Front Range Forum celebrates 20 years of success

Celebrating the success of an idea: that’s the promise the Front Range Forum made and has kept for 20 years through its programming for seniors. Offering a variety of classes in each fall, winter and spring sessions, topics are far-reaching and can cover music, history, literature and more.

“It can be on any topic that someone finds interesting,” forum president Edie Thompson says. “We welcome any idea that will generate discussion.”

Classes are not based on lectures so much as they are on an exchange of ideas. It’s an opportunity to share a love of learning with others who have similar interests, Thompson says. “Seniors can broaden their knowledge with classes in literature, visual arts, music, history, and anything that interests them.”

The forum is a volunteer-run organization sponsored by the City of Fort Collins with classes held at the Fort Collins Senior Center. One or two facilitators plan the class sessions and make short presentations to introduce the topic. The classes, which host 20 to 22 participants, are based on discussion in which everyone takes part. Classes meet for two hours weekly over an eight week period. By becoming a member of the Senior Center for $25 and the Forum for $20, members can attend as many classes as they wish over the course of a year.

Previous topics have included: “Becoming Van Gogh,” “American West Writings,” “Solving the Budget Deficit,” “Is the Ethicist Ethical,” “Thoreau’s ‘Walden’,” and “Finding the Stolen Art of WWII.” The current fall offerings range are wide spread taking seniors into “The Birth of the Golden Age of Popular Music, 1900-1939,” giving them a view of “The American Civil War,” and asking the “The Really, Really Big Question – Socrates Café.” Attendees also can take a close look at “Kingsolver and Proulx, Their Early Stories.”

Thompson says there is no end to the ideas that the Front Range Forum will consider featuring.

In addition to the regular classes, short courses are offered summer through Front Range Forum Presents.

Barbara Rutstein, the Forum board member who coordinates the effort, says these deviate from the longer classes.

“These are for the whole membership and not in the smaller class format. We have anywhere from 50 to as many as 150 people for these,” she says “We bring in people who can speak on a topic we’ve covered in longer courses or we try something completely different.”

As an example, she says, a talk on Australia was followed by a performance by a man who played the didgeridoo (a wind instrument developed in northern Australia.) Another one featured a lecture on Clyfford Still and the rise of abstract expressionism. The format for these short courses is a 50-minute lecture followed by 30 minutes of questions and answers. “We do these three times a year.”

In addition, each summer, Front Range Forum Does the Arts is built around an art presentation followed by a trip to a museum to see relative exhibits first hand. “This is also open to the full membership and is only limited by the size of the bus,” Rutstein says.

Rutstein, who was one of the founding members, says the short courses are usually one session and, while they are learning experiences, it’s not in the same vein as the longer ones.

“A hallmark of our longer courses is that we want member discussion — what we call peer learning. We learn from each other so, with the general, longer courses, we try not to have lectures and to foster interaction.”

The forum was launched in 1993 and drew about 60 people the first year. Current membership as around 200 people. For additional information, call 970-484-2039.

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