METROPOLITAN The New U
A Glass ... Full
The Rise of Denver’s Creative Class
Art in a Moment
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MSU Denver alumna Carolina
Fontoura Alzaga has established
a career as an internationally
recognized artist by repurposing
discarded bicycle parts.
Photo by Diego Souza.
13 16 22
MSU Denver alumna Carolina
Fontoura Alzaga creates an
international art career from
salvaged bike parts.
02 THE FIRST WORD
MSU Denver grads use
creativity to transform.
03 THE Conversation
Readers weigh in on
large and small.
04 THE NEWS
MSU Denver moves forward
The Rise of Denver’s
Art in a Moment
07 THE Seen
09 THE SYNCOPATED LIFE
08 THE INTERVIEW
10 THE INDUSTRY BY DESIGN
Cultural innovation is shaping the
Queen City of the Plains.
The Center for Visual Art
serves as a confluence for
creation and experience.
Mick Jackowski, director
of the MSU Denver Center
for Innovation, defines that
elusive thing called creativity.
Social Documentary students
find art in everyday life.
From courts to concert halls,
Norman Provizer leads a life
on the downbeat.
Form and function combine
in usable art.
26 THE PEOPLE
MSU Denver alumni innovate
in their lives and communities.
ON THE COVER
Denver creatives make real contributions to the local economy and
Denver’s standing as a city for innovators. Illustration by Shaw Nielsen.
MSU Denver grads
use creativity to
How do you define creativity?
Is it the idea? The execution? The ability to change
—even in a small way—the cultural landscape?
Are you born creative or can it be learned? Or is it, as
the late writer Kurt Vonnegut once said, “jumping off
cliffs and developing our wings on the way down”?
This issue of Metropolitan Denver Magazine addresses
the nature of creativity through myriad vocations—a
wine writer (Page 29), a calligrapher (Page 28) and an
artist who works exclusively in abandoned bike parts
(Page 13). We also investigate the weightier side of
creativity, such as our cover story exploring the
“creative class” (Page 16), whose efforts have
contributed billions of dollars to the Denver economy,
as similar classes have done in other American cities.
On a distinctly visual note, we look at the latest
offerings from MSU Denver's Center for Visual Art
(Page 7). And we explore the University’s Social
Documentary class (Page 22), which trains student
writers and photographers how to explore urban
news by dropping them into some of the country’s
Metropolitan Denver Magazine is published three times a year by the
Metropolitan State University of Denver Office of Marketing and Communications.
© 2013 Metropolitan State University of Denver. All rights reserved.
Address correspondence to: Metropolitan Denver Magazine, Metropolitan
State University of Denver, Office of Marketing and Communications, Campus Box
86, PO Box 173362, Denver, CO 80217-3362. Email [email protected]
The opinions expressed in this magazine do not necessarily reflect the policies
and opinions of Metropolitan State University of Denver nor imply endorsement
by its officers or by the MSU Denver Alumni Association. Metropolitan
State University of Denver does not discriminate on the basis of race, color,
creed, national origin, sex, age, sexual orientation or disability in admissions or
access to, or treatment or employment in, its educational programs or activities.
Creativity is an expansive topic. This issue can only
hint at its scope and the way MSU Denver students,
faculty and graduates are helping to shape that
landscape. As we discovered, it may be as direct as
running a fashion boutique out of a mobile truck (Page
12), or as unlikely as a constitutional law scholar who
moonlights as a jazz expert (Page 9).
One thing we found is that MSU Denver is a valuable
incubator for this kind of contribution. Yes, students
get the fundamentals, but more importantly, they are
inspired to think outside the box, to break barriers,
to take chances, to innovate.
We want to hear from you. Are you an innovator with
a story to tell? A recent MSU Denver graduate with a
daydream that is turning into reality? An artisan
with a lead on the next big thing? Tell us your own
story at [email protected]
Publisher Catherine Lucas | Executive Editor Chelsey Baker-Hauck | Managing Editor Michael Pearson
| Editorial Assistant Reeanna LYNN Hernandez (Class of 2014) | Creative Director Scott Lary | Art
Director CRAIG KORN, VEGGIEGRAPHICS | Contributors | fabiola torres alzaga | JANALEE CARD CHMEL | ALAN
J. CROSSLEY | Trevor Davis | cLIFF FOSTER | BARRY GUTIERREZ | DAWN MADURA | DOUG MCPHERSON | MELONIE MULKEY |
Dave Neligh | SHAW NIELSEN | DANIEL PATTERSON | LESLIE PETROVSKI | EVAN SEMóN | MINDY SINK | JULIE STRASHEIM | JESSICA
TAvES (B.A. IDP ‘11) | john valls | mark woolcott | Editorial Advisory Board | Catherine Lucas, Chief of Staff and
Associate to the President for Marketing and Communications | Chelsey Baker-Hauck, Senior Director of Marketing | Greg
Geissler, Assistant Vice President of Development | Mark Jastorff, executive director of Alumni Relations | Debora Gilliard,
Professor of Management | Ken Phillips (B.S. industrial education ’83), Chair and Associate Professor of Industrial Design |
Sam Ng, Associate Professor of Meteorology
Readers weigh in on transformations, both large and small.
In our inaugural issue, we explored
the theme of transformation through
the lens of MSU Denver. We considered topics like the University's new
strategic plan as well as controversial topics such as a special tuition
rate for undocumented students.
We learned more about a historic
Denver neighborhood's transformation by flood. You shared thoughts
on everything from our redesign
to your concerns about America's
Applause for our makeover
My congratulations to the new
Metropolitan Denver Magazine.
As an affiliate faculty member
in philosophy since 2007, I look
forward to learning how the
University will grow and influence
the greater Denver community. In
my role, I seek to equip students
in critical thinking skills, give
them an awareness of the history
of important ideas, and help
them develop rational expression
in writing and speaking. All of
these are necessary to a welleducated person seeking success
and personal transformation.
the stance of the state of Colorado
and your stance concerning illegal
immigrants has transformed them
to undocumented “residents,” I am
no longer interested in receiving
your magazine. Illegal is illegal, and
enough is enough. Please take me
off of your mailing list immediately.
—Bob Carabello (B.A. history ’75)
I want to join the conversation. This
new Metropolitan Denver Magazine
is awesome. It has great stories, and
the artwork and photography are
just beautiful. I want to be in it or
on the cover some day. What can I
do to support the mission?
—Travis Luther (B.A. behavioral
I have just received my issue of the
new magazine. I am thunderstruck
at what is inside the cover! I am well
aware that Senate Bill 33 passed
and was signed into law, giving
a new lower tuition rate. What
caused me to be thunderstruck are
the stories about several of those
students. I don't speak lightly about
this subject. Most of us have our
ancestry elsewhere. Some of my
own ancestors immigrated into this
country from Poland and Russia
LEGALLY through Ellis Island in
1894. I deeply resent the opinion
expressed by the new magazine that
these undocumented immigrants
Taking issue with immigration
I attended MSU Denver while
working between two and three
part-time jobs to earn my degree. I
taught in the Adams County School
District #50 for 27 years. I used to
enjoy your magazine but since
are where they belong at MSU
Denver. I assert that to be nonsense.
These people are here illegally, albeit
not of their own volition. They
should not be deriving benefit from
their illegality; they should have to
answer for it. In this case that means
going back to where they have legal
citizenship and applying for
immigration through the U.S.
Consulate or Embassy in their
country of legal residence. For MSU
Denver to champion these people's
status is absurd, and I protest!
—Thomas McIntosh (B.S. computer
information systems ’98)
In this issue we’re exploring the ways
creativity fuels individual careers and the
economy. We’d like to hear from you about
how you are applying creativity to your life
and work. Do you have your own story
or opinions to share? Write to the editor
at [email protected]
Metropolitan Denver Magazine, Metropolitan
State University of Denver, Campus Box 86,
PO Box 173362, Denver, CO 80217.
RENDERING DAVIS PARTNERSHIP
MSU Denver moves forward on initiatives.
Leadership in action
On June 6, the MSU Denver Board of
Trustees voted to renew University
President Stephen Jordan’s contract for
two years beginning July 1, with the
possibility of three one-year extensions.
