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A2ru Conference Returns To CU Denver

ARTREPRENEURS REWRITE THE CREATIVE PROCESS

CU Denver hosted the fourth-annual national conference for the Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities, commonly referred to as a2ru. Spanning three full days during the first week of November, a2ru aimed to foster and champion the arts in higher education.

Taking place Nov. 3-5 on both Auraria and Anschutz Medical Campuses, a2ru invited over 35 institutions of higher education and arts advancement, 130 speakers, and over 200 participants to partake in workshops, panels, and discussions. The presentations’ goals were to advance the understanding of and engage conversation in the interdisciplinary modus of art education in the current climate of research universities.

The national conference started with an address from CU Denver Chancellor Dorothy Horrell, which welcomed hundreds of deans, professors, and graduate students to the event. “Denver has been listed as one of the number one cities in the nation for growth and development,” Chancellor Horrell said. “As many of the opposing teams know, when they face our Denver Broncos, the altitude is steep, and if you’re not ready for the rigor of Colorado then you’d best prepare.” This elated statement garnered laughter and primed the room for the Friday afternoon keynote speaker, acclaimed choreographer and institute professor at Arizona State University, Liz Lerman.

The keynote consisted of an inspiring and direct message to the creatives in the room: to hone their own sense of artistic competency. As listed in Lerman’s biography, she has spent the last four decades of her career “making her artistic research personal, humorous, and intellectually vivid.” She themed her keynote “Risk, Purpose, Love” for the purpose of understanding the salient points that compose the creative process. As Lerman grew through her artistic journey, she began to understand the risk and menance of siloed education.

“We reach limits in our silos,” Lerman said to the crowd of cross-disciplinary experts. “We grow as we ask questions of our peers.” It was clear with an immediate wave of head-nods and finger-snaps that the keynote was preaching to the choir.

Lerman went on to explain the undervalued relationship between arts and research. “It’s hard to believe that, until recently, rehearsal or studio work wasn’t considered to be research,” Lerman said. “We underestimate the power of a sustained connection with our imagination. The imagination personalizes data and tells us what part of the data is affecting us.”

Friday morning, 100 hand-picked College of Arts and Media students participated in a workshop entitled “Metaphorming,” which was assembled to break the silhouette of CAM’s departments and integrate students in creative projects. Students from film and television, entertainment industry studies, and visual arts all collaborated on visual representations as answers to complex problems.

Though the exercise had a positive intent, some students felt the intent was too broad. “I wish it could have been more specific and we could have learned about tools that would help us in the future,” CAM student Livy Snyder said. “My experience from the activity was just practicing fast-paced creativity and collaboration. In my opinion, nothing very sustainable came from the gathering.” Despite mixed opinions, the occurrence was a creative opportunity for CAM students to mingle with other departments.

The a2ru’s mission is to continue the collaborations of multi-disciplinary arts research and education. By hosting this conference and providing career-applicable experiences for its students, CU Denver is aspiring to show that it is the foreground of a2ru’s initiative on an international scale.

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