Though she considered moving away after college, Colorado Springs native Cynthia Parr couldn’t help but to take advantage of the opportunities she saw in her hometown.
Parr, 35, works as the product management coordinator at elope inc., a wholesale costume accessory manufacturer based in Colorado Springs. She is also the co-founder of Dragon Theatre Productions, where she operates, directs and writes plays through the nonprofit organization Imagination Celebration.
Parr spoke with the Business Journal about working in Colorado Springs and her involvement in the city’s arts community.
What’s your background?
I went to Wasson High School and then UCCS [to study] theater, Spanish and film studies. Then I worked for 10 years at [the social services organization] Community Outreach, Inc., working with adults with developmental disabilities, helping them find jobs in the community. Through that I got involved with the Colorado Springs Chamber [of Commerce] and I was chair of the Rising Professionals in 2011. I’ve been a member [of Rising Professionals] for about seven years. I started Dragon Theatre Productions almost 10 years ago. It started because I was meeting a lot of people through my job and I started teaching a class for adults with developmental disabilities at the Club of Arts.
Why did you begin working at elope?
I started here three years ago. I’d seen a presentation by elope at a Rising Professionals event and heard about their mission and what they do. I had already owned a lot of their hats because I worked at Zeezo’s [costume shop in downtown Colorado Springs] right out of college for a little bit. I had no idea that was all done locally. When there was an opportunity, [elope] reached out to me, and it was good timing. It was a hard change because I absolutely love Community Outreach and their mission, but I needed a little more flexibility.
What do you like about being a professional in Colorado Springs?
When I graduated [I thought] I was going to move, and then every year I find more reasons to stay. I think it’s a community that really allows you to thrive and if you have an idea, it’s not that hard to find people who will support you. … I feel very fortunate to live here — I love our outdoors spaces. I try to hike every chance it’s warm. I just became a homeowner recently and that’s definitely what sold me on it — getting to go hiking anytime I want. … So many people are out there making cool things happen and it’s such a supportive community. That’s what I liked about the chamber and the Rising Professionals. It really wasn’t that hard to meet most of the decision-makers in town. Show up and you can meet almost everybody at just a handful of events.
What should Colorado Springs do to retain young professionals?
Keep the community accessible and keep investing and creating opportunities for people to get involved. I’ve always found that through theater and a lot of creative outlets in town. I think that’s what really keeps people here — when you have investment in the community.
When we’re talking about keeping young professionals here, having a thriving art scene is part of that. Art is a way to connect people. I get to meet people I would have never met except through theater. With Dragon Theatre … we let everybody in. When there are so many complications going on nationwide, I think times are more divisive than ever. I think things that pull us together are becoming more important than ever and having an ‘everybody-is-welcome’ approach is having people from all walks of life working together on a project. That helps break down barriers.
What advice would you give to other young professionals?
Get involved, get busy and show up. We’ve got a huge town of nonprofits, we’ve got a huge town of arts opportunities and we’ve got so many networking associations — things like the Rising Professionals. I would attribute all of my success to showing up at events. Each opportunity leads to another opportunity. … Something [small-business owner and former city councilor] Jan Martin always told me is there’s a big difference between a citizen and a resident. You can be a resident of a town and just show up, use resources and not really get involved. [But] citizens are involved, they take that responsibility, they go and learn about issues and see how they can contribute.