Jordan followed that decision with an
announcement of his own on June 20,
appointing Steve Kreidler as vice
president of administration, finance and
Breaking new ground
MSU Denver broke ground on its new $12 million Athletic
Complex on June 5. The completed complex will include
eight tennis courts along with soccer, baseball and softball
fields. A fitness trail will encircle the entire 12.5-acre
property on the southern edge of the Auraria Campus.
Phase I of the project, including the tennis courts, opened
A seasoned finance and economic
development expert with 30 years of
experience, Kreidler had been with
the University of Central Oklahoma
since 2001, where he served as vice
president of administration and most
recently executive vice president.
At MSU Denver, Kreidler serves as the
chief financial officer and oversees
the departments of budget, finance,
facilities and human resources. He
replaces Natalie Lutes (B.S. finance ’91),
who retired May 31.
on Aug. 24, with additional phases rolling out in the
coming year. The University also is working with Denver
Public Schools and Denver Parks and Recreation to offer
free after-school tennis lessons to 4th and 5th graders
and members of the community beginning after Labor
Day. “It’s about creating a park in an urban desert, a place
where neighborhood seniors can walk in the morning and
where children can safely play sports and develop a love
of teamwork and physical fitness,” said MSU Denver
President Stephen Jordan at the groundbreaking ceremony.
MSU Denver is a great thing.
It is a blessing that we have it.
For those who are teaching
here or those who are studying
here, it can be even better than
what it is now. [The question
is], how do we make it better?
—Roy Romer, 39th governor of Colorado, on
the University’s upcoming 50th anniversary.
Romer came to MSU Denver in June to tape
an interview about the political battle he
fought to create the school.
Photo Mark Woolcott
A J ustic e f o r all
Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latino U.S. Supreme Court Justice, spoke to nearly 2,000
people May 2 at the Auraria Events Center.
Titled “A Conversation with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor: An
Evening of Hispanic Cultural History and Success,” the event was co-sponsored
by MSU Denver and the Center for Colorado and the West.
Sotomayor’s talk covered many topics, including the challenges she faced growing
up in the Bronx, N.Y., such as poverty, an alcoholic father who died when she was
9 years old, and juvenile diabetes. She also spoke about perseverance, overcoming
fear, her new memoir and the value of hard work.
MSU Denver President Stephen Jordan told the crowd that Sotomayor’s love of books,
learning and dedication to fairness and social justice propelled her to the highest
court in the land. He then presented her with the Golda Meir Award from the
University’s Golda Meir Center for Political Leadership.
—Reeanna Lynn Hernandez
MSU Denver is making a name for itself in
quality of education and affordability in a host
of recent state and national rankings.
•Affordable Colleges Online lists MSU Denver
as one of the country’s most affordable large
•The Online College Database lists MSU Denver
among the most financially effective of all
Colorado post-secondary schools.
•Forbes’ 2013 Top Colleges List places MSU
Denver at No. 622 overall and No. 104 in the
West based on student satisfaction, postgraduate success, student debt, graduation
rate and nationally competitive awards. This
year’s rankings are based on the theme of “the
rapidly changing higher education landscape,”
focusing on return on investment.
Graduation by the numbers
Photo Mark Woolcott
•The College Measures Report shows MSU
Denver graduates earn more in their first year
after graduating than University of Colorado
and Colorado State University graduates.
1,860•Number of bachelor’s degrees awarded by MSU Denver
during the May 19 graduation ceremony, the largest number ever handed
511•Number of candidates of color receiving
degrees in May 2013. 100•Number of master’s degrees awarded.
83•Percentage of spring graduating master’s candidates who are
women. 72•Age of the oldest student receiving a degree during the 2013
graduation ceremony, in this case, a master’s candidate. 20•Age of the
out by the school.
five youngest undergraduate candidates.
N e r d Oly mpics
MSU Denver Assistant Professor of art Brian
Evans and his electronics and experimental
systems class hosted Colorado’s first annual
Nerdy Derby on April 30. Nerdy Derby Denver
is a non-regulation miniature car-building
and racing competition inspired by the Cub
Scouts' Pinewood Derby. With a larger, more
undulating track and no restrictions on the size
of the cars (as long as they fit on the 3-inchwide track) or materials participants could
use, the Nerdy Derby rewarded creativity,
cleverness and ingenuity. See “live coverage”
of the race at bit.ly/nerdyderby.
—Reeanna Lynn Hernandez
Did you know?
MSU Denver’s Theatre Department regularly works with
organizations such as Kaiser Permanente to perform theater
pieces that seek to educate as well as entertain. What began
two years ago as an experimental, interdisciplinary class
has grown into a paid internship for eight students who
have put on the play Here’s to Ears! during a 14-stop tour.
Sometimes the best educational path takes students out of their
comfort zone. That was true for 13 MSU Denver students and
Assistant Professor of Art/Communication Design Kelly Monico
when they traveled to the Dominican Republic to carry out a design
and educational project in La Piedra, an impoverished village of 2,000
residents about 40 miles from Santo Domingo, the capital.
For three weeks ending June 11, the students and Monico worked
with Center Cultural Guanin, a youth development nonprofit, on
a visual campaign that emphasized education as a high priority.
Titled “Comunidad La Piedra,” the project provided the students with
academic credit and a lesson in life.
The students designed a community mural and message board, road
signs and an educational tool kit—a laminated poster series to help the
children learn English.
“I wasn’t anticipating the kind of connections between the community
and my students that would cultivate from that experience,” Monico
says. “They called us family.”
Next up for what is now dubbed Theater for Social Change?
A possible project with the MSU Denver One World One
Water Center. To learn more about the program or see a
performance visit www.msudenver.edu/magazine.
TO OUR ROADRUNNERS ATHLETICS SPONSORS
Auraria Campus Bookstore
Holiday Inn Denver Cherry Creek
Red Robin BurgerWorks
Holiday Inn Lakewood
Keep up to date on MSU Denver news at
The Center for Visual Art serves as a
confluence for creation and experience.
Built as a working art laboratory for students, faculty
and other community members, the Center for Visual
Art also is a major contributor to gallery offerings
available in Denver and the Rocky Mountain West.
Two of the center’s most recent shows highlight that
mixture of learning and experience.
The two-part show “Theory Loves Practice” and
“Interrupted Process” runs through Sept. 21 and
features the work of 40 artists and art educators
based on their individual research.
“Cross Currents” presents art that blends traditional
Native American forms with 21st century artmaking strategies aimed at exploring the complexities of cultural identity. That exhibit runs from
Nov. 22, 2013, to Feb. 8, 2014.
Visit www.msudenver.edu/cva to learn more
about the center's programs and gallery activities.
read more about “Theory Loves Practice” at
“Cross Currents” Exhibit
ceramic and fiber, 2013
BY Doug McPherson
The Center for Innovation is an ambitious
title. What do you do there?
We provide small business ownership
training and offer a minor or certificate in
entrepreneurship. We are also launching a
first-of-its-kind, six-week online course to
help new franchisees. And we’ve recently
started the first virtual incubator in higher
education for the creative industries.
What, in your opinion, is the most lifechanging example of creativity humans have
In the sheer number of people affected, I believe
it is the creation of satellites. They help us better
forecast the weather that we now watch on
one of the hundreds of TV channels sent from
satellites. We can now call or write people on
the other end of the planet. We can even see the
people we call on the phone. I’m sure I’m only
scratching the surface of both their current and
How do you define creativity?
Creativity is the core of invention and
innovation, that is, original thought that
propels us towards advancement.
Can anyone learn to become more creative?
If so, what are your tips to becoming more
Is creativity becoming more important in the
Most certainly. Everyone should strive to be
ingenious, not effective. One can be effective
without being original, but our current and
future world requires new thoughts that
become new ways of existing. And when
we approach this ideal en masse, we start
imagining an otherwise unimaginable future
that can now become reality.
Absolutely everyone can learn to become more
creative. The first step is to always seek new
sources of knowledge in unfamiliar areas.
Then you must learn to analyze issues from a
variety of perspectives, from the top, bottom,
behind, fuse, omit, twist. Use all the verbs you
can imagine. Once you start thinking like that,
you start thinking differently.
