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CU Denver animation showcase at Supernova

The crowd at Supernova watches an animated short film by a CU Denver student.
Photo: Madison Daley ∙ The Sentry

Unique festival gives cam students launchpad

This past week, Denver once again became host to the Supernova Animation Festival. Starting on Tuesday and spanning the latter half of the week and into the weekend, the downtown arts district of Denver was brightly lit with a series of LED screens that became the huge canvasses for an array of national and local animation artists.

The featured animation programs took place on Saturday, Sept. 22 at the Denver Performing Arts Center and consisted of various local and international creators’ content, including a CU Denver College of Arts and Media showcase.

Events took place from noon well into the evening, culminating with the Invitational Artworks with Audience Vote and Colorado Student Animations, both of which awarded prizes to the winning competitors.

The exclusive education partner, CU Denver College of Arts and Media, showcased its students’ works on the Denver Center for Performing Arts  screen for a half an hour before opening the screen up to a wider variety of student shorts.

These student shorts were judged by the college with a $5,000 cash prize to be awarded to the winning Colorado student artist, making this the first animation festival in Colorado to host a student competition.

This competition and festival provides students in the College of Arts and Media with the opportunity to showcase their work and network with important industry professionals.

Supernova was created by Ivar Zeile in 2016, and is the only forum of its kind in the world, combining art and technology to showcase the intertwined power of each. This unique mission of the festival makes the College of Arts and Media a perfect partner as each aims to push the boundaries of innovation and utilizes cutting edge technology to get there.          

The Convention Center adorned with student animation.
Photo: Madison Daley ∙ The Sentry

The nationally ranked College of Arts and Media (CAM) at CU Denver became, upon its founding, the first college in Colorado dedicated exclusively to arts and entertainment.

Laurence D. Kaptain, Dean of  College of Arts and Media, praises Denver and CAM as being hubs of innovation and creativity. “Theory is important, the history of things are important,” Kapitan said. “[But] our students in TV and Film, for example, they get a camera in their hand fairly soon,” as opposed to many schools that rely more heavily on book learning.

Each year, between 28 and 34 eager, talented students are carefully selected to become a part of the CU Denver and CAM’s 3D Design and Animation program. These students must submit a portfolio, have completed several design and animation classes, and have a GPA of at least 2.8 before they are even eligible to apply.

If accepted, they get to take a wide variety of visual arts and technical classes to hone their skills and unleash their creative passion. These classes include everything from art history to figure painting to lighting and rendering, that prepare graduates to interact with a wide variety of artists in their future careers.

The students in this program work with professional-grade equipment and work within a collaborative environment, which is the model most common in the industry. Most students will find themselves working among 18-20 other students, which is a model unique to only Denver and one other school in the country.

In addition, with the many opportunities to connect with the arts community in Denver, design and animation majors are able to interact with a wide variety of guest lecturers who provide them with critiques and an insight into the ins and outs of working in the field.

Students also shadow major figures in the animation industry and tour with production studios.

As Dean Kaptain says, within the department itself, many of the faculty “are actively practicing and then bring that into the classroom, where they expect the students to be doing more than talking.”

All of these resources come together to create a rich learning environment that challenges students to explore and create.

The Supernova Festival and student showcase is a first step in many students’ journeys into the animation and design fields, and hopefully it will continue to provide these resources to students of CAM for years to come.

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