Pushing a Creative Project to the Finish Line
Shane Still ’21 completes his ambitious BFA thesis with support from CU Denver alumni.Jul 16, 2021
“Thanks for following,” Shane says in the final post of his 31 Days Denver project. “There will be more from me, but I just need to take a break. I love you all.”
Shane Still ‘21 started his 31 Days project in the turbulent fall of 2020, hoping to show that beneath the events dominating the headlines lay deeply personal experiences and mental health struggles. He set out interviewing and photographing 31 members of the Denver community. Then he published their unique stories one-by-one over the course of Mental Health Awareness Month in May.
In the process, Shane learned what it means for a creative project to take on a life of its own. “31 Days Denver was a lot of work,” he shares in his closing autobiographical post on May 31. “I haven’t had an off day from it since before April. I’m exhausted, worn out, and drained.” His words give a sense of the type of raw and honest dialogue about mental health that characterizes his 31 Days storytelling.
Shane also learned what it means to find support in your community. “Through this project, I networked and connected with a lot of people,” he said. “Community is really important.” It began with Professor Carol Golemboski, MA, MFA, whom Shane calls “one of the best connections I made at CU Denver.” In addition to cultivating the 31 Days idea with Shane as his BFA thesis, she guided him toward funding opportunities: “Carol always reminded us it’s important to do those extra things.”
Shane secured multiple awards to support his thesis work during his senior year: a grant through the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program, a scholarship from the Melvin & Elaine Wolf Foundation (whose Executive Director Kelly Hodges ‘02 is a fellow College of Arts & Media graduate), and an Alumni Finish Line Scholarship, funded by CU Denver alumni to help students complete the final year of their degrees with less financial burden. The awards “pushed me to work even harder,” Shane said. “Without the scholarships, I would not have been able to focus on my BFA thesis.” And his thesis, in turn, helped him focus on what he wanted to do next with his career.
In pursuing his creative vision, Shane built a launchpad for life after graduation. He landed a job with an architectural photographer and is developing his own photography studio, Still Images. And while he’s currently taking a break from the project that consumed his energy for the past year, Shane plans to expand the 31 Days brand, tell more stories, and continue sparking conversations about mental health and related issues. Ultimately, he aims to translate 31 Days Denver into a published book.
In the meantime, Shane is experimenting with new techniques, relishing in a level of freedom he hasn’t known since before the project began. After a six-week hiatus, a new video appeared his Instagram page: “This roll of film was the first roll that I shot on my new camera, but also the first work I’ve created just for fun—since last year?” Shane shows what he’s been up to since May: making new connections, collaborating on new projects, and exploring what shape his work might take next.