In a broader sense, how fundamental is
creativity to tackling our current local and
Creativity is the motor that propels innovation
and invention. This is the most complex,
competitive world we’ve ever had. Complex
problems require complex, creative solutions.
If you could say just one thing about
creativity to MSU Denver students, staff and
alumni, what would that be?
Creativity is more likely to occur if you focus
on your passion. If you are passionate about
something, that’s your brain’s rocket fuel. So,
find your passion.
director of the
to learn more about the center’s
programs and projects.
From courts to concert
halls, Norman Provizer
leads a life on the
STORY Mindy Sink | Photo Evan Semón
When it comes to strange bedfellows,
politics and jazz fit the bill.
Just ask MSU Denver political science Professor Norman Provizer, who has steeped
himself in both.
“Both politics and jazz are about the art
of improvisation,” says Provizer, founder
and director of the Golda Meir Center for
In the classroom, Provizer is an expert in
constitutional law and leadership and has
written extensively on both topics. Outside
of class, he’s passionate about his love for
all things jazz—as much as he can be when
he doesn’t play an instrument or sing.
“People ask me ‘What do you play?’ and I
say ‘records,’ ” Provizer jokes.
After moving to Colorado from Louisiana,
Provizer approached the Rocky Mountain
News about writing a regular jazz music
column and did so for 20 years until the
newspaper closed in 2009.
Even before that he was writing for venerable industry magazines Jazziz and Downbeat. He continues to write for the latter,
taking part in its highly regarded annual
critics poll, which cites the best jazz artists
and recordings of the year.
“For Downbeat there are about 150 or so
jazz critics from around the world they
invite to take part in their critics poll,
which was my bible when I was growing
up,” he says. “It told me who the critics
thought was worth buying and listening to.”
Provizer also is a member of the Academy
of Recording Arts and Sciences—the people
who vote for the Grammys—thanks to his
years of writing album and CD liner notes.
“I got interested in jazz when I was about 12
years old,” he explains. “I’m an avid listener
and it captured my imagination. I have
been fortunate enough to write about it
in a variety of ways.”
He first wrote about jazz for his high school
newspaper and then later for his college
newspaper. While his love of jazz came
early, his passion for politics came even
“Politics I grew up with [because] my father
was involved with the mayor of our city—
Chelsea, Mass., right outside of Boston.
After school I’d hang out at city hall and it
piqued my interest in the political world,”
Provizer says there is no disconnect
between his seemingly disparate passions,
but readily admits they exist in two different worlds. He cites Denver filmmaker
donnie l. betts (B.A. communication ’87),
producer of “Music is My Life, Politics My
Mistress” about singer Oscar Brown Jr., as
a kindred thinker. “I always kind of liked
that, though mine might be the reverse,”
Provizer says. “Politics is my life, music
is my mistress.”
In 2012, Provizer brought his mistress
home, so to speak, when he was able to host
members of the International Leadership
Association at a jazz concert he organized
on the Auraria Campus. “It was perfect for
me,” he says.
Provizer is happily balancing all of his
interests. This summer he wrote promotional materials for jazz guitarist and
composer Earl Klugh’s new CD, and he
is co-editing a book on President Teddy
Roosevelt. And every Thursday before
classes, he previews the upcoming week
in music on KUVO, Denver’s jazz public
“The academic stuff I’m very interested in,
and I try to keep a finger on the jazz thing
too,” he says.
for Norman Provizer's top 10 picks for
any jazz music collection and to learn
more about the University’s new jazz
The industry by
Form and function combine
in usable art.
STORY Janalee Card Chmel | PhotoS Industrial Design/School of Professional Studies
Few people can actually define what
an industrial designer does, but
everyone has experienced industrial
From the shoes you wear, to the patio
chairs where you sit, to the car you
drive, you are the beneficiary of an
industrial designer’s craft.
MSU Denver has one of the largest
Industrial Design programs in the
country with approximately 300
students. Furniture design is one of
the program’s most popular areas of
“So much of furniture design comes
down to ergonomics,” says Ken
Phillips (B.S. industrial education
’83), chair of the Industrial Design
Erin Perillo (B.S. industrial design ’13), Desk
Department in MSU Denver’s School
of Professional Studies. “It is not easy
to make a chair that’s comfortable.
We’ve got some devices in our labs
that allow quick mock-ups of height,
back position and other aspects, but
there is a stage at which you will have
to do a mock-up that people can sit
in. Then, you have to do focus group
research to find out what works.”
After all of that, says Phillips, there
are the business considerations,
such as manufacturability, ease of
shipping and pricing.
To encourage healthy competition
and creative problem-solving among
furniture design students, the
department runs several contests.
Bill King (B.S. ’12) won the public
It’s all about creative
real-world problems through
a creative design process.
furniture competition in 2012.
That competition challenges students
to design a public bench that the
winner then loans to the University
for two years. The benches can be
seen in the Student Success Building
“I learned a lot about production in
that class,” King says. “The concept
had to be driven by the idea that the
bench must be mass produced so that
it could be on campuses all over the
country. The bench I designed is
made entirely of repeating parts. It’s
one piece that’s mirrored 50 different
King says he chose MSU Denver’s
program because of the wood, metals
and plastics labs where students
receive hands-on training. The labs
include a laser cutter, plasma cutter,
three-axis router, mill and a 3D
printer. Several of these machines
include computers and software to
help guide the work.
at the time of graduation, Phillips
says the program’s alumni have been
able to find jobs and even launch their
own businesses in an industry that
seems to get hotter every year.
“It’s all about creative problemsolving, answering real-world
problems through a creative design
process,” says Phillips. “Industrial
design enables creative students to
follow their heart but also pursue a
profession with lots of career
Lucas Van Alstyne (industrial design student), Shelf
Melissa LeMieux (B.S. industrial design ’10), Chair
There also are sewing machines
because Phillips says that students
who want to work with textiles, such
as those who seek careers as outdoor
gear designers, must understand the
As Phillips puts it, “We are extremely
well tooled-up for an industrial
With a strong emphasis on producing
students who are career-ready,
complete with professional portfolios
See a slideshow of innovative MSU Denver designs at www.msudenver.edu/magazine.
STORY Reeanna Lynn Hernandez | Photo jessica tAVes
Vintage vogue meets a vehicular
venue in the Denver Fashion Truck.
The new mobile boutique is the
ambitious creation of husband and
wife Adrian and Desiree Barragan,
both MSU Denver students.
“We’ve always wanted to do a retail
space,” says Desiree Barragan. “I’m
an independent fashion designer
and he’s an artist. We wanted to just
take that on the road.”
Taking it on the road is exactly what
they did. Mobile boutiques are one
of the newest creative innovations
in the fashion industry, and the
Denver Fashion Truck is no
Their mobile boutique is unique in
Denver. The inside of the truck has
a modern feel while remaining true
to a classic boutique atmosphere.
Locally designed, handmade works
of vintage fashion and art are placed
“It’s something we’ve always liked
to do,” says Adrian Barragan, 36.
“Before all this we were doing trunk
shows for places like Fashion Denver,
where we’d set up at market booths
and sell our art and fashion. We like
to go around to boutiques and shop
and enjoy local things. That’s why
we wanted to focus on selling local
designs from local artists.”
Although their passion is evident,
pursuing their love of fashion and
design hasn’t been easy. Adrian, a
communication design major, and
Desiree, a marketing major, spent
the spring semester balancing
school, family and business.
“It’s been really hard,” says Desiree,
35. “We’ve been trying to focus on
our classes, while starting up our
business, while raising our
Despite the struggle, Adrian says
being a college student has been
“MSU Denver has really given us the
opportunity to network,” he says.
“Desiree is in marketing so she knew
a whole different language than I
did when it came to marketing a
business. I also took an entrepreneur
course that really gave me
perspective. Ultimately, the award
is what gave us the momentum we
needed as we prepared for the
launch of the business.”
The award he refers to came from
the University’s Center for
Innovation. Last spring five MSU
Denver student-entrepreneurs were
honored for business innovations.
Adrian was named Entrepreneur of
the Year for the creative concept of
the Denver Fashion Truck.
