Simple Goal for Class to Make Someone’s Day Delivers Art With Heart at Community College of Aurora

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Inventive project at CCA, a Colorado community college, is so successful that it’s slated to become a staple of future curriculum.

CCA student Gene Dillon brightens the days of some Aurora, Colorado commuters with an inventive sign.

CCA student Gene Dillon brightens the days of some Aurora, Colorado commuters with an inventive sign.

I think the project was very effective and interesting and eye-opening to see all these creative outlets and ideas come together, all going towards the same goal of cheering people up.

A special project ended last month that was aimed solely at making a difference in the life of someone else through art. It was just the sort of outside-of-the-box thinking that was crazy enough to work.

And, man, did it work, so well that the idea will be repeated again this year in the next 2D design class taught by CCA faculty Alex Girard. CCA is one of the Colorado community colleges.

“You see on YouTube or on the Internet people doing acts of good while not prompted by money or jobs. So that kind of started it in my head,” Girard said in explaining the genesis behind the ‘make-a-difference’ idea. “And I did write this project for this particular group of students because they had done such a nice job throughout the semester.”

The ideas hatched by these students took on numerous forms.

Sitting on a desk in CCA’s counseling office, adding an ornate look to what was otherwise cedar-wood regularity, was a handmade book, sewn together by hand. Inside, hand-scribbled drawings were accompanied by uplifting phrases that challenged depression and low self-esteem head on:

“Most of the things you worry about never happen.”
“The only difference between a good day and a bad day is your attitude.”
“I will not compare myself to strangers on the Internet.”

The author of this book, it turns out, is CCA student Kim Huynh.

One student stood on a street corner in Aurora with selected messages written on placards. “There’s a lot of awesome in you!” one bellowed, as motorists honked horns and smiled their approval. Another member of the class went to the local library armed with 12 different bookmarks embossed with three different sayings. She clandestinely placed these pieces of 2D art in the books of library patrons who had abandoned their reading materials.

One student opened a Twitter account entitled, #JustDropIt, with a backdrop of suicide prevention in mind. By the time he was finished, several Psychiatric agencies had become followers and re-tweeted the work, which was an assemblage of his own positive messages and those written by others.

Scott Wakefield, Girard and others at Community College of Aurora often have discussed the importance of building confidence by having their students generate and execute ideas. This project afforded the possibility of changing a perspective, thought, or day of another individual in a purposeful fashion. Wakefield is chair of the Art and Design Department, which offers many fine art and graphic design classes in Denver.

“It was a great way of reaching people and having an instant idea of how it affected them,” said Gene Dillion, whose street-corner sign campaign also included the message, “Peace, Love, and Nachos” that had one commuter believing she was advertising for a local restaurant. “I think the project was very effective and interesting and eye-opening to see all these creative outlets and ideas come together, all going towards the same goal of cheering people up, brightening their day, and otherwise positively influencing their lives. This was a really great vehicle for that and one of the projects I’ve enjoyed most so far.”

One of the more intriguing ideas came from first-year student Nicholas Kim. He drew a four-panel pencil drawing in comic form and left ‘bubbles’ for the dialogue empty. He then distributed them at class and work. Kim watched from afar as people cackled to themselves while filling out the comic page, which accomplished the target goal for the assignment. There was a wide-ranging response in the tone of the pages he then collected. A sample dialogue:

Panel One: “I am the most evil thing online! I live to make others angry and jelly …”
Panel Two: You know me all too well, for I am the one who caused you to post a whining Facebook status . I am …’
Panel Three: … “a troll!”
Panel Four: “You hurt my feelings! Just wait until all my Facebook friends hear about this! We are going to so blog about this!!”

“It was pretty funny,” Kim said of some the finished products he collected after watching them being created.

Students gave oral presentations to Girard on the final day of class about their methodology coming up with their projects, some of which also included desk calendars for co-workers, a new way to access course evaluations in the students’ online access point to the college website, and the use of ‘positive’ street graffiti via sticker messages.

Girard asked the students about their biggest challenges and highlights of taking the assignments from concept to execution. Nearly everyone seemed jazzed about what they’d done and seen.

“I was really impressed,” Girard said. “I talked about examples and showed them things that lived in the world but did give them completely free reign and was really impressed with some of the really unique and personal ideas. I especially like that some of them already are talking about wanting to do it again or keeping the Twitter account going. I’m really excited that it’s living beyond the classroom.”


About CCA
Community College of Aurora has campuses at CentreTech and Lowry in the greater Denver area. Equipped with the latest technologies, CCA allows students to study new and traditional programs, while also offering Colorado online classes and degrees. CCA’s service community spans 325,000 people in a 350-square-mile area and CCA’s student population reflects that diversity. The college provides lifelong educational opportunities, prepares the current and future workforce, and promotes excellence in teaching, learning and service.

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Lee Rasizer
Community College of Aurora
(303) 360-4728
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