By Andy B. Rodriguez
DITA and The Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities
My name is Andy B. Rodriguez, I'm an artist, and in the summer of 2023 I did a marketing and communications internship with the Arvada Center through the Diversity in the Arts program, otherwise known as DITA.
The Arvada Center produces, curates, and creates national-caliber arts, humanities, education, and entertainment that are designed to help you see, hear, feel, and think a little deeper.
DITA is a program that is committed to improving diversity, equity, and inclusion within our community's cultural organizations. One of the ways they do that is through their internship program, where they work with arts and culture organizations across Denver, such as the Denver Botanic Gardens, Museo De Las Américas, Curious Theatre, the Arvada Center, and more in order to recruit interns with diverse backgrounds. The goal is to create a pipeline for professionals with diverse backgrounds, and get more voices engaged in the arts community.
Though this internship program is fairly new, having gotten its start in 2018, there are already success stories out there. If you’ve seen any of our videos in recent years, chances are you saw something that was developed by our very own, charming and hardworking Digital Communications Coordinator, Collin Sanders who started out as a DITA intern himself a few years back.
I invite you to read about the experience I had this summer, and get to know the Arvada Center through my eyes! Click the tabs below to check it out.
For more information about DITA, click here!
My name is Andy B. Rodriguez, I was born in Phoenix, Arizona, but I have lived in Colorado since I was about two years old. I’m an artist and illustrator and I studied art history at Front Range Community College in Westminster, where I found out about the DITA internship program.
I feel like the best way to get to know me and what informs my art is through my interests. What you see in the collage below is a montage of stuff I enjoy most and where I draw most of my inspiration - including illustrations from my favorite illustrators, some of my favorite music, and a page from comic books I’m constantly looking back through.
Illustrations and drawings are what I live and breathe.
If you look below there’s a picture of my drafting table and just underneath the table lies a pile of used sketchbooks from the last 4 or 5 years. I never picked up a pencil to draw until I was about 18 or 19 years old, but as soon as I discovered art as a passion I never stopped drawing.
What I love about art is the creative process and how it’s a game of communication between at least 3 different parties - the artist, the art piece, and the audience. The artist has their intentions that they put out through their medium of choice, and then that piece is interpreted by whoever views it. I find it interesting what viewers pick up because the artist might not always be there to explain themselves. The viewer is interpreting the art piece in their own unique way, and they might take out of it an entirely different message than what the artist intended. That message might even be different than what another audience member got out of it.
In any given medium you never know if something as small as how a painting is framed, or better yet how it’s left unframed, will influence the experience that others will get out of an art piece. As any artist who has presented their paintings could tell you, sometimes they may leave the edges of their canvas unframed and unpainted.
Whether they were thinking about it or not, someone will eventually come around and stare down at the edge of the painting and they might comment, “I wonder why that artist didn’t finish the sides?” At which point I slap my forehead in embarrassment. But that’s exactly part of the fun, it’s seeing other people pick apart each piece and seeing what they get out of it. Art can be a very collaborative effort that way. Even if it’s made entirely in isolation, sharing makes a fun game of it.
The reason I chose the Arvada Center as a host site to work at is because of a previous experience with them in their galleries and exhibitions. In September of 2020 I visited their Pink Progression exhibition, highlighting 100 years of women’s suffrage as expressed by artists. It was very serious in tone, showing what women have been and are going through while also celebrating their progression and roles in society.
A lot of the pieces in this exhibition were engaging and thought provoking as there was a lot of multimedia art that made the viewer take a step back and thoroughly examine what they’re looking at.
For example, Susan Goldstein and Gayla Lemke’s “My Body My Choice” featured bedroom furniture that was crafted to remind the viewer of the topic of abortion. Even the American bald-eagle-shaped headrest began to resemble a coat hanger. As a cisgender man, this wouldn't affect me directly, but because women do play a big role in my life, it made me take a step back and it really touched me.
The very next day the world heard and experienced the news of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s tragic passing. Years later I have not forgotten how those two particular days followed each other. To say it was unfortunate would be an understatement and there’s a lot more to be said there, but my biggest takeaway was how profoundly art could reach someone while speaking to larger than life issues. It’s something that I’ve never experienced before and it’s something that I still reflect on when it comes to those issues and how I approach art.
I could never get over how well that experience was set up for patrons to have at The Arvada Center. I appreciated how easy and accessible that was. Being able to RSVP online and for free was amazing. I thought that if a facility could do that for their patrons, there had to be something special at work behind the scenes. That’s why I chose the Arvada Center as the place I wanted to intern for, through DITA, in the summer of 2023.
When people drive into the Arvada Center, the first thing to stand out is our sculpture field. These large-scale pieces always make for a scenic route along the entrance. Also featured outside the building is our friend Squiggles, the giant serpent and interactive sculpture found in our park. They seem to be friends with every kid that visits as almost all of them are ready to rave about Squiggles like it’s their best friend. There is no one more popular than Squiggles in this arena.
Summer Camp Programs
This summer, the sound of cheerful kids from summer camps is what filled the building with life and it’s almost always the first thing I noticed and heard every morning. They were incredibly excited and it’s no wonder why. They’re getting to participate in arts programs that deal with visual arts, theatre, and music and they get to do all this around other kids their age who are nerding out over the same stuff. Who wouldn’t be excited? Their enthusiasm is contagious and it’s hard to be upset while they’re around.
The Box Office
Though the kids are the first thing to stand out, usually the incredibly kind people at the Box Office or security are the first people to greet you. Though I’ve met a lot of hard-working people in my time here, I don’t think anyone works harder than our Box Office staff. They are constantly and consistently manning the front desk and the phones, making sure patrons are well taken care of. While the entire staff, as a team, is a great machine with lots of moving components, we would not be functioning properly without them and I’m grateful we have such great people at our Box Office.