“Mobile is a market that allows
people to showcase their talents who
would otherwise be unable to
because of the sometimes
outrageous costs of a retail space,”
he explains. “It’s the same with the
trend of food trucks. There are a lot
of really talented chefs who simply
couldn’t afford a retail space. By no
means is it easy, but it makes
starting a business a little more
“Our hope is that it will bring
inspiration for other people to do
mobile,” says Desiree. “We love the
idea of people being able to showcase
what they are most passionate
about. That is our hope for our
Follow the Denver Fashion
Truck on Facebook, Twitter and
Instagram to find the mobile
boutique’s location, or visit
Photo Alan J. Crossley
MSU Denver Alumna
art career from
salvaged bike parts.
STORY Doug McPherson | PhotoS Alan J. Crossley, Fabiola Torres Alzaga, John Valls
Photo Fabiola Torres Alzaga
ou could say that Carolina Fontoura
Alzaga (B.F.A. painting and digital art ’07) owes her
career to an uncanny ability to find the positive in the
negative, to find the built in the deconstructed.
“Creativity is … a reflection of the artist and what that
person values and deems important,” says Fontoura
Alzaga, a Los Angeles-based artist who’s enjoying
worldwide praise for her work in a decidedly atypical
The medium? Bike parts—chains, wheels, pedals and
the like. When you learn why she chose bike parts, you
understand her artistic vision.
If she ever felt her work was undervalued or underappreciated, she has no reason to anymore. Her career is
now in the fast lane. She’s been featured in 24 magazines from 12 countries and 30 online publications.
So how did she end up turning bike parts—especially
chains—into moving art? Think of it as a kind of chain
The first link: A bike was her sole mode of transportation while attending MSU Denver. “I’d ride five or six
blocks from my home at 11th Avenue and Lipan Street
to my classes,” she says.
The next link is about political statements. “During a lot
of my time at MSU Denver the U.S. was at war in Iraq,
so biking was my way to make a statement.”
And the final connection? That home at 11th and Lipan
was a warehouse/apartment she shared with 11 roommates who were also “bike punks.” In the kitchen was
a makeshift pots-and-pans holder made from a bike
wheel. She admired it regularly.
Then one day in 2004 it occurred to her to make a
chandelier with bike parts.
She gave it a shot and even liked it, but it wasn't what
she wanted. Her next attempt was for her B.F.A. thesis when she made a more “proper, traditional form,”
a 5-foot chandelier made from bike rims, chains and
Her career gained momentum after graduation.
Fontoura Alzaga headed to Mexico (she was born in
Mexico City), where an art gallery owner gave her a
solo show in 2009. The exhibition was so well received
that Fontoura Alzaga was covered by popular Mexican
magazines and blogs. Then people began approaching
her for commissions.
Four years later she’s pondering her career and her
new “CONNECT” series from her home in Los Angeles.
“The series is a direct reflection of my social, political,
environmental and aesthetic preoccupations. On a very
fundamental level I approach life from the belief that
the neglected, whether it be people or things, should
not be automatically dismissed as undeserving. Even
the most damaged object, seemingly beyond repair, has
the ability to become something else if approached with
compassion and broad-scoped imagination,” she says.
“It is from this point of departure that the metaphor of
making something elegant and beautiful out of such a
base material has been an invaluable reminder to use
the negative as fodder for the positive.”
SEE more of Carolina Fontoura Alzaga’s work at
Photo Alan J. Crossley
“My art is a direct reflection of me. One of my values is
to find beauty and value in all people. I also like to find
alternative uses for things, especially things that might
be undervalued and underappreciated.”
Photo john Valls
Even the most damaged object,
seemingly beyond repair, has the
ability to become something else
if approached with compassion
and broad-scoped imagination.
a sweltering Tuesday in June. A
steady stream of beards, handlebar
mustaches, tattoos and Keds wait cheerfully
in line for duck pastrami sandwiches, sweet
potato waffles, French-press coffees (from
10 different roasters) and brûléed grapefruit.
Regulars—designers, brew masters, artists,
fashion designers, coffee roasters and the
like—hug and catch up, bemoan hangovers
and gently trade jibes.
The last several decades, however, have seen
Denver become more than an urban wart on
an otherwise rural landscape. Today Colorado’s capital ranks high on countless superlative lists, including Forbes 2012 “Best Places
for Business and Careers” and “Best Hipster
Neighborhoods” (LoHi), “Hottest Place to
Start a Business” (The Fiscal Times 2011) and
“#1 city for Young, Cool, Hip People” (Brookings Institution 2011).
The scene at Crema, a coffee shop/knoshery
in Denver’s River North Art District or RiNo
(the neighborhood that native Denverites
would recognize as part Five Points, part
Globeville), could just as well be taking
place in Portland, Brooklyn or Austin, cities
generally recognized as hubs for hipsters
and creative types. But isn’t Denver the city
that hosts an annual stock show and parades
more than 100 Texas longhorns through its
Sitting at the instep of the Rocky Mountains
at 5,280 feet, Denver’s rarified atmosphere
and pioneering spirit are paying off in what
can only be called a creative and economic
renaissance. And the annual bovine perambulation down 17th Street? Just part of the
Easterners and Left Coasters who still view the
Queen City as a cow town? Heck, that’s their
The Rise of Denver’s
Cultural innovation is shaping the Queen City of the Plains.
STORY Leslie Petrovski | Illustrations Shaw nielsen
Pioneers and entrepreneurs
In the years since the mining settlements of Auraria
and Denver City were founded on the banks of Cherry
Creek and the Platte River in 1858, the Mile High City
has seduced gold miners, railroad visionaries, silver
miners, oil and gas prospectors, tourists, techies and
ganjapreneurs—all manner of new-thinking, wealthseeking pioneers anxious to reinvent themselves under
the region’s 300-days-a-year, high-altitude sunshine.
“The West, including Colorado, has always been a
magnet for risk-takers seeking economic
opportunity,” says Stephen Leonard, chair of the
Metropolitan State University of Denver History
Department and co-author of “Denver: Mining Camp
“From the Paleo-Indians trailing mammoths 11,000
years ago to the Cheyenne and Arapaho hunting bison
to the gold seekers, farmers, and industrialists of the
19th century and the entrepreneurs of recent years,
Colorado has been a golden dream that, though it
distributes its rewards unevenly, still catches the
imagination of most Americans.”
Today that go-West-stay-West spirit is reaching
critical mass. In addition to the weather and
the charismatic geologic anomalies, the creative
sector—Colorado’s fifth largest employment cluster—
is helping to define a city more famous historically
for its saloons than its salons.
The phrase “creative class,” popularized by urban
theorist Richard Florida, who documented the
importance of creativity to 21st century economies in
his book “The Rise of the Creative Class,” refers to the
approximately one-third of Americans who make their
livings in creative enterprises, not just the arts but also
engineering, science, architecture, design, technology
and other fields. These are people who make their livings
by their wits, or as Florida writes, who are “primarily
paid to do.”
There’s a classic causality question intrinsic to Florida’s
thesis: Which comes first, the creative professional or
the ethos and infrastructure to entertain and support
that type of workforce?
In Denver’s case, the answer is “both.” Through many
boom-and-bust cycles, Denver has built and stubbornly maintained systems and organizations critical
to engaging artists, innovators and intellectuals. To wit:
The city is home to the second largest performing arts
complex in the country; a nationally rated library
system; numerous art and culture districts; a long-
standing, well-respected film festival; opera and ballet
companies; a symphony; major universities, both public
and private; inventive locavore dining; co-working
spaces (Galvanize, Uncubed and Green Spaces); a
growing fashion community; public radio including
the jazz-focused KUVO; Red Rocks Amphitheatre and
a thriving indie music scene.
Denver, too, has also walked its arty talk by continuing
to support the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District
established by voters in 1988, which distributes one
tenth of 1 percent of sales and use tax (about $40
million a year) to 300 cultural facilities throughout
the seven-county metro area. In 1988 Mayor Federico
Peña by executive order launched the Public Art One
Percent program, mandating that 1 percent of the
design and construction budget for new $1 millionplus city projects and renovations be set aside for
public art for those projects. Consequently, there are
more than 150 additional public works of art ranging
from the über-popular blue bear in front of the Colorado
Convention Center to the controversial, red-eyed
mustang on Peña Boulevard.
