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University of Colorado Denver

College of Arts & Media



The Department of Visual Arts (VA)

CU Denver College of Arts & Media

Find your creative voice

The Department of Visual Arts assists and encourages students to find their creative voice by providing an educational environment where artists and art historians of promise and motivation can explore the horizons of their own talents in the midst of intense critical dialogue. This dialogue is generated by their peers; by distinguished visiting artists, scholars, and critics; and by a faculty comprising artists and art historians of acknowledged accomplishment. The critical dialogues help to mold and shape who you will become as an artist in the twenty-first century.

Cultivate your mind

The Visual Arts department's efforts are devoted not only to the refinement of visual skills, but to the articulation and cultivation of the mind. Students must bring creative force and imagination to their own development, for these qualities cannot be taught–they can only be stimulated and appreciated. Education in the fine arts encompasses a comprehensive knowledge of and direct experience with the various media of drawing, painting, photography, transmedia-sculpture, multimedia, and animation. Supporting this enterprise is the development of an understanding of art theory, knowledge of the methods and materials of art making, and examination of the diverse approach to examining the art object in history. Central to the practice of art history are critical writing and analysis.

This is the right place

As a developing artist, you couldn't be in a better place. The department is located in downtown Denver and is at the heart of its thriving, dynamic arts community.  Whether you work as an intern at a local gallery or visit one of the nation's leading museums, our urban setting yields endless opportunities for you to learn, experience, and create art both on and beyond the Auraria campus.

To Prospective Students (freshmen & transfer) 

While the Visual Arts Department currently accepts applications for the Spring and Summer semesters, students are strongly encouraged to apply for a Fall semester start.  This is due to the fact that the majority of the first-semester courses are offered in Fall semesters only.  The Visual Arts majors are highly sequenced and pre-requisites are strictly enforced.  Students who begin in the Spring and Summer semesters may find that their required courses are not offered until the Fall semester. 


  • Fall applicants are encouraged to apply by Mar. 1 (Fall registration opens in early April – students are encouraged to register as soon as they are eligible).    
  • Spring applicants are encouraged to apply by Oct. 1 (Spring registration opens in mid-November– students are encouraged to register as soon as they are eligible).    
  • Summer applicants are encouraged to apply by Feb. 1 (Summer registration opens mid-March– students are encouraged to register as soon as they are eligible).

The Visual Arts Department recommends that students interested in the BFA program apply for Fall semester. Note that admission into specific programs such as Digital Animation Center and Digital Design are by portfolio only and these portfolio reviews commence after the foundation year. Visit the Digital Animation Center website at and the Digital Design website for further information.
The recommended deadline to apply for the Fall 2015 semester is April 1, 2015 and Fall 2015 registration begins in mid-April. Students who apply after May 15 may find that their desired courses are full. Contact a CAM advisor for more details:

The Visual Arts Curriculum of Study

Students are exposed to rigorous instruction that allows for exploration of both the technological and creative facets of the arts, both the practical and inspirational motivations of the discipline. There are two degree programs: a BA with emphases in Art History and Studio Arts and a BFA with emphases in Digital Animation, Digital Design, Photography, Illustration, Painting & Drawing, Scientific Media Design, and Transmedia-Sculpture. Shared foundations exist at the first year level, an integrative junior level studio class is required and all emphases areas have a senior thesis course.  

Some common courses include:​​

  • Drawing I
  • Two-Dimensional Design
  • Three-Dimensional Design
  • Art History Survey I
  • Art History Survey II
  • Contemporary Art History
  • Fine Arts Electives

In addition, guest artists and professionals are constantly lecturing and performing on campus and in the classroom, extending the scope of what students are exposed to.  All thesis classes invite in regional designers, artists or curators to review student work.

Guest artists have included (to name a few):

Sue Coe, Chakaia Booker, Andy Bichlbaum (Yes Men), Stacey Peralta, Koto Ezawa, Wynne Greenwood (aka Tracy & the Plastics), Corban Gossett (Dreamworks), Zack Petroc (Disney Animation Studios) and Steve Humphries (expert medical physicist, imaging scientist.)

The Visual Arts Faculty

Visual Arts faculty members are significant participants in their chosen field of art. Their accomplishments and experiences in the arts include:

  • Guggenheim Fellowship award winner
  • Fulbright Fellow
  • Creative designer at Paramount Pictures and Lucas Film, Ltd
  • Chief Technologist at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science
  • Presenter at Siggraph
  • Active membership in the Society for Photographic Education. Faculty hosted the SPE Regional
  • Conference in Denver in 2004 and the SPE National Conference in 2008
  • Artist in Residence at the Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris, France
  • Award-winning author of books on contemporary art, craft, and popular culture
  • Contributors to scholarly journals such as Art Journal and Art in America
  • Art historians with curatorial experience at, for example, MOMA and Los Angeles County Museum of Art
  • Featured artist in the exhibition catalogue 179th Annual Invitational Exhibition of Contemporary American Art, National Academy of Design.