One of the big attractions of the Arvada Center is its theatre productions. I, personally, was never big into theatre growing up, so I didn’t realize how much of an undertaking it was to host shows like these. So many people are involved to make each theatre production happen. Aside from the director and cast, there’s also our sound and light engineers, costume designers, prop designers, carpenters, scenic designers, curtain pullers, musicians, choreographers, photographers, videographers… and I am sure I am forgetting more. There are a ton of wonderful people working hard to make each show a memorable one.
Not only that, but we offer two stages. Our Main Stage Theatre holds larger productions and our Black Box Theatre makes for more intimate experiences. With summer coming to an end, The Arvada Center is gearing up for our next theatre season. With productions such as Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, The Laramie Project, Cinderella, and more it’s looking to be a season worth remembering.
Want to know more about our theatre productions? Click here!
During the summer, patrons can look forward to our concerts at The Arvada Center Outdoor Amphitheatre. With lively performances from musicians and bands such as that of Indigo Girl’s folk rock beats, Keb’ Mo’s soulful country blues, Baaba Maal’s West African electronic music, Collective Soul’s rock music, and so much more there’s always a fun and interesting performance around the corner each summer. With the Arvada Center you don’t want to miss out on a single beat!
Want to rock out at The Arvada Center? The only sin is waiting too long. So click me now!
As someone who gravitates towards art I’m consistently giddy about what’s going on with our galleries department. Our most recent exhibition, “Summer of Drawing” focused on challenging the idea of drawing. That was exciting to see because a lot of them had stunning compositions that would’ve already stood out from across the room at thumbnail size, but they were done at a large scale, making them that much more fantastic to see in person. I was lucky enough that the opening reception for those galleries landed on the same week as my first week of being an intern.
It was great to see everyone so excited about the galleries, especially for the artists that were able to make it out. They were so personable and ready to share what they had done. It was a great highlight of an already amazing first week. With the Galleries being free and open to the public, I would highly recommend taking the trip out to visit.
To find out more about our galleries click on this!
We also have educational programs running in the background all throughout the Center. Learning doesn’t stop at school and here at The Arvada Center, we offer several types of classes for kids ages 3 to 103. There’s a wide variety of classes including dancing, ceramics, painting, drawing, pilates, acting, and more. With a healthy selection of teachers there’s a class here for anyone and everyone. Not to mention that this is a great way to meet new people with similar interests.
I don’t always want to know more about our classes, but when I do… I click this!
As if that wasn’t enough to make our facility seem busy and buzzing with life, we also have ACES or Arvada Center Center Event Space. People can and do reserve some of our spacing for events such as expos, wedding receptions, conferences, and more. It’s such a great and positive environment, I’m not surprised that we are regularly hosting events and festivities such as these. It’s a great space to be in!
Want to know more about reserving spaces? Check out ACES!
As an intern for the Marketing and Communications Department at the Arvada Center, my role and list of responsibilities were open and dependent on what I had a natural aptitude and inclination for. While there were certain tasks that had to be done, for the most part I was able to choose what sort of work I got to focus on.
Funny thing is, I’m an easily excitable person and everything sounded really cool to me and so I decided to try a little bit of everything. There’s always so many moving parts to the facility and projects are constantly flying around, so it was a bit like trying to jump onto a moving train. It was a ton of fun.
I didn’t just learn about the facility, but I also learned a lot of practical things that I can carry with me long after the internship is over. Things like doing outreach research and development, using Photoshop to create over 50 different graphics, writing articles, helping with interviews, a bit of videography, optimizing our several media channels (I.E. YouTube and Instagram), and more. All of these tasks were in service of trying to promote the Arvada Center and all it has to offer.
Alongside me was an amazing marketing and communications team that was friendly, helpful, and receptive to new ideas. They were incredibly supportive and it felt like as long as I was trying, they wouldn’t let me fail.
Part of the perks of the job was all the exciting activity going on. I was constantly surrounded by different events where I could be a patron and a fan myself. The opportunity was always open for me to see exhibits, go to receptions, concerts, and attend any other events. Even if I wasn’t attending all of them, you could feel the excitement in the air and it made for an uplifting environment to work in. There was never a dull moment.
I'm still in disbelief that all of this was a job and a potential career option in the future. This experience was easily one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. I would highly recommend it to any other college student if the opportunity ever presents itself.
“What comes next?” is the question I keep asking myself. Even though I’m not quite sure what the short term is, I find myself very optimistic about it all in the long term. This experience was foundational for me as I got to grow and acquire new skills that will be helpful to me in my career as an artist. I thought I’d always be a stone age throwback as I stuck to using very traditional tools and techniques in my practice, but this summer I learned how to use Photoshop in a practical way. That alone opened my eyes to new possibilities as an artist.
I have a wide range of interests and skills and my big pie-in-the-sky ambitions are to be able to take all of that and be able to make a living at it as a freelance illustrator. In the meantime I’m happy to keep on the job hunt and do things like this, where I’m writing, making graphics, and cutting promos for other organizations.
The future is open and I honestly can’t thank anyone and everyone involved enough. From the kind folks at DITA that made this possible, to my boss, Sarah Kolb (Director of Marketing and Communications) that coached me all the way through, to the Box Office staff that greeted me every day. If I could list every name I encountered this summer I would, but I’m worried I’d forget someone.
If you’re reading this and we ever crossed paths, know you’re part of what makes the Arvada Center fantastic. I can’t thank you enough for being here and I think that applies to all of the wonderful people that this center has welcomed, staff and patrons alike.
Above: A smattering of my (Andy B. Rodriguez) work as an artist.