In addition to art districts, “We have 160 performance
venues,” says Lisa Gedgaudas, program administrator
of Create Denver, a city agency established in 2007
that provides data, workshops, loans and other
programs to people in the creative sector. “People come
here to live, work and play. This is where innovation
happens,” she explains, pointing to Galvanize—the
incubator/co-working development in the old Rocky
Mountain Bank Note Co. building—which opened in
2012. Galvanize, she says, has created a space where
anyone can go. “You can have some of the greatest
people in the tech world sitting next to someone sealing
a deal in the art world. There’s this blending of lines
that is so exciting and people are so amped. I feel like
this is the most collaborative city. People are very open
to change and supporting each other.”
Denver’s education system also has stepped up to
ensure that creativity is alive and well and living in
the Mile High City. In 1991 the Denver Public Schools
opened the groundbreaking Denver School of the Arts
(DSA), a grades 6-12 school that combines academic
studies with majors in everything from creative
writing to video cinema arts. The Denver School of
Science and Technology (DSST)—founded in 2001—
runs five open-enrollment charter schools, serving
largely minority and low-income populations. Both
DSA and DSST’s Stapleton High School boast 100percent higher education acceptance rates. (Nearly
100 of those students attend MSU Denver.)
Students also can avail themselves of additional creative
opportunities in the higher education arena. MSU
Denver’s Center for Visual Art was founded in 1990 to
expose students to leading-edge art. The Colorado Film
School, an outgrowth of Red Rocks Community College,
got its start in the late 1990s. The for-profit Art Institute
of Colorado began offering culinary programs in 1994
and bachelor’s degrees in 1996. And in 2004, MSU
Denver became the only public university in the state
accredited by the National Association of Schools of
Art and Design.
MSU Denver also is the only institution in Colorado
with full accreditation of all of its fine and performing
arts programs. More than 13 percent of the school’s
students are studying in artistic disciplines, including
art, art education, music, music education, theatre and
industrial design. Another 46 percent are enrolled in
science and technology-related majors.
The West, including
always been a magnet
opportunity … a
golden dream that
still catches the
imagination of most
-Stephen Leonard, chair of the MSU Denver
‘Create MSU Denver’ helps
members of the creative
STORY Leslie Petrovski
By any measure, Amy Laugesen is a successful artist.
Her striking sculptures—fragmented, petroglyph-like
horses and other animals—grace the grounds of the
Englewood, Colo., City Center and Charles Hay
World School as well as the Cheyenne Mountain
Zoo in Colorado Springs. Her work is represented
by galleries in Colorado and Wyoming and is part of
private collections throughout the U.S.
In mid-career, Laugesen would like to take her art to
an international stage, so she signed up for Create
MSU Denver, the online arts incubator run by the
University’s Center for Innovation.
“At this point in my career as a public and mixed
media sculptor, I thought it would be a great opportunity to move my business forward,” she says.
For $75 a month, Laugesen receives one-on-one
business coaching with an adviser, the opportunity
to sell her work via Create MSU Denver’s e-commerce
site, access to interest-free loans and the possibility
of showing in the Center for Innovation gallery space
in the MSU Denver Student Success Building.
Since starting the program, Laugesen says she’s
reset some of her goals.
“I’m working to focus on one facet of my business
and envisioning where I want to be in the future,” she
says. “You can still follow your passion and look at
running your business in a different way.”
Visit www.msudenver.edu/cfi/programs/createmsudenver for
Creativity and commerce
Cities want “creatives” not only because of the arty
ambiance they provide, but also for the economic
benefits that accompany a proactive population. In the
post-industrial economy, innovation, particularly
innovation that involves a product or service, is an
economic engine; creativity is a cash cow. The Colorado
Business Committee for the Arts 2008 Economic
Activity Study of Metro Denver showed $1.69 billion
in economic activity in the metroplex in 2007, an
increase of 19 percent from 2005. Plus, another study
demonstrated that more than $5 billion in wages and
benefits were paid out in 2007 to workers in the creative
The Western States Arts Federation Creative Vitality
Index measures per capita revenues of arts-related
goods and services along with per capita employment
in the arts in various geographic areas. When comparing
Denver County to Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs)
that include Austin, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Phoenix,
Portland and Seattle, Denver rocked the data.
Aleah Menefee, the federation’s communications
coordinator, explains that the index “measures the
economic contributions of these indicators, which are
important in evaluating a region’s overall economic
health. In 2011 Denver County outperformed the Austin,
Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, and
Seattle MSAs. Denver County shows considerable
strengths in nonprofit organization revenues and
performing arts participation sales in 2011.”
Coolness begets coolness. Graphic artist Rick Griffith
of Matter Studio, a member of the Denver Commission
on Cultural Affairs, observes that since he came to town
in 1994, “Denver is open an hour and a half later, which
is a sign of a growing city. That we can get more later
is totally a sign of sophistication. There are so many
infill projects, good architecture, new forms and
surfaces, housing is changing; these are workforce
Denver, indeed, is attracting its share of young, educated,
and potentially creative professionals. According to a
2011 study by the Brookings Institution, “Young Adults
Choose ‘Cool Cities’ During Recession,” Denver is the
No. 1 city for attracting educated workers in their mid20s and early 30s. Why? Transportation, educated
denizens, an innovative business climate and the rising
“Where there are really good jobs come really smart
people,” Griffith says. “And really smart people need
high-quality goods and services that look like craft
food, craft beer, craft distilleries—that look like smallbatch living.”
In 2013, Denver’s location at the confluence of the Platte
River and Cherry Creek has become a metaphor for the
convergence of ideas, people and professions making
the city so vibrant. Whether it’s creative start-ups like
Craftsy, which sells online classes in knitting, quilting
and other homey skills (and predicts it will add 236 jobs
in the next five years—average salary $98,411), Create
MSU Denver—the University’s online business
incubator for artists launched in 2012—or the newly
opened wine-bar-cum-bookstore BookBar in Denver’s
Highlands neighborhood, new businesses, collaboratives,
co-working habitats and cool-hunting promoters are
rendering what was once a dusty outback into some of
the most desirable ZIP codes in the nation.
“We’re one of the most collaborative cities in the nation,”
Gedgaudas says. “We’re seeing more out of this deficit
of jobs and the falling economy. More people are finding
ways to work together; that’s the sweet spot.”
Are you a member of
Denver’s “Creative Class”?
Tell us what you’re doing. Email
Neighborhoods thrive where
STORY Leslie Petrovski | Photo Trevor DavIs
Like many cities, Denver’s neighborhoods have benefitted from
the creativity and sweat equity of artists too cash-strapped to
set-up camp in tonier neighborhoods but visionary enough to
see the live-work potential in old warehouses, churches, storefronts and other inner-city relics. When the dust clears, neighborhoods are reinvigorated, property values climb and visitors
descend for art peeping and wine imbibing.
“The growth of districts—such as RiNo and Santa Fe that are providing hubs like the Center for Visual Art [CVA] as destinations—
create an impact,” says MSU Denver Art Department Chair Greg
Watts, executive director of the CVA. “The kinds of innovative
workforce development and educational programming embedded in these districts fuel our economy.”
Denver has numerous arts districts, loose as well as formal confederations of galleries, studios and creative businesses that
have concentrated in areas such as the Golden Triangle, home
to the Denver Art Museum.
The results of this kind of critical creative mass can be astounding. A decade ago when a group of gallery owners and arts
administrators formed the Art District on Santa Fe, they had 12
members and a neighborhood with a sketchy reputation. Now
with about 70 members, including MSU Denver’s CVA, the district draws an average of 5,000 visitors to its First Friday Art
Walk. It has helped fund street banners, battle graffiti and install
LED street lights and has been lauded locally and nationally for
transforming its community.
Lisa Gedgaudas, program administrator of Create Denver, a city
office that supports the creative sector, observes that rather than
being designated by the city, Denver’s art and culture districts
are organic, having proliferated by dint of the hard work and
spirit of their original-thinking inhabitants. Each one is different;
some like River North (RiNo) are more organized, others such as
South Denver or SoDo, which includes galleries on South Broadway, South Gaylord and South Pearl, are less defined.
