College of Arts & Media Students Aim To Change Lives With Art

May 6, 2009

ArtsBridge America is a consortium of leading research universities that have developed a proven program of integrated education, resulting in the creation of original works of art across genres by elementary, middle and high school students. This program is designed to provide innovative arts curriculum to K-12 children while creating opportunities for CAM students to become teaching artists.

ArtsBridge projects spark imagination, promote collaboration and provide both ArtsBridge Scholars and participating children opportunities to develop and refine creative problem solving skills. ArtsBridge Scholars experience first-hand the positive impact that their art making can have on the lives of others. Participating children may see ArtsBridge Scholars as role models that awaken or strengthen a desire to pursue a university education and to continue a life-long connection to the arts.

David Dynak, dean of CAM, brought ArtsBridge America to UC Denver for the first time. (He helped expand the program from its California roots to national prominence while working at the University of Utah.)

Over the past several months, 12 students from CAM at UC Denver have been selected as ArtsBridge Scholars who are sharing their creative filmmaking passion with 90 high school students from Westlake Middle School and Long View High School, as well as their love of photography with 17 patients from The Children’s Hospital. The third part of ArtsBridge is a theatre project which has just begun at Hamilton Middle School. (ArtsBridge scholars receive between $1,000-$1,200 in tuition scholarship for their community based work.)

The ArtsBridge Digital Photography Project at The Children’s Hospital was inspired by a genuine commitment to create an innovative art experience that would serve children facing difficult illnesses by refocusing their attention from treatment to creative ingenuity. Children participating in the project learned how to operate a digital camera, compose photographs, make deliberate choices about what to photograph, and how to download images onto a computer. They experienced image editing, how to use a flat-bed scanner as a camera, and how to cut, paste, and collage images using Photoshop. Each child photographed the visually stunning surroundings of The Children’s Hospital–capturing light, moments of movement, color, angles, loved ones, textures, patterns, signs and close-ups of the hospital’s impressive art collection. Working under the guidance of junior and senior level UC Denver CAM photography students, each child invented something new–an image that uniquely reflects their own personal story, their life force and their creative spirit.

“I feel very privileged to be a part of the CAM ArtsBridge team,” said Michelle Carpenter, assistant professor of Digital Design at CAM, grant writer for the ArtsBridge project and an ArtsBridge faculty mentor. “ArtsBridge offers an opportunity for UC Denver CAM faculty and students to give back to our community. It is our hope that the CAM ArtsBridge experience will create for the students and children involved a deeper connection to arts, education and a lifelong appreciation of the arts.”

Four UC Denver CAM photography students (ArtsBridge scholars) engaged in the photography project with young hospitalized patients.

“As a student of photography at The University of Colorado Denver College of Arts & Media, what’s been most meaningful for me about the ArtsBridge project at The Children’s Hospital is having the opportunity to spend time with children,” said Lawrence Hass, ArtsBridge scholar. “I love children and am thrilled to be able to share some of what I’m learning with them. ArtsBridge created an opportunity to share not only my knowledge of photography, but also something of myself, while receiving what others gave of themselves. It’s art that brought us together, but it’s our common humanity that links us.”

Working with digital tools on-site, each child created one image that the UC Denver students printed in an edition of three large-scale 16×20 color photographs. A print will be matted and framed for display at The Children’s Hospital and one print will also be exhibited and archived in the UC Denver College of Arts & Media.

The second CAM ArtsBridge project, begun in January, involves film. As an expansion of the UC Denver CAM nine year old program in film education for middle and high schools, eight CAM ArtsBridge scholars including one to document both projects are at Westlake Middle School near Broomfield and Longview High School in Jefferson County to add the making of short films to the schools’ curricula. At Westlake, four ArtsBridge scholars lead the students in making a film on the subject of “Emigration, Immigration and Migration,” while three ArtsBridge scholars work with Long View students to make a film on the subject of “Identity.” Both schools have been using film as a fundamental element in various courses for some time; the art-making dimension helps the students learn not only about the subjects the films address, but also to be articulate participants in a medium which previously they have only experienced as audience. “For the ArtsBridge scholars, the project means that they have the chance to teach—one of the best ways for people to learn,” according to Howie Movshovitz, director of film education at CAM and a UC Denver CAM ArtsBridge faculty mentor.

On March 31, the work created as a result of the photography and film projects was featured in an exhibition at the Partnership Gallery at the Courtyard by Marriott in Downtown Denver. This exhibition was a part of CAM’s 10-year anniversary celebration. Approximately 75 people attended including CAM students, faculty, staff and friends, The Children’s Hospital kids and families, and students from participating schools. The Children’s Hospital patients received their framed copies of their art project at the reception.

Dean Dynak spoke on the time and effort involved in putting the project together and how the intent was to “engage young people as artists.”

Joann Brennan, UC Denver faculty ArtsBridge mentor, department chair of Visual Arts and associate dean of CAM, said: “The ArtsBridge project is the most moving teaching experience I’ve ever had.” In regard to the photo art created, Brennan said: “Every single image has a story in it. Each reflects the personality of the children and of the students.”

Celebrating its 10th Anniversary in 2008-09, the College of Arts & Media (CAM) at the University of Colorado Denver embraces the influence of modern trends on traditional art forms. Located on UC Denver’s downtown campus, CAM is at the heart of Denver’s thriving, dynamic arts community. The college encourages its students to discover new artistic forms, explore creative applications of technology, and prepare themselves for careers in the current and emergent culture industry. CAM is one of 13 schools and colleges at UC Denver. The University offers more than 100 degrees and serves more than 28,000 students in Metro Denver and online. For additional news and information, please visit the UC Denver newsroom.