Center for Visual Art / MSU Denver
The Center for Visual Art is a deliberate departure from the confines of a typical university gallery. The Art District mainstay has become a hub of community engagement, student development, and timely discourse.
When Metropolitan State University of Denver (then Metropolitan State College of Denver) first established an off-site art gallery, the location was far from perfect. Although the lower downtown address may seem like ideal real estate today, in 1990, it was a downtrodden neighborhood on the mostly undeveloped outskirts of downtown.
With a 2008 move to the heart of the Art District on Santa Fe, however, something happened: The Center for Visual Art (CVA) blossomed into not only a visible and accessible arm of the university, but also a standalone force that serves the surrounding area. Maintaining that balance begins with relevant, challenging exhibitions and extends to community involvement and even workforce development.
“We really do strive to be a resource and a platform for discussion around global urban issues,” said Cecily Cullen, Managing Director and Curator for CVA. “In that sense, we’re of value not just to art students, but to everyone. And because we’re looking at contemporary global issues of our time, it’s not just a matter of coming in and evaluating the formal qualities of the artwork. It’s an evocative platform to launch discussion.”
For students, CVA is also a training ground for personal and professional development. The gallery’s full-time staff is supported—and energized—by a cast of up to 15 student employees.
On any given day those students get a crash course in nearly every element of running a gallery, including curation, marketing, art handling, and interacting with both the public and the media. During August, the First Friday Art Walk is marked with a student art market in the parking lot, replete with bands, beer, and food trucks.
CVA also takes advantage of its location to partner with the community at large. Art education students from MSU Denver lead after-school art programs for area youth, and the gallery collaborates programmatically with local organizations like the Colorado Ballet and the Athena Project.
All of which is tied together by diverse exhibitions like the recent Presence: Reflections on the Middle East, comprised of more than 60 photography-based pieces by 12 artists based in the U.S. or abroad. As with all of CVA’s programming, the aim is to provide a resource and platform for engaged discussion around timely global issues.
Said Cullen, “One important thing to remember is that we may think of this as an ‘other’ culture, but there are people from the Middle East who are part of our own culture. To have more understanding and empathy for people with different backgrounds is really crucial.”
Admission is free and open to the public.
965 Santa Fe Drive, Denver, CO 80204