“What we see in these areas where arts and culture are concentrated,” Gedgaudas says, “are the things that are at the core of
what makes these neighborhoods vibrant.”
Go: First Friday Art Walk in the Art District on
When: First Friday of every month from 6–9 p.m.
Where: Santa Fe Boulevard between Fifth and
Do: Take public transit, catching the free shuttle
to the event at the light-rail station at 10th Avenue
and Osage Street. Typically about 5,000 people
participate, so parking is scarce.
A man reads a newspaper
in the heart of San
With little income and
limited English, many
Chinese immigrants live in
single resident occupancy
apartments as small as
A woman walks past one of the many rundown
buildings in Chinatown, which is among
San Francisco’s most densely populated
neighborhoods with an estimated 100,000
STORY Daniel Patterson | Photos Dawn Madura
awn Madura was in over her head. Being
dropped alone into one of San Francisco’s
busiest neighborhoods was simultaneously
tremendous and terrifying for the thenfledgling student photographer.
“I’d never been anywhere like Chinatown,” she recalls.
“I’ll never forget the hustle and bustle of it. It felt like
you were in a foreign country. Very few people spoke
English, and I remember it being overwhelming
because of the sights and the smells. I remember lots
of people on the sidewalk and lots of noise. Every
few feet I would find something else I had to
When Madura left for San Francisco in the fall of 2009
as an MSU Denver junior on a four-day Social
Documentary journalism course, she hoped she would
improve her skills. By the time she returned home, her
passion for photography was confirmed and her career
Within months of returning to Denver, Madura pitched
her documentary, titled “8 X 10,” to the San Francisco
Chronicle. The piece about squalid conditions in
Chinatown’s poorest neighborhoods—which featured
her photos, text and narration—was published in
December 2009, and Madura parlayed that success
into a staff photographer job with the Fort Collins
Coloradoan, a position she’s held for four years.
Social Documentary Students
find art in everyday life.
“I gravitate toward heavy topics,” explains Madura, who
plans to finish the last nine credits toward her degree
this fall after taking time off to have a child. “Because
I care very deeply about people, I like to explore the
darker aspects of life.”
Documentary, a course offered
through MSU Denver’s journalism
program, takes student reporters and photographers
to cities as diverse as San Francisco, Washington,
D.C., and Austin, Texas, and turns them loose to write
and shoot the stories they find.
“As a photojournalist working for a newspaper,
you’re handed an assignment. A reporter tells you
where to go, what to shoot,” Madura says. “In Social
Documentary you’re the reporter, you’re the editor.
You have the idea and you execute it by yourself.”
This begs the question: Is photojournalism art or
merely a technical craft that entails being in the right
place at the right time?
“It is absolutely both,” says Madura. “A lot of it is the
logistical aspect of getting to a place on time, having
all the equipment I might need and getting
information correct. The other side is the artistic
side where I get to have fun with it and use my
creativity. At MSU Denver they stress the creativity
part 100 percent. It takes taking thousands and
thousands of photos to make the technology
effortless, so all you have to think about is your
relationship with your subject.”
Many Chinese immigrants in San
Francisco resort to living in shortterm apartments designed for one
occupant. The apartments have no
bathroom and no kitchen.
I’d never been anywhere like chinatown.
Every few feet I would find something
else I had to photograph.
—Dawn Madura, Social Documentary student
With one of the country’s worst homelessness
challenges, San Francisco spends more than
$200 million each year trying to help people get
off the streets. Here, a homeless man rests near
one of the city’s many murals.
birth of “SocDoc,” as many of journalism
Associate Professor Kenn Bisio’s
students call it, took place in an art gallery on the
campus of Vermont College at Norwich University
in Montpelier, Vt., where Bisio attended graduate
school in the mid-’90s.
A group of street
performers in San
Francisco earn money
from tourists by tap
dancing near one of
the city’s main cable
Bisio and Marilyn Starrett, an assistant professor of
journalism at MSU Denver, strive to take Social
Documentary students far outside of their comfort
zones. The trips are typically four days long, from
Thursday to Sunday. There is no structure to the class
other than the expectation that students, working in
tandem, will produce a story and accompanying set of
five photos each of the four days. When a pair of aspiring
journalists leave the hotel on Thursday morning, their
only assets other than cameras and notepads are
resourcefulness and what current journalism student
Chris Utterback calls their “shoe-leather” skills.
“If you’re an introvert, you’re just not going to get the
story. You figure that out the first day,” says Cody Lemon
(B.A. journalism ’13), who has just entered the job market.
Upon returning, students scramble to file their stories
and assemble their photo packages. After presenting
the finished product to their peers, a critique with
Starrett and Bisio awaits. The feedback is not about
feel-good moments; it’s about molding journalists who
capture critical moments. It’s about finding the art in
the moments they have captured.
“You are stripped to your most bare,” says Barbara Ford
(B.A. IDP ’08), who went on several Social Documentary
trips. “You pack light—a couple days’ worth of clothes,
your camera, and your reporter’s notebook. You do some
research about the area and lay some groundwork before
“My goal was to go out and ‘commit’ art that had a social/
cultural context and connection,” Bisio recounts. “I
showed five of my best pieces in an art gallery. I was
one of only a few photographers in the Master of Fine
Arts in Visual Communication program.
“On my first night in the gallery, Miwon Kwon, Ph.D.,
points to my photos and says, in front of 22 people, ‘We
all know this is photojournalism. We all know there is
no art in photojournalism. . . . Where are you in the art?’
My wise response was to point to the corner of a photo,
and I said, ‘See, I signed it right here.’”
What Kwon missed, Bisio contends, is that the fine art
of photography resides in the “captured critical moment”
that is “there and gone in a millisecond.”
Through social documentary, Bisio relates his passion
about the search for art to “share with the masses and
illuminate the human condition.” In the tradition of the
late Hungarian-born photographer Cornell Capa and
his “Concerned Photographer” movement, as well as
the photo essays that were ubiquitous in publications
such as Life in the ’50s, Bisio exposes Social Documentary
students to what he calls the “symbiotic relationship
between photos and words.”
A student who received high praise on Saturday night
for a dazzling story or photo package might receive a
public flogging for shoddy work the next day. As Ford
says, the critiques are “brutal, but they have to be. One
night when I was out shooting I wasn’t getting it—I just
wasn’t capturing the light.” The next day, Bisio
complimented Ford’s photo package.
“A case study in a textbook is one thing,” Ford says, “but
this puts your skills to the test.
“You try the job on, and if it fits, it lights a fire underneath
you that never goes away.”
learn more about how social documentary
photography is changing and MSU Denver’s
continued contribution to the craft at
Alumni News + Notes
Eric Himler (B.S. aviation management ’93) of
New Burn, N.C., is a lieutenant colonel and
pilot for the Blue Angels, one of the world’s
oldest flying acrobatic teams.
Gerry Lee (B.S. management ‘94) of Littleton,
Colo., is a real estate broker for Weichert
Realtors. He is a relocation specialist for his
company as well as a nationally certified
Lisa Carl (B.A. human performance sport and
leisure studies ’00) of Lynnwood, Wash., is a
personal trainer at 24 Hour Fitness. In 2003
she married her husband and moved to Washington, where they had a daughter.
Debbie Swanson (B.A. speech communication ’00) of Arvada, Colo., is a professor
at Denver Seminary. She also is a trained
spiritual director in a private practice, where
she offers individual and spiritual direction
in retreat settings.
Stephanie Schulman (nonprofit administration '01) is the executive director of the
Lindsay Goranson (B.A. speech communication ’04) of New York is a professional working
actor in theatre, film and television. Since
graduation she has been in off-Broadway
productions, 15 independent feature films,
world premieres and countless national and
international advertising campaigns. She
studied fashion culture in Paris this summer
and is pursuing graduate school.
Suzette Davis (B.A. political science ’07) of
Aurora, Colo., is constituent services representative at the U.S. House of Representatives.
She specializes in immigration casework,
passports, and international student,
immigrant and nonimmigrant visitors’ visa
applications for the 7th Congressional
Tyler Henson (B.A. political science ’10) of
Littleton, Colo., is a contract lobbyist for
Axiom Strateies Inc., a political consulting
and lobbying firm.
