By Miriam Brown
For Innovation at Colorado College, the week starts off with “Creative Mondays.”
From 3–5 p.m., they fill tables with art supplies and invite students to come de-stress and connect with their creative energy. Some regular attendees are CC students, and others are 4-year-olds from the children’s center across the street.
“It’s kind of the same students every week, too, so kids get to know them and have new friends,” said paraprofessional SethWilson Gray. “It’s very fun. It’s chaotic.”
Ben Greenly ’23 has been coming to Creative Mondays every week since he was first introduced to Innovation at CC during a New Student Orientation session.
Greenly spends the time creating art for his dorm wall, and the four-year-olds sitting next to him spend the time painting. They tell him what they’re painting, and he helps them with the supplies. By 5 p.m., Greenly has covered his fingers in Sharpie, and some kids have covered their hands — and arms, and sometimes faces — in paint and glitter glue. “This is my favorite thing to start my week off,” said Greenly.
Creative Mondays is one of many programs sponsored by Innovation at CC. Led by director Dez Stone Menendez ’02, the innovation institute “seeks to empower all students with the creative confidence to be changemakers,” according to its website, by creating programming around four core areas of emphasis: creativity, design thinking, risk/failure/resilience, and mindfulness.
The most well known of its programming is “The Big Idea,” a competition that gives CC students the opportunity to pitch business ideas to local professionals and win seed funding. Last year, alumnae Alana Aamodt ’18 and Anna Gilbertson ’19 won $15,000 in seed money for their idea, and this year, four teams will each receive $7,500 in seed funding. For students with little to no business experience, Innovation at CC offers a Half Block course for students to refine their pitches with instructors such as Menendez.
Innovation at CC also sponsors the “Innovator-in-Residence” program, which invites professionals, entrepreneurs, artists, and scholars to collaborate with students and faculty on campus. In the spring semester, Innovation will host its first Mindfulness Practitioner-in-Residence, Barbara Bush. The program also hosts student led clubs, “changemaker workshop series,” and collaborates with faculty to integrate creativity programming into courses.
For Jane Hilberry, professor of creativity and innovation, all of the programs are a response to what Innovation staff see as student needs. “There’s something inherently restorative about doing creative work,” said Hilberry. “I would just love for all CC students to connect with their creative energy … and to graduate with some creative confidence.”
The Innovation building itself is designed for around-the-clock creative work. It has art supplies, whiteboards, hammers and other tools, a kitchen, a meditation room, and a laser cutter that they hold training for a couple times a month. It’s open until 8 p.m. on weekdays for students to hang out, work, create, and relax.
“The thing is, if you work or are a student at CC, you’re probably innovative or creative anyway,” Hilberry said. “Mostly we want to support people in doing what they want to do.”