Beyond the Classroom

Students are encouraged to persistently apply the knowledge they are gaining in the classroom, to survey the creations and projects around them, and to involve themselves in these extracurricular activities whenever possible.  Several opportunities for involvement exist right on the Auraria campus.

  • Sculpture Club: The CU Denver Sculpture Club provides members with the opportunity to engage and further our educational experiences in sculpture and other aspects of the art world. The club's aim is to increase our knowledge of techniques and materials, establish beneficial relationships with one another, other artists, and the community as a whole, and actively participate in exhibitions and community events.
  • ​​UCD Painting Guild​: The UCD Painter’s Guild provides students the opportunity to engage in experiences that involve the exploration of painting.  Activities aim to increase one’s access to and knowledge of techniques and materials through exploration of works, dialogue, participation in exhibitions, community events and educational and experiential opportunities.​ The Guild sponsors the weekly "Open Life Drawing​" sessions each semester, which is free and open to all students, faculty and staff on the Auraria Campus.
  • Art History Club: The Art History Student Association (AHSA) was created to promote art history among students by providing information on art history-related careers and graduate schools, internship and research opportunities, scholarships, fellowship and grant possibilities, and academic assistance to art history students.

Cutting-edge technology​ and amenities – Visual Arts Facilities

The College of Arts & Media prides itself on its cutting-edge technology and amenities. 

  • Spacious classrooms dedicated to painting and drawing and illustration.
  • The best sculpture facilities in Colorado: Visual Arts has a full foundry for the casting of bronze and aluminum as well as fully-equipped wood shop and metals lab.
  • Outstanding photography facilities, including all types of wet processing labs and digital facilities.
  • Off-campus classes at the Denver Art Museum and "Smart" classrooms that support the teaching of art history with the latest media equipment.
  • Students have access to a variety of photography and Apple ​Mac labs for study and practice. Also available is the Art Resource Center, a “clearing house” for information about study abroad programs, job offers, internships and continuing education.
  • The CU Digital Studios two labs used by CU Digital Animation Students, have fast Hewlett Packard workstations with strong video accelerators running the latest releases of MAYA and supporting design software. There is another lab with new Hewlett Packard workstations equipped with full suites of design and editing software that is used for video editing, multimedia and digital photography.

Your Future Profession:​

  • Sketch Artist: Average salary $38,330 a year
  • Art Director: Average salary $65,570 a year ($48,020-$72,250/year)
  • Multimedia Artists and Animators : Average salary $46,700 a year ($37,370 - $49,720/year)
  • Fine Artists Including Painters, Sculptors, and Illustrators: Average salary $29,580 a year ($17,710 - $29,580/year)
  • Graphic Designers: Average salary $39,670 a year ($30,890 - $40,130/year)

Confirmed success–Our Visual Arts Alumni

The success of the Visual Arts program is confirmed by the success of its students. Graduates have exhibited their work in galleries across the Denver metropolitan region, and have published books of the works as well as writings or critical essays written about their work by national publications. To see an ever-widening list of our accomplished alumni please visit: 

Nine​ Visual Arts Programs

The Visual Arts Department has two main tracks: the Bachelor of Arts programs (Art History and Studio Arts) and the Bachelor of Fine Arts programs (3D Animation, Digital Design, Illustration, Painting and Drawing, Photography, ​and Transmedia-Sculpture.  The Bachelor of Arts degree is more of a liberal arts degree, it places a greater emphasis on academic studies than on studio courses. It is designed for students who desire significant breadth of experience and understanding rather than a professional specialization. Upon graduation, students will develop visual sensitivity, and the ability to conceptualize observations.  It also familiarizes students with the works and intentions of the major artists and movements of the past and present, as well as the latest contemporary thinking in art. The Bachelor of Fine Arts is the initial professional degree in art; it is heavier in studio courses and is designed to train graduates to be professional practicing artists.  Students who graduate with a BFA often pursue the highest or terminal degree offered to a studio artist, the master of fine arts degree.

Please see below for a further explanation of these Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Fine Arts degree programs.  If you have any further questions, please see the CU Denver Course Catalog, or contact a CAM advisor for more information.​​