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The Future of Now calling for artists

A variety of artists are encouraged to submit work.
Photo: Taelar Pollmann · The Sentry

CU Denver student Jess Diaz curates art show at Emmanuel Gallery

Starting in May, Emmanuel Art Gallery will host an exhibition of artwork focusing on sustainability titled The Future of Now: Contemporary Art in Our Sustainable World. Jess Diaz, a graduating Digital Design student at CU Denver, received funding from the College of Arts & Media Dean’s Student Innovation Award to curate the show.  

The Future of Now aims to bring together artists from a variety of disciplines to express what sustainability means to them. Diaz intends the call for entries to be inclusive of all media, including studio practices like painting and sculpture, but also performance, digital media, music, or even audio recordings of writing. Opening the exhibition to beyond just students on Auraria Campus, the call for entries welcomes applications from artists across Colorado. With a previous background in studio art, Diaz found a platform to showcase her skills in digital design as well. 

On the promotional poster for the call for entries, one of the works already chosen for the exhibition provides a glimpse into The Future of Now. Created by an alumnus of MSU Denver, this 3M respirator painted and decorated with tiny beads, a mask typically worn while making art with harmful materials like spray paint, provides a visceral first impression. 

While artists may submit works made of upcycled media, Diaz explains “it’s not a requirement to use those sorts of materials, it’s more of a challenge for artists to think of how they can represent visual concepts of sustainability.” In the opposite direction of downcycling, upcycling involves repurposing items otherwise meant for the trash. In the context of art, creative reuse can manifest in endless forms. ReCreative Denver in the Santa Fe Arts District functions almost like a thrift shop for art supplies, accepting donations and selling them back to the community at affordable prices. They also offer workshops on creative reuse and a gallery space for artists to show their work. 

In describing what sustainability means to her, Diaz succinctly states “equity.” She said, “If like every single human takes the labels off and is actually viewed the same, I think we would flip the way all of our systems work 180 and we might actually be a more functional society.”  

Sustainability and art intersect on numerous fronts. Diaz brings attention to the three pillars of social, economic, and environmental impacts on society. Many of the materials used by visual artists are harmful to the environment, including paint and its solvents. Like many products in contemporary industrial society, these materials often originate from economic models of exploitation. Art itself also has a history of social and economic barriers for many people.

 Submitting work for this exhibition is free of charge. Artists and other creative folks have until March 14 to submit their work. The Future of Now will run from May 5 to May 25 at Emmanuel Art Gallery on campus. More information can be found at tinyurl.com/w3xhyyw.

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