RMCAD’s 60th Anniversary: Celebrating over Half a Century of Excellence in Art + Design

RMCAD’s 60th Anniversary: Celebrating over Half a Century of Excellence in Art + Design

This academic year, RMCAD celebrates 60 years of education and creative excellence. For context, 60 years is equal to 3,120 weeks of designing, or 525,600 hours of learning, or 1,892,160,000 seconds of inspiration. In that time, a lot has changed both at RMCAD and in the art and design world as a whole. Join us on a trip down memory lane as we unpack our history along with major developments in the creative industries we have been preparing our students to excel in for over the past 60 years.

The Rocky Mountain School of Art (RMSA), the predecessor of Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design, was founded by Philip J. Steele, a Denver-based artist and illustrator. In its first year, RMSA moved from downtown Denver (across from today’s Colorado Convention Center) to North Downing Street, a street over from the historic Ogden Theatre. 

That same year, the illustrated children’s book “Where the Wild Things Are” was published by Maurice Sendak. Since 1963, “Where the Wild Things Are” has gone on to sell more than 20 million copies of the book.

Also in 1963, Elaine De Kooning painted The Portrait of John F. Kennedy” the same year the president died in office. De Kooning’s massive portrait stands over eight feet tall and more than three feet wide and was painted in an Abstract Expressionist style.

The iconic Nike “Swoosh” logo was designed by Portland State University graphic design student Carolyn Davidson which has gone on to become one of the most recognizable logos of all time and has represented the Nike brand for over 50 years.

After less than 10 years of operation, the Rocky Mountain School of Art added a second location as part of its campus on Ogden Street. 

The first Digital Camera patent was issued to Eastman Kodak, forever changing the landscape of photography. The camera was invented by designer Steve Sasson, using 16 batteries, pieces from another Motorola camera, and a movie camera lens- it weighed nearly 9 pounds.

The Rocky Mountain School of Art became accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology.

Video game protagonist Mario made his first-ever appearance in the video game “Donkey Kong” by Nintendo. The game went on to span countless sequels that brought both Donkey and Mario back. As of 2023, Mario has been in more than 300 different games. 

The Internet was formally created, it was the first unified network that allowed a variety of computers to communicate with each other. The Internet has become one of the most influential factors in culture, finance, and art in the 21st century.

The Rocky Mountain School of Art officially changed its name to Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design (RMCAD). It moved to its new location on East Evans Avenue in southeast Denver, where it resided for another 20 years.

RMCAD’s founder, Philip J. Steele officially retired from teaching but continued practicing his art in his studio on the RMCAD campus. In recognition of Steele and all that he contributed to RMCAD, the campus displayed a retrospective of his work.

Adobe launched the computer program PhotoShop, forever changing graphic design in the digital landscape. PhotoShop was the brainchild of brothers Thomas and John Knoll. John was inspired to co-create the program while working at George Lucas’ visual effects company, Industrial Light and Magic.

That same year, RMCAD qualified under Colorado’s Degree Authorization Act as a “Private College or University,” according to the State of Colorado and the Commission of Higher Education. Additionally, baccalaureate degrees were conferred.

The HGTV channel launched, bringing interior design programming into the homes of millions like never before. In 2019, it was estimated that HGTV was viewed in 80% of all homes across the United States.

RMCAD broadened its offerings to include nine bachelor’s degrees, with new programs such as Animation, Art Education, and Graphic Design.

The first-ever iPod was released by Apple, which could store up to 1,000 songs in your pocket, forever changing the way that music was consumed. As of 2022, the iPod and other Apple products have access to over 90 million songs.

The first of many “Girl with Balloon” paintings was painted on the Waterloo Bridge in London, England by the elusive street artist Banksy. The distinct image soon appeared all over London, the UK, and later the world, as Banksy became a household name.

RMCAD moved to its Lakewood campus location to better build community and accommodate technology advancements in art and design. With the new campus, not only did a new legacy of learning begin, but so did RMCAD’s cat legacy, starting with Whitey. Whitey was followed by Princess and Spooky, the feline friends that call the RMCAD campus their home. 

The statue “Fearless Girl” by Kristen Visbal was installed across from Arturo Di Modica’s statue “Charging Bull” on New York City’s Wall Street. Visbal’s sculpture became synonymous with female empowerment and bravery in the face of adversity.

RMCAD welcomed Disney’s first-ever African-American animator, Floyd Norman. Norman shared his story and his insights with the RMCAD community through the Visiting Artist, Scholar, and Designer Program.

The Animated film “Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse” was released in theaters, and was beloved by audiences and critics alike. The film was heralded as an innovative example of what is possible in the animation medium.

The Wandering Pixel, RMCAD’s first mobile studio, was completed. The renovated recreational vehicle houses the Adobe Creative Cloud, student work, and more. The Wandering Pixel allows the broader community to see the unique experience of what it is like to be a RMCAD student.

RMCAD welcomed President Brent Fitch, as the new leader of our esteemed college. President Fitch brought an exciting background in online learning to RMCAD, which has granted greater access to online resources to all RMCAD students.

RMCAD’s Music Production program was added as the first-ever entirely online academic program at the college, giving students access all around the globe.

Advancements in artificial intelligence began to take off, including Dall-e-2 and Chat-GPT being released to the public. 

The “Coperni spray-on dress” was designed by Manel Torres to be worn by model Bella Hadid at Paris Fashion Week. Coperni’s CEO and co-founder Arnaud Vaillant calls the dress a “celebration of innovation.”

Conclusion

To celebrate 60 years of art and design both at RMCAD and around the world, we would like to thank all of you. Our achievements would not be possible without your continued support and imagination. The future of art and design at RMCAD is looking brighter than ever. Stay creative!

To learn more about RMCAD’s past, please visit our History page or learn more about our academic programs. You might also enjoy the following blog, Preserving the Past, Shaping the Future: Art Conservation and Restoration in Colorado.

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