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Journey to Neverland at Next Stage Gallery

Sayaka Hatayama and other CU Denver students capture the fantasy of Peter Pan.
Photo: Trevor Leach · The Sentry

CU Denver students showcase Peter Pan artwork

Coinciding with the 2020 production of Peter Pan from the Colorado Ballet, Next Stage Gallery presents an exhibition focused on the classic story. From the Pages of Peter Pan explores the adventures of the “boy who wouldn’t grow up.” As part of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Next Stage provides a space for students from the College of Arts & Media (CAM) to showcase their work. CU Denver and Denver Arts & Venues provide funding for the gallery, which serves as the sister site of Emmanuel Gallery on Auraria Campus.  

Many of the artworks in the show display the child-like nature of the story through different media. Upon entering the room, a television plays an animated sequence relating to Peter Pan. Mixed-media tunnel books and graphic design posters adorn the walls almost like a library. Each of the tunnel books exhibit remarkably distinct expressions of the story. Another television invites people to engage in a virtual reality experience, with a set of goggles resting on the table in front of it.  

Throughout the exhibition, the constant chomping of a cardboard crocodile takes all the attention. Brilliantly crafted by youth artists from Arts Street@YEA, the animatronic beast stands larger than life. Arts Street offers art programs and employment training for underserved kids in the Denver area as part of the Youth Employment Academy. 

Other more unconventional works include folded book sculptures, shadow puppets, and cardboard models of a city and a pirate ship. From the Pages of Peter Pan includes visual arts students enrolled in the classes Motion Design 2 with Michelle Carpenter, Illustration 1: Spatial Thinking with Rebecca Heavner and Travis Vermilye, and 3D Motion Design with Travis Vermilye.  

Sayaka Hatayama, an illustration student involved with the exhibition, created a detailed shadow box focusing on the fairy Tinkerbell. Looking back at her work, she explains “the way I interpreted it was really more of a desire for longevity and this magical state of being that we can peek at through the Looking Glass, but never truly attain.” Hatayama and the other artists capture the fantasy of Peter Pan in their work. 

Peter Pan made his first appearance in the novel The Little White Bird, written in 1902 by the Scottish author J M Barrie. Originally meant for adult audiences, this novel follows the adventures of a boy who never ages on the mythical island of Neverland. Barrie inspired numerous adaptations, including a stage play also composed by Barrie in 1904, the animated Disney film in 1953, and various other performances. Along with the Colorado Ballet, From the Pages of Peter Pan reclaims the original vision of Peter Pan from some of the other problematic representations.

From the Pages of Peter Pan will be on display at Next Stage from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 12:30 to 7:30 p.m. Saturday through Sunday until April 1.

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