Jeremy VanHooser (B.S. human services
’11) of Denver works with nonprofit organizations in social media, marketing and
fundraising. He recently ran for the Colorado
State House of Representatives. He enjoys
working within his community, a passion he
says grew from his time at MSU Denver.
SHARE YOUR NEWS
Email your class note to
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Kathleen Doherty (B.A. english ’13) of Parker,
Colo., is a manager at Jeppesen, an aviation
information supplier for all aviation markets
Heather LaCost (B.S. marketing ’13) of Englewood, Colo., recently was hired by National
CineMedia Fathom Events as an event marketing specialist, a job she says she found
through MSU Denver’s Career Fair.
Photo Dave Neligh
MSU Denver education takes sisters
to far flung locales
Phyllis Washington Gebre-Michael and Patrice Washington have taken their degrees around the globe.
Phyllis, a teacher, and Patrice, an artist, are the daughters of RTD General Manager Phil Washington.
The pair used their education to pursue professions they are passionate about and these passions have
taken them from Denver to New York to Ethiopia and Japan.
Phyllis Washington Gebre-Michael (B.A. speech communication ’02) teaches college readiness within
the Aurora Public Schoos for the program Colorado Gear Up. She graduated in 2007 from City University
of New York, Brooklyn College, with a master of arts in liberal studies/linguistics. Phyllis previously
worked and volunteered for organizations such as the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in
New York, the Awassa Children’s Project in Ethiopia and as an English teacher for the public school
district in Nagoya, Japan.
The Washington family was reunited this June for
the wedding of daughter Phyllis. Pictured from
left are Phyllis Washington Gebre-Michael, Phil
Washington and Patrice Washington.
Patrice Washington (B.A. fine arts ’11) moved to Harlem, N.Y., to attend Columbia University. She is
pursuing a master’s degree in fine arts and works as a teaching assistant organizing visiting artist
lectures. She also holds a position as a research assistant in the wood and metal shops. She says New
York has been a perfect fit for her in helping to further investigate her practice of art within spheres of
political, cultural, and historical influence.
STORY Mike Pearson
f the proverbial picture is worth a thousand words,
how does one value a comic book?
To hear MSU Denver English Lecturer Christina
Angel tell it, comics can be priceless as an educational tool.
For several years now, Angel (B.A. English ’98) has been
using graphic novels in her English classes, introducing
students to classics such as Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” or
Homer’s “The Odyssey” through a literary style once
regarded as the province of, well, kids.
But Angel also uses her love of comics in other
ways. She’s co-founder of Comic Book Classroom,
an after-school program designed to improve
the literacy of 5th through 8th graders in Denver
Public Schools. Her third hat is convention
director for Denver Comic Con, the nation’s fourth
largest gathering of the geek and chic who come
together in celebration of all things pop culture.
“A graphic novel is a fancy way of saying a comic book,
although for me a graphic novel is a story-length comic
book as opposed to a serialized comic. Most people use
the terms interchangeably,” she says.
Angel says there are definite advantages in using
visuals to help students learn.
“I think at the college level it really piques their interest.
It feels easier, even though in some ways it can actually
be more challenging. It opens the door for a different
kind of visual learning, and just across the board it’s an
inviting medium. It’s something you pick up and you
want to find out what it’s all about. In a very practical
sense, it’s also faster to read.”
She dismisses the notion that graphic novels mark a
radical shift in how teachers teach.
“I don’t think it’s as new as it seems,” she says. “Higher
ed has embraced graphic novels for a good 20 years,
especially with some of the more mainstream works
like ‘Maus,’ which won the Pulitzer Prize. But the widespread use of it is fairly new, maybe the last five years
or so where a lot of universities have built more courses
around graphic novels.”
An added bonus, she says, is the way the medium spurs
“It’s way outside the box in the sense that you take
something very classical like ‘Metamorphoses,’ which
a lot of students may think is old and disconnected.
And then you take a story like ‘Watchmen’ and pair the
two,” she says. “It opens up a conversation you couldn’t
have without it, especially with something like literary
Angel is particularly proud of the educational roots of
Denver Comic Con, which this spring saw more than
60,000 attendees at the Denver Convention Center
over three days.
Denver’s Comic Con actually began as a way to fund
Comic Book Classroom, a program she helped to develop
five years ago with Lafayette, Colo., middle school
teacher Illya Kowalchuk to introduce literary concepts
to younger students by having them read and then
create their own comic books.
“We actually created Comic Book Classroom and then
wondered ‘How are we going to fund this?’ So we created Denver Comic Con. The two things have expanded
far beyond our wildest dreams.”
Learn more about Comic Book Classroom at
Learn more about Denver Comic Con at
in stationery, custom wedding
invitations, calligraphy, graphic
design and what Shanley describes
as “artistic services for gifting.”
In the early 2000s, Shanley
transitioned from an art teacher
who sold her calligraphy work on
the side to a full-time entrepreneur
who works from the home she
shares with her husband, former
MSU Denver art instructor David
“I’m astute enough with words that
I could blog and do some advertising, but I just don’t have the time,”
she notes. “If I’m doing that stuff, it
means I’m not working. The thing
you want to do when you’re an artist is the creative piece.”
n a Facebooking, Twittering world,
how does a one-woman operation
that doesn’t advertise make it?
Search “Big Kitchen Papers”
online and aside from the website,
there is scant information
available. There is no review on
Yelp.com, for example. Shanley
advertises almost exclusively via
Christine Shanley (B.F.A. ’93) is
the lone full-time employee of Big
Kitchen Papers, a Wheat Ridge,
Colo., business that specializes
“There are a lot of invitations in
the world, but I like a challenge,”
she says, pointing to an elegantly
embossed, black velvet custom card.
STORY Daniel Patterson | PHOTO Barry Gutierrez
What can you do with $50?
Have your car detailed.
Go out to dinner.
Buy a new video game.
Change a student’s life.
One of Big Kitchen’s current projects
is a one-of-a-kind “male wedding
shower” invitation that Shanley says
is straight out of the “Mad Men” era.
Each guest will be hand-delivered a
garment bag that contains a cutout
resembling a suit jacket. Businessmen in the ’50s and ’60s kept the cutouts, which contain instructions on
how to properly pack and care for a
sports coat, in their suitcases. Shanley
is reproducing the cutouts.
While she strives to make unique
pieces for each of her clients, she
prides herself on being able to balance family life with the demands of
“I thought I could make a living doing
this, and I do,” she says, surveying the
converted garage where she now
turns her clients’ requests into fine
art. “I’m able to make a living, but I’m
also able to be a grandma and fit in
to see more of Christine Shanley’s
MSU Denver gives students a
experience that prepares them
for career and life success.
Your support makes it possible.
Make a gift today.
STORY Reeanna Lynn Hernandez
iven that winemaking is widely
regarded as an art form, it’s
hardly surprising that writing about
wine also rates its own creative
Now living in Sonoma County,
Calif., Gerald D. Boyd (B.A. English
’79) has taken his passion for wine
and crafted a lifelong career as a
celebrated wine writer.
Did you know?
MSU Denver offers a
Administered by industry experts,
the Sommelier Diploma Program is
designed to provide students with the
skills they will need to be successful
sommeliers. In addition to continued
regional study of wine, beer, spirits
and cuisine, students receive
instruction in the administration
and managerial elements of the
profession, including wine service,
cellaring wines, investment strategies,
menu design, inventory procedures
and staff training.
“I find the whole subject of wine
very fascinating,” says Boyd. “Everything from the growing of the grapes
through to the winemaking process,
and of course the obvious enjoyment
of the wine itself.”
An ardent wine collector, Boyd began
writing about wine in 1971 for publications such as the Rocky Mountain
News, Denver Magazine and Wine
“My first piece on wine was for a
listener’s guide for KVOD, which is
[a Denver] classical radio station,”
says Boyd. “I wrote an article about
Beethoven and Austrian wine. Then
I wrote a piece for Denver Magazine
about some Colorado businessmen
who had gone to California to open
wineries. From there it really took
off, and I then started writing about
Although those earlier publications
were milestones for his career, Boyd
didn’t stop there. Upon retiring from
the Air Force and graduating from
MSU Denver, he took a trip to Europe
and came home to some life-altering
news: Boyd had a job with The Wine
Spectator and he, his wife and his
youngest son (now a winemaker in
Washington state) were moving to
In 1979 he joined The Wine Spectator as managing editor and one
year later he was promoted to editor. He also has served as the staff
wine and spirits writer for the San
Francisco Chronicle, and his writing
has appeared regularly in the Wine
Review Online, Winestate of Australia
and countless other magazines.
