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Mapping the Body art exhibit

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Author Blair Ilsley | Publish Date February 13, 2018

An excited buzz replaced the usual quiet at the Health Sciences Library on Feb. 8, as students, faculty and staff from both CU Denver and the CU Anschutz Medical Campus joined for a first-of-its-kind art and poetry exhibit.

“Mapping the Body: Poetry & Anatomical Art,” a collaborative exhibit that combined creative writing and body parts, was the brainchild of two English professors and an anatomy professor. Organizers hope to see the collaborative project continue with future students.

A different kind of collaboration

In 2016, Danielle Royer, PhD, associate professor and the vice director of the Modern Human Anatomy master’s program at the CU School of Medicine, hosted Nicky Beer, PhD, an associate professor of English in the CU Denver College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and her poetry class.

Angela Dueñas, Nicky Beer, PhD, Brian Barker, PhD, and Danielle Royer, PhD, organized the event.

“We showed the class through the lab,” said Royer. “The event was a powerful experience. Afterwards, I reached out to see if they were interested in a joint art exhibit with us at some later point.”

Brian Barker, PhD, also an associate professor of English in the CU Denver College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Beer wanted to give their creative writing students a chance to imitate poetry they were studying in class.

“We were reading poetry about cadavers and the morgue,” said Beer. “Our students really took to it and wanted to try it themselves. Since CU Anschutz is just down the road, we knew we had the opportunity to work with students in the sciences and do something really cool.”

Creativity in the sciences

Each modern anatomy student created a piece of art inspired by the human body. A creative writing student from CU Denver was then paired with a CU Anschutz student and wrote a poem motivated by the artwork.

The 21 mixed-media pieces of art lined the walls of the Health Sciences Library Gallery, with 13 of them accompanied by poems. At the opening reception, the creative-writing students shared their poetry to a packed room.

CU Denver student Miriam Ordonez poses by her poetry.

Steven Vigil-Roach, student in the CU Denver College of Liberal Arts of Sciences, wrote a poem entitled “After the Diagnosis.”

– “On Sunday we said goodbye, one last prayer and I cried for hours after, knowing I was so near the end I didn’t want to go home, even the children were afraid to sleep. The whole truth seemed far too tangled up in the rest of everything, one endless tangle I wasn’t sure if prayers would help any of us sleep.”

“When I heard about the project, I knew I wanted to be involved,” said Vigil-Roach. “I love it when the scientific crosses paths with the creative. Interdisciplinary projects are a great opportunity to push boundaries and take new perspectives. Personally, I draw a lot of inspiration from the sciences, and so this was the perfect opportunity for me to have a foot in both worlds.”

Funding the humanities

Organizers received a “President’s Fund for the Humanities” CU system grant for the exhibit. Modern Human Anatomy graduate student Angelique Dueñas helped secure the funding.

The exhibit will be displayed until March 30. It will return in August to the Fulginiti Pavilion for the start of the 2018-19 school year, with many students and organizers saying they hope the project will continue beyond next year.

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Catch this exhibit at the Health Sciences Library until March 30.


New traditions 

“Collaborative works are so great for students,” said Vigil-Roach. “It brings the student community together. I think projects like this help dispel the notion that the creative and the scientific exist in separate spheres when they in fact overlap and coexist in wonderful ways,” he said.


“We look forward to continue bridging academic disciplines,” said Royer. “We get special exposure for our students, while showcasing our talent to coworkers, fellow students and community members.”