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University of Colorado Denver, Newsroom

Art Gets Urban

Maria Buszek integrates Denver’s art scene into her teaching

Maria Buszek, professor of art history

​by Amy Vaerewyck | University Communications

In the Arts Building lecture hall, you and your classmates discuss the intersection of fashion trends and conceptual art. Then you go check out fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent’s exhibit at the Denver Art Museum.

You read about British artist Steve McQueen’s installations in your contemporary art textbook. Then, you go see his feature film, Shame, at the Mayan Theatre as part of the Starz Denver Film Festival.
This is what it’s like to take a class with Maria Buszek, PhD, associate professor of art history in the College of Arts & Media. She requires all her students to write research papers on their real-life art experiences.
“It’s taking what they’ve learned in the classroom out into the city and applying it to the real world where they can plug into it and understand what they’re seeing,” Buszek said.
An Urban Education
Each semester, Buszek gives her students a list of opportunities to see, hear and experience art in Denver—and the list is never short.
“With CU Denver’s urban campus, it’s so easy for me to get [students] out into the city,” she said. “[My students are] stepping into the Denver art community at a moment when the city is deservedly gaining international attention for its architecture, design and contemporary art scene.”
After classroom discussions and lecture hall slideshows, Buszek’s students are excited to go to museums and performances in a real, urban art scene where their learning takes on new meaning.
“It blows their minds,” Buszek said.
In fall 2012, her students visited the “Postscript” exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver. The exhibit dealt with difficult conceptual art themes and incorporated very subtle humor. Because they’d studied the themes in class, however, Buszek’s students understood the exhibit—and loved it. The papers they wrote on the exhibit were so on point that Buszek shared them with the curators, who are considering publishing them on the museum website.
A Passionate Scholar
While she makes art scholars of her students, Buszek also takes much pleasure in her own scholarship and research.
In 2012, Buszek received the LoPresti Prize for Excellence in Art Publishing from the Art Libraries Society of North America for the compilation of the anthology, “Extra/Ordinary: Craft and Contemporary Art.” She also recently gave a lecture at a symposium on craft at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art.
“My interests are all over the place,” said the author of published works with titles as diverse as “Some Perspective(s) on Contemporary Craft,” “Necessary Positions in Feminist Art” and “Punkademia.” Her current book project is called The Art of Noise: Art and popular music since 1977.
With experience at art and education institutions from New York to California and several places in between, Buszek said CU Denver provides a rich and supportive environment for research.
“It’s wonderful to be at a research institution where I’m valued not only as an educator but as a researcher and scholar,” she said. “I love it here.”
5,000 Different Paths
Buszek appreciates the diversity of the student body at CU Denver. She likes that, in the short walk from her office to the classroom, she might hear five different languages spoken.
She invites her students to call her “Maria” and stresses to them that the opportunities available to them in the contemporary art field are as diverse as their interests are.
“I tell them, ‘This [lesson] is not about what Maria likes. It’s about what artists are doing right now,’” she said. “‘This is just one of the 5,000 different paths you could take.’”

Published: April 4, 2013


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