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Aaron Van Dyke painting a mural featuring a girl holding a giant doughnut

Here’s How This Student Scored Free Donuts for Life

When Aaron Van Dyke came to Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design to study 3-D Animation, he didn’t have a particular interest in mural work. It wasn’t a type of project he had even considered. Now, in his junior year, he has four public murals under his belt, one of which scored him free donuts and coffee for life.

An Unusual Start

Van Dyke’s first opportunity happened by chance. While taking a Foundations course, he and another student were tasked with an unusual project. Each group of students had to create artwork based on five words drawn at random. Their picks:
“Coffee,” “music,” “the bathroom,” “a song on repeat,” and “time-lapse.”

The combination doesn’t scream “masterpiece” at first glance, but that was the point of the assignment.

Van Dyke and his partner decided to redesign the Starbucks logo and document the process via time-lapse videos—in a bathroom.

“We created four time-lapse videos of me drawing [the design],” Van Dyke said. “We had all of this filming equipment set up in the bathroom. It was crazy.”

When instructor Joshua Field saw the final design, he suggested it would make a good mural. With the encouragement of Field, Van Dyke decided to submit a proposal to RMCAD, and was granted the opportunity to paint the mural on the second floor of the Epic building on campus. Not by coincidence, the mural is next to a bathroom.

Free Donuts and Coffee

After his first mural was complete, Van Dyke wanted to do more—this time, outside of the walls of RMCAD. On his daily route to school, he would stop at the Winchell’s Donuts on the corner of Colfax Ave. and Pierce St. He immediately took notice of a mural outside of the building. The work, “Donut Break” by local artist Birdcap, inspired Van Dyke to ask if he could do another mural on their building.

They said yes. And while Van Dyke was merely looking for experience, they offered to cover the cost of materials, as well as free donuts and coffee—a big bonus for Van Dyke, since he’s a regular there.

Van Dyke has now done two murals for Winchell’s—the first one titled “Coffee and Donuts” and another, “Sam,” which features an illustration of the shop’s owner. Through his work, Van Dyke has earned both experience and free donuts and coffee for the foreseeable future.


“Sam” Mural by Aaron Van Dyke


A green, yellow, and blue mural with a variety of shapes and lines on a wall above two drinking fountains.

Mural by Aaron Van Dyke



“One time I tried to pay and they got mad at me,” he laughed.

New Opportunities

Outside of school, Van Dyke has found other opportunities to create art, from designing tattoos to creating woodwork and installations. Van Dyke also has multiple mural projects lined up. When it comes to finding these opportunities, Van Dyke’s secret to getting the green light has by and large been simply asking people.

“Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Don’t assume people don’t want your art. Talk to people. Tell them you’re an artist and be confident in yourself.”

Van Dyke said that his time at RMCAD has definitely helped him build that confidence and branch outside of his area of study.

“[The instructors] encourage you to be the artist you want to be,” he said. “I’m a 3-D animator—that’s where a lot of my skills are—and yet now I’m doing mural work. RMCAD teaches you to be an artist, not just a painter, or an illustrator, or an animator. That’s why I love it here. “


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