Boyd also has taken on the role
of adjunct instructor of wine
education at Santa Rosa Junior
College. He has been honored with
induction into numerous wine and
spirits associations, including Le
Grand Counseil l’Academie du Vin
de Bordeaux, Ordre des Coteaux de
Champagne, and Chevalerie de Vere
Galant de Cognac.
In 2011, Boyd was honored by the
Wine Media Guild of New York with
induction into the Wine Writer’s
Hall of Fame and has served as a
wine judge at international, national
and regional wine competitions in
California, New York, Pennsylvania,
Texas and Washington, and
international wine competitions in
Australia, Belgium, Italy and China.
Even with all of these accolades,
Boyd says one of the most gratifying aspects of his career is the fact
that he can tangibly enjoy a subject
matter he loves.
“Over time, the explosion of wine
making has just been phenomenal,” says Boyd. “There’s hardly a
country in the temperate parts of
the Northern and Southern hemispheres where wine is not made
today. I became interested in wine
from that standpoint, the same way
people would become interested in
any hobby. You like what it’s all about
so you read more and study more on
it. The nice thing about wine is after
you’ve learned and studied about it,
you can truly enjoy it.”
magazine for more information
about the Sommelier Program
and Gerald Boyd’s wine
Photo seth baca
Mary Bonscher (B.A. communications ’79), June 2011
Signild Danielson (B.A. contract ‘76),
Dennis Donley (B.A. physical education ’73), May 2013
Diane Gladue (B.S. nursing ’77),
Catherine Kolb (B.S. accounting ’79),
Felix Magalon (B.A. sociology ’78),
Mary Schaefer (A.A.S. mental health
‘78), December 2011
Donetta Weaver (B.S. human services ‘79), December 2010
Gordon McKnight (B.A. journalism
’80), May 2010
Nick Delmonico (B.A. speech communication ‘04), July 2010
Faculty and Staff
Jack Barwind, an affiliate faculty
member in the Department of
Communication Arts and Sciences,
died in May 2013.
Professor Emeritus Donald Bennett
retired from MSU Denver after
25 years as a professor of teacher
education. Bennet passed away in
Todd Bergren was a professor of
genetics, evolution, biology, anatomy
and physiology. He passed away in
Clemens “Clem” Brigl, who taught
in the Department of Human Performance and Sport for 16 years, died
in March 2013. He began teaching
at the University in 1976 and retired
Marylea Carr was a professor at MSU
Denver. She passed away in October
Lois Dilatush was a longtime sociology professor (retired) at MSU Denver; she served a term as chair of
the Sociology Department. Dilatush
passed away in March 2012.
Finance Emeritus Professor Kenneth
Huggins died in July 2013. He joined
the finance faculty in 1987 and later
served as chair.
Valerie Kaskela-Mindock was a
professor of English composition and
literature at MSU Denver. She passed
away in December 2011.
Jane Kober was a coach and professor. She was awarded an honorary
doctorate, named emeritus assistant
professor of human performance and
sport, and was inducted into the MSU
Denver Athletics Hall of Fame. Kober
passed away in December 2011.
Harol “Hal” Nees II (B.S. law
enforcement ‘76), emeritus
professor of criminal justice and
criminology, died in June 2013. The
Hal Nees Scholarship Fund has been
established in his honor.
Longtime MSU Denver Electrical
Engineering Technology Department employee Shirley Steinshouer
passed away in June 2013. She retired
Professor of Management Law and
Ethics Ronald Taylor focused his
professional life on teaching, garnering Excellence in Teaching awards
from the MSU Denver chapter of the
Golden Key National Honor Society
and the University’s Alumni Association. Taylor died in December 2012.
John Osborn served as a member of
the MSU Denver Board of Trustees. He
passed away in March 2010.
“In Memory” is a new regular
section honoring members of the
Roadrunners family who have
READ more about Jack Barwind,
Clem Brigl, Kenneth Huggins,
Harol Nees, Shirley Steinshouer
and Ronald Taylor at www.
STORY Leslie Petrovski | Photo Melonie Mulkey
rked by seemingly random expressions of
contemporary art like Wim Delvoye’s neo-gothic
filigreed dump truck, Daniel Nilsson (B.F.A. ’13) brought
an old exercise bike to class and began pedaling and
Amused, his professor at MSU Denver goaded him to
take risks outside the studio and “go do something
So Nilsson did. The practiced rock climber began
hanging his bike off trees on campus, Denver city
bridges and electrical towers. He set up on pedestrian
malls, in front of the Colorado capitol and in fast food
restaurants. After receiving a ticket for trespassing,
Nilsson took to the wilderness, suspending himself
and his knitting off Colorado cliffs and Utah’s
Although his extreme knitting started as a statement
about the meaning (or meaninglessness) of art, it became
less about going nowhere on his stationary bike and
more about seeing, being seen and performing in
“There was no clear meaning,” Nilsson says. “It repeats
again and again; it’s the basic cycle of life and death,
even cyclical daily routines and ruts. There is something
hopeful about a bike suspended for the heck of it and
knitting something that doesn’t become anything, just
for the joy of the act on an exercise bike because things
spin and it’s fun.”
Nilsson has retired his bike in favor of other projects.
“I had a lot of fun doing it,” he explains. “But it doesn’t
have the same charge. There are things that are much
more scary to me now, because I don’t know why I’m
doing them or what the world will think of them. I tend
to follow the fear. I will look and leap and hope.”
Editor’s Note: This story first appeared in Vogue Knitting
magazine and is being reprinted with permission.
VISIT www.msudenver.edu/magazine for a video
and more images of Daniel Nilsson’s extreme knitting.
STORY Doug McPherson | PHOTO Barry Gutierrez
ven at the tender age of 5, Fernando Ocampo (B.A.
hospitality management ‘12) was tapping his
creativity so he could take part in his favorite hobby:
The little fella had to figure a way to reach the stovetop.
So he’d pull up a small stool, step up and stretch his arm
just high enough to get a spoon into a steamy pot—his
grandma watching with love and a warm smile.
“Yeah, that’s one of my fondest memories of cooking, for
sure,” Ocampo says. “I’d spend a lot of time with grandma
in the kitchen. I have to give her credit because she’s
the one who showed me that cooking wasn't hard but
something really fun.”
That fun was reinforced at school, too. Ocampo recalls
a few cooking classes in his kindergarten.
“We had a garden we took care of, and when some vegetables were ready to pick, we’d take them to the kitchen
and cook with them,” he says.
That turned out to be good training. Today part of
Ocampo’s job is to convince youngsters to eat more
fruits and vegetables as a chef consultant with LiveWell
Colorado, a nonprofit that promotes healthy eating and
Ocampo admits it can be a challenge because many of
the kids are used to eating processed junk food.
“One thing I do is try to make eating healthy food fun
for the kids. So if a school is serving cherry tomatoes,
I tell the students the cherry tomatoes have tomato
explosions and that when they chew them, they explode
in their mouths.”
He emphasizes color to get kids to eat broccoli.
“I teach the cafeteria staff how to steam broccoli, which
makes it really bright green. It’s beautiful and it tastes
delicious without any salt or cheese,” he says. “I tell
students I made it extra green just for them. They
appreciate it and they’re more willing to eat it that way.”
Visit www.msudenver.edu/magazine for Fernando Ocampo’s marinara
Take your ROWDY on the road.
Wherever you ride, show your Roadrunners pride with an MSU Denver license plate. Order your plate today!
Plates are $25 for students and recent graduates and $50 for all others.
A one-time DMV specialty plate charge of $50 will apply.
Proceeds support the MSU Denver Alumni Association.
Campus Box 14
P.O. Box 173362
Denver, CO 80217