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VASD World Building: Celebrating 10 Years

This year, RMCAD is celebrating the 10 year anniversary of its Visiting Artist, Scholar, and Designer program (VASD). The VASD Program has established a reputation for being a premier visiting artist program in the region. It consistently provides both RMCAD and the broader community with high quality, critical discourse in contemporary art and design through direct interaction with leading national and international artists, scholars, and designers. We chatted with Gretchen Schaefer, Director of the VASD program, and Interim Director of Student Affairs to talk about this year’s unique and relevant VASD theme, the artists, and why celebrating 10 years is a milestone. 

What exactly is VASD?

The VASD Program hosts leading, contemporary national and international artists, scholars, and designers and connects them and their work and ideas to RMCAD students, faculty, staff, alumni, and engages communities in the Denver-metro area and beyond. The Program values passionate curiosity, a diversity of perspectives and voices, mentoring, and vigorous thought.

What is this year’s theme?

VASD’s 2020/2021 theme is World Building.

It proposes the question, “What do we want our world to look like and how do we create that vision?” Every day, within a matrix of forces and structures, we build our world by enacting decisions that reflect our understanding of existence as it is, and, as we hope it to be. Because world building is intimately connected to world view, our decisions reveal our values and hopes as well as our struggles and shortcomings.

From video games to voting, from story arcs to architecture, from food to fashion, from smartphones to the dark web, world building exists in the planes of both the practical and fantastical, the personal and the theatrical; it provides critical real-world insight and innovative escapism. World building constructs fully-formed, immersive universes that re-contextualize our past, re-orient our present, and project new, future realities. The most revolutionary advancements can seem like madness in the beginning, but enterprising world builders bravely navigate the murky waters of progress to pioneer changes in ethics, power, narrative, and technology, and, this series’ primary interests, in art, design, and culture.

At the dawn of a new decade, in the midst of a pandemic and a reckoning with systemic racism, in a landscape of expansive connectivity and rapid dramatic social, political, environmental, and technological change, we are world building at this very moment in remarkable ways. The 2020/2021 World Building series reflects on the specific methods artists and designers are implementing to actively develop radical progress and novel solutions.  

Where did the concept for World Building come from?

It was developed around the spring of 2019. We were thinking about things like a new decade, the ongoing and rising climate crisis, a presidential election in an ever-increasingly divided society in terms of values, economics, and opportunity. But also about how world building occurs in all creative fields and specifically in art, video games, interior design, illustration, narrative, etc. Artists have always been quintessential world builders and the artist’s particular manner of envisioning has always been vital to understanding our humanity and cultivating social and intellectual evolution.

Why is World Building important right now?

When we conceived of the World Building series last year, we never could have imagined that we would be in this significant moment in which we are being called to build our world in remarkable ways and in every aspect of our lives. The pandemic and an intensified reckoning with the deep, long-lasting, and lethal impacts of racism and inequality have crystalized the crucial need but also the possibility for dramatic change. We deeply believe that artists will continue to be central to our current construction of a new, more just future.

What does the process of World Building involve?

Personally, I would say bold vision, community, commitment, care, and attention. I would say that it’s an ongoing, participatory endeavor. But beyond my own ideas, I’d encourage you to look to our World Building artists and their work to answer this question.

What do you hope people gain from each of these artist talks?

Like all of the artists we’ve had the pleasure to host, these artists will inspire and challenge us. We will discover the personal stories and experiences that we share, and learn new ways of seeing and thinking that look beyond ourselves. We will join in the conversation to expand the notion of what art is and what it can do in relation to who we are.

What does celebrating 10 years of VASD mean for RMCAD and the community?

We have been honored to live out the mission of the college through the VASD Program. For a decade the VASD Program has made space for conversation around important, contemporary topics in art, design, and culture that ask the question ‘what does it mean to be human, here at this time? With generosity and open-exchange, each visiting artist, scholar, and designer shared their work and ideas, contributing to an ever-expanding and enduring sphere of vigorous thought and creative influence.

To learn more about the VASD World Building series and register to attend an upcoming VASD event with one of our visiting artists, visit this link:


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