CU Denver students on display at DPAC

Photo courtesy of Jeff Hawkins

Photo courtesy of Jeff Hawkins


Technology and art weren’t meant to be formulaic—something proven by the latest collaboration between CU Denver and the Denver Performing Arts Complex, which brings the Next Stage Collaborative Gallery into the hustle and bustle of downtown. The exclusive opportunity showcases student creativity through a captivating exhibit that immerses people into the futuristic world of virtual reality and other interactive pieces.

CU Denver Chancellor Dorothy Horrell was able to work closely in tandem with Denver Arts & Venues to bring to life a reimagined 900 square foot gallery space created and designed by students in both the College of Arts and Media as well as the College of Architecture and Planning.

“The Next Stage Collaborative gallery provides a space where students can publicly display their work and also gain experience in managing a gallery—these are great examples of the experiential learning opportunities that are available to CU Denver students,” Chancellor Horrell said in regards to establishing the project. “I am thrilled our students are able to explore their fields in a real-world context and they can share their work with patrons of the Denver Performing Arts Complex.”

Travis Vermilye, Assistant Professor and Program Head in the Visual Arts program, and Michelle Carpenter, Assistant Professor of Digital Design, both carefully cultivated the possibility to showcase the leading Digital Design work from within CAM. This work truly embraces the desire to get students integrated into the city, which better prepares them for post-grad life.

In an effort to keep the exhibit lively and inventive, current curator and Associate Professor in Digital Design Bryan Leister talks about the near future affecting the Next Stage Collaborative gallery.

“In terms of the future, this semester I am working with Kevin Hirth, who teaches in Architecture to create the next exhibit which will be focused on architecture students’ work,” Leister said. “Kevin and I are planning a project where both of our classes will collaborate on a VR project that will allow visitors to ‘physically’ explore spaces that they have designed. VR is an amazing tool for representing scale, it really makes you feel like you are actually in the environment.”

Talking more about the project, CAM student Robert Fikes IV shares his story and his opportunity to share the experience of giving his own art new life. He originally created a project for the Redline Gallery, so as soon as this new collaboration was announced, he was curious to try something new.

“I also wanted to learn how to use a Kinect to control visuals,” Fikes said. “So in one week I bought a Kinect, learned processing [a creative coding language], and set up the installation at Next Stage.”

The Next Stage Collaborative is sure to be providing something that is stimulating for all. “The impact for students I think is that that gallery has been a catalyst to jump into this new technology,” Leister said.

Like many students, Fikes shared the same sentiment. “I plan to continue creating mind blowing experiences so that people can just have fun and enjoy life,” Fikes said. The Next Stage Collaborative will be available throughout the spring in time for another exhibition.

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