Visual & Performing Arts


2020 LAS Awards

Outstanding Students

Outstanding Student in VAPA
Erynn Mitchell is an extremely energetic and dedicated student, who has made a lasting impact across all the VAPA programs. Erynn was an early appointed member of the VAPA Chair’s Council and her contributions to VAPA student leadership are substantive and will be long lasting. Erynn’s creative direction of the All-VAPA Arts Festival for the past three years is considerable. She has energetically worked hard to involve film students and coordinated film screenings as well as assisted in curating visual art exhibits and theatre/dance performances. Erynn’s true passion is being a film director and showing that she is a genuine renaissance woman at heart. Her goal in cinema is to work at redefining the gaze on violence and sexuality through a female lens. In addition to filmmaking, she directs theatre, hosts the film podcast 'Gentlemen Prefer Cinephiles', serves as editor in chief of 'Sc(o)rpia' magazine, and leads the film anthology series 'Redshift Presents' as its creative director. Erynn is a self-described glamour puss, cinephile, and thespian. She is so thankful to be a part of a department that focuses on cross-collaboration between the arts because in our new age coming together as artists and individuals is vastly important. The Visual and Performing Arts Department is well ahead of its time and she is so grateful to have found this artistic home.
Outstanding Undergraduate Student - Art History
Nikki Valdez is a graduating senior at UCCS with a major in Art History and a minor in History. She became interested in Art History due to her love for history and a passion for photography. During her time as an undergraduate student, Nikki discovered her true passion for research and teaching, especially through the important context of visual analysis and art. She has faced many challenges and insecurities but pushed past them to find her own unique voice as a writer, scholar and leader. While at UCCS Nikki has been an integral part of growing the Art History club through her unique ability to “voluntell” (forcefully inspiring volunteer efforts amongst her peers!) and serving as its president as well as heading many exciting events. She has also taken on leadership roles within the Visual and Performing art council of student scholars, where she represented art history, as well as working at the Downtown Gallery of Contemporary Art and serving as a research assistant for faculty members.
Outstanding Undergraduate Student - Film Studies
Graduating senior Erynn Mitchell is this year’s recipient of the LAS Award for Outstanding Student in Film Studies and the rarely presented all-department LAS Award for Outstanding Student in Visual and Performing Arts (see there) for her scholarship, creative work in Film and Theater, mentoring of students, development of outreach, and support of the department. A hard working and intuitive “natural” in her study of cinema, Erynn served as Teaching Assistant to Film Program Director, Prof. Robert von Dassanowsky’s Introduction to Film Studies course and presented a class in which she lectured on the topic of James Bond and Feminism. She excelled thrice in presenting her film scholarship at the annual tri–campus (UCCS, CC, USAFA) undergraduate academic conference CSURF, presenting such essays as “Hitchcock and the Social Contract” and “Kingpin: A Female Lens on the Gangster Film.” She served as an officer of the UCCS Film Club and led its development for three years as its head. As festival chair, she developed and led four editions of the annual UCCS Student Short Film Festival. She also has had her turn in organizing the recently created UCCS speed film-making competition, The 14ers Film Festival. Her five short films include Contingency (2018) winner, Audience Choice at the 18th UCCS Student Short Film Festival; Who Put Bella in the Witch Elm? (2018); Kingpin (2019), winner, Best Drama at the 19th UCCS Student Short Film Festival; SUGAR (2019); Coffee and Wine (2019). Two in-progress feature-length works display her impressive technical abilities and wide palate of cinematic influences. Her most current feature length film, Lenore (2020), a film capstone project and a work of impressive early maturity, promises to find a home on the regional and international festival circuit. She considers German Expressionism, silent film pioneer Alice Guy, Quentin Tarantino, Gangster and Screwball Film, Golden Age Hollywood, and Austrian and German New Wave Film among her influences. Erynn is the recipient of a prestigious LAS Student-Faculty Mentor Creative Award Grant for her short feminist/film-noir drama, Kingpin. She also hosts her own podcast, Gentlemen Prefer Cinephiles (with over 100 episodes released), is founding editor of the online culture/literary magazine, Sc(o)rpia, which includes journalism from UCCS students and beyond, has produced the Redshift film anthology series since 2016 and runs her own production company, Fishnets and Filmstock ( Erynn has always enthusiastically made herself available to assist and mentor fellow students with her networking and independent production experience. She will enter the prestigious MFA program in directing at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, University of Southern California, Los Angeles in Fall 2020. Brava Erynn!
Outstanding Undergraduate Student - Bachelor of Innovation in Museum Studies and Gallery Practice
I was born in Guatemala City, Guatemala and I was adopted at the age of three. When I came to the United States, I did not know how to speak English; I only spoke Spanish, so communication was a challenge for me to express myself. In order for me to get better at communication, watercolor was a way for me to express my thoughts and my feelings towards my parents. Not only did watercolors helped me to express my ideas, but it also made me be creative in my own way. During my school years, I took several art classes such as I took a cartoon class, a ceramic class, 2-D and 3-D classes and a drawing class. Another interest of mine was fashion. I had a teacher who taught me how to sew skirts, shirts, dresses and pants. Art helped me to become creative in my own way; however, communication was still a challenge for me because I have trouble socializing with people. My field of study is gallery and museum studies. This involves working in teams. In my team experience, I had trouble with communicating with them because when somebody sends me a message verbally, I had to break down the words and sentences in order for me to translate back to them. When I talk to my teams, it takes me awhile to get my words and sentences out in speech. Not only do I struggle trying to say what I want to say, but also it causes me to pause to organize my sentences. In order for me to overcome my speech problem, I communicate with my teammates daily and I make sure that I translated their messages correctly. If I did not understand their messages, then I ask them to rephrase it. This has been a successful outcome because I was able to communicate with people very well. I hope in the future that I get to meet different people around the world and socialize with them.
Outstanding Undergraduate Student - Bachelor of Innovation in Music
Baylee Parks has a background in classical piano performance and is trained in music composition, especially as it pertains to the folk and jazz genres. She also performs with guitar, trumpet, and ukulele and is an alumni of the Colorado All State Women’s Choir. At UCCS, Parks is actively involved with the Honors Ensemble and has performed in a live production for the UCCS Theater Department. Her diverse skillset in performance unites with her ingenuity in musical entrepreneurship. Parks’ education in Music Business has enhanced her personal branding, website creation, and music distribution. She has worked with multiple arts organizations throughout Colorado Springs including the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region (COPPeR), Broadmoor Entertainment, and the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. Parks released her first singles, “Simplicity,” and “Home” in 2015, and her first EP, Dolce in 2016. These works were recorded and produced at Yucca Creek Records. Parks released her next EP, Wild Indigo, from Mountain Nest Studios in 2019. In the summer of 2020, Parks will be releasing a full album, Evergreen & Blue in collaboration Wescott Pro Audio.
Outstanding Undergraduