belt as artistic director, producer, and/or music director. Lesa began using Devised Theatre methods in the international secondary school in East Africa, where she taught music and theatre, and began focusing more on addressing issues in the local community through the arts. In 2013, she founded the Global Improv Group, a diverse group of young adults who focused their drama-based workshops on issues of cross-cultural living and systems of oppression in the international community. In 2017, she founded the original Ghostlight Ensemble through Village Arts of Colorado Springs, focusing on emotional intelligence in suicide prevention. In her work as an affiliate professor of undergraduate adults at Colorado Christian University, Lesa guided students along the path of discovering their own creative gifts and understanding how the arts contribute to leading a full, productive, and energized life. Lesa served on the board of Village Arts of Colorado Springs from 2015–2018. Lesa and her husband Andy direct the music for Grace + Peace Church in downtown COS. Lesa’s interdisciplinary bachelor’s degree was in International Education with an emphasis in the Fine Arts from Sterling College. She holds a Masters in Theatre Education from the University of Northern Colorado.

The 2022 GhostLight Ensemble cast

Matthew Bradley, Kellyn Waters, JayJay Porcadilla, Levi Roberts, Alaina Stroble

The 2021 GhostLight Ensemble cast

Our story

ACI was born the Summer of 2020 … when the upheaval of the world seemed to have reached its zenith — the global pandemic, racial injustice, social unrest, mistrust and misunderstanding running rampant.

For ten years, I had been studying, writing about, teaching about, and pursuing the answers to my burning question: “Why arts? What is the role of the arts in society? Is there a meaningful purpose?” In other words, I wanted to know if my life-time career in the arts was worth it to humanity as a whole. The answers I found spurred me on as an artist and drove me as an arts educator. My passion, experience, and education in music, theatre, visual art, creative writing, and art history, (and my high value of dance and film!), had led me over the years to develop a long, curated list of all the ways the arts in general and specific art forms benefit us as individuals and as communities. I realized that most artists ask these same questions often, and that non-artists either highly value the arts as good for a community (but often struggle to articulate why) or they consume the arts, while (often loudly) decrying its value.

This pursuit had led me many times down the road towards starting some sort of company, organization, program … something that would help artists see their potential and value the gifts they had been given. I did lead a few projects and was able to witness the powerful effects, but was still waiting for the right idea and the right time to jump in with both feet. And then, the Summer of 2020 showed me that artists just seeing their potential to affect change wasn’t enough; artists needed to be able to ACT, they needed to act NOW, and they needed to know HOW. Artists were needed to bring empathy, to build bridges, to offer a better way.

Through my experiences in theatre, particularly in using interactive forms to facilitate community dialogue on difficult issues and find collaborative community solutions, I had long believed that the possibilities for such work through all of the art forms was possible. Thrilled by the work of so many around the world, but frustrated at the lack of centralized information about them, I wanted to create a center for the celebration, development, and sharing of this type of work, that artists could be inspired, equipped, and involved without having to go out and get a PhD (if they lacked the time or resources) or become an art therapist.

Thus, Awaken Creative Institute was born — to empower arts leaders and give them a framework within which to serve their communities, to encourage them and support them in their work, and to continually provide them with new ideas to try to address the pressing needs around them. The potential is limitless … if you multiply the number of communities around the world, by the number of artists, by the number of community members they encounter, by the number of tough issues they are facing, you get infinity, I’m pretty sure!

So, thanks for joining me in this endeavor. Doing this with you makes it more possible, more effective, and way more fun!

Creatively Yours,

Lesa Brown, Founder