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FALL 2013

Innovators Artisans The Rise of Denver’s Creative Class

Chain Reaction Art in a Moment

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FALL 2013

Vol.1 No.2


Constructing the deconstructed 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 Chain Reaction

MSU Denver alumna Carolina Fontoura Alzaga creates an international art career from salvaged bike parts.


MSU Denver grads use creativity to transform.

03 THE Conversation Readers weigh in on transformations, both large and small.


MSU Denver moves forward on initiatives.

The Rise of Denver’s Creative Class

Art in a Moment

07 THE Seen




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.


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.




FIRSTWORD MSU Denver grads use creativity to transform.

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 largest cities.

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 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 Sincerely,

Mike Pearson Managing Editor

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

Conversation the

Readers weigh in on transformations, both large and small. We Said: 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 immigration debate.

You Said: 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. —Douglas Groothuis

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 science ’08)

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 "undocumented immigrants" 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 or Metropolitan Denver Magazine, Metropolitan State University of Denver, Campus Box 86, PO Box 173362, Denver, CO 80217.

Available online.

News the


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 facilities.

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. —Mike Pearson

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.


—Mike Pearson FALL2013

Notable quotable 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

Pulling Rank 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 public colleges. •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. —Donna Fowler

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. FALL2013



News 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 —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.

Diplomacy Denver-style 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.” —Cliff Foster

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


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The 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 to learn more about the center's programs and gallery activities. read more about “Theory Loves Practice” at

“Cross Currents” Exhibit Cannupahanska, "Nostalgia," ceramic and fiber, 2013

BY Doug McPherson

Q: A:

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.

Q: A:


What, in your opinion, is the most lifechanging example of creativity humans have witnessed?


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 future functionality.

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 creative?

Q: A:

Is creativity becoming more important in the workforce?

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 national challenges?


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.

Mick Jackowski, director of the MSU Denver Center for Innovation, defines that elusive thing called creativity.

Visit to learn more about the center’s programs and projects.

From courts to concert halls, Norman Provizer leads a life on the



SYNCOPATED 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 Political Leadership. 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 earlier. “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,” he says. 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 radio station. “The academic stuff I’m very interested in, and I try to keep a finger on the jazz thing too,” he says. visit for Norman Provizer's top 10 picks for any jazz music collection and to learn more about the University’s new jazz program.




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 design. 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 emphasis. “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 10


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 problem-solving, answering 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 and plaza. “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 ways.” 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 potential.”

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 sewing process. As Phillips puts it, “We are extremely well tooled-up for an industrial design program.” With a strong emphasis on producing students who are career-ready, complete with professional portfolios See a slideshow of innovative MSU Denver designs at





STORY Reeanna Lynn Hernandez | Photo jessica tAVes

students' mobile boutique totes local trends.

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 exception. 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 throughout. “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 daughters.” Despite the struggle, Adrian says being a college student has been worthwhile. “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 feasible.” “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 boutique.”

Follow the Denver Fashion Truck on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to find the mobile boutique’s location, or visit

Photo Alan J. Crossley



h Aa

i n C

MSU Denver Alumna Carolina Fontoura Alzaga creates an international

TION 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 medium. 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 reaction. 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 freewheels. 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 14


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 financial district?

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 narrative. Easterners and Left Coasters who still view the Queen City as a cow town? Heck, that’s their provincialism showing.

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 to Metropolis.” “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

Creative Class

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 Colorado, has always been a magnet for risk-takers seeking economic opportunity … a golden dream that still catches the imagination of most Americans. -Stephen Leonard, chair of the MSU Denver History Department

‘Create MSU Denver’ helps members of the creative class succeed 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 for more information.

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 sector. 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 benefits.”



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 green economy. “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 creativity blossoms 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 Santa Fe When: First Friday of every month from 6–9 p.m. Where: Santa Fe Boulevard between Fifth and 11th avenues 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 Francisco’s Chinatown. With little income and limited English, many Chinese immigrants live in single resident occupancy apartments as small as 8-by-10 feet.

in a



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 residents.

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 photograph.” 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 path set. 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 car stops.

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 you go.”

“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



People Alumni News + Notes the







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 new-home-sales professional.


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 Denver Trolley.

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 District.

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.


Email your class note to or submit an update online at


Kathleen Doherty (B.A. english ’13) of Parker, Colo., is a manager at Jeppesen, an aviation information supplier for all aviation markets globally. 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.

graphic lesson 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 student creativity. “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 allusion.” 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 FALL2013


in stationery, custom wedding invitations, calligraphy, graphic design and what Shanley describes as “artistic services for gifting.”

Poetry of Motion

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 Clark. “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, for example. Shanley advertises almost exclusively via word-of-mouth.

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 her business. “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 a life.” Visit to see more of Christine Shanley’s work.

MSU Denver gives students a transformative academic 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 niche. 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 Sommelier Program. 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 World Magazine. “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 California wine.”

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 San Diego. 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.”

VISIT magazine for more information about the Sommelier Program and Gerald Boyd’s wine recommendations.



People In Memory Photo seth baca



Mary Bonscher (B.A. communications ’79), June 2011 Signild Danielson (B.A. contract ‘76), May 2010 Dennis Donley (B.A. physical education ’73), May 2013 Diane Gladue (B.S. nursing ’77), October 2010 Catherine Kolb (B.S. accounting ’79), January 2013 Felix Magalon (B.A. sociology ’78), October 2010 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 January 2011. Todd Bergren was a professor of genetics, evolution, biology, anatomy and physiology. He passed away in May 2011. 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 in 1992. Marylea Carr was a professor at MSU Denver. She passed away in October 2011. 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 in 2006. 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 passed away. READ more about Jack Barwind, Clem Brigl, Kenneth Huggins, Harol Nees, Shirley Steinshouer and Ronald Taylor at www.


Spinning his 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 knitting.

Amused, his professor at MSU Denver goaded him to take risks outside the studio and “go do something with it.” 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 sandstone arches. 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 different contexts.

“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 for a video and more images of Daniel Nilsson’s extreme knitting.




STORY Doug McPherson | PHOTO Barry Gutierrez

connections E

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: cooking. 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 living. 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 for Fernando Ocampo’s marinara sauce receipe. 32


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.

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Metropolitan Denver Magazine - Fall 2013  
Metropolitan Denver Magazine - Fall 2013  

Innovators & Artisans: The rise of Denver's creative class, social documentary photography, Carolina Fontoura Alzaga makes art from salvaged...