Kids who join programs at Downtown Aurora Visual Arts (DAVA) are encouraged to engage with their own creativity in every way possible.
A bastion of visual arts for students of all ages, DAVA has found ways to expand on its already broad scope, offering creative approaches to health and wellness rooted in scientific discovery. Kids are eagerly exploring subjects like microbiology and oceanography as the non-profit heads toward its 30th anniversary in May.
“We’re focused on bringing every word of our mission statement to life,” said Krista Robinson, DAVA Executive Director. “We engage diverse youth in meaningful arts education that sparks creativity, increases opportunity, and strengthens community.”
For 7-year-old Luis and University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Student Annie Cao that meant an unusual learning experience together.
After pandemic closures, DAVA expanded its college intern program to provide more opportunities for hands-on learning for all ages. The interns were not only diverse, emerging leaders and incredible role models for DAVA kids, they were also able to bring best practices and research from their own degree programs to deepen student learning. Recently, The University of Colorado Anschutz School of Medicine selected DAVA to host a medical student intern as a part of their service-learning program. That’s where Luis and Annie met.
At first, Luis was reluctant to join the Open Studio. He was shy and felt intimidated since English is his second language. His mom had heard that DAVA staff was bilingual, and she convinced Luis to stay with the help of Program Assistant, Lizeth. Now, months later, Luis is one of DAVA’s most enthusiastic students and regular attendees. He participated in DAVA’s special summer STEAM project combining art and science with Annie, who came to help kids learn about microbiology. She practiced her Spanish with Luis, and he asked a lot of smart questions about using microscopes and becoming a doctor. On the last day of this special project, Luis made a sculpture of a “good bacteria” that he learned about and added googly eyes. He presented it to Annie to decorate her office when she becomes a doctor, and she said she will keep it “forever.”
“Volunteering at DAVA has brought me an unexpected joy, and I’ve never met students who are as inquisitive or enthusiastic about the sciences,” Annie said. “They consistently encourage me with their questions and desire to learn more.”
The work with Cao included the world of microbiology where students used microscopes to study viruses and bacteria, learning about where they live and how they exist. With this new knowledge, students created watercolor paintings of bacteria and viruses and sculpted various shapes of microscopic life forms. They then created an interactive exhibition in the DAVA Gallery for visitors to learn about their discoveries.
This summer, DAVA students will join educators from Boulder’s Ocean First Institute and Denver’s Bluff Lake Nature Center to explore important topics in the natural world, conservation projects, plastic pollution in our waterways and oceans – and how they are all connected. The opportunity will include field research and testing pollution in local water sources. For DAVA’s September exhibition, the young scientists and artists will be bringing sea creatures to life using recycled plastics and even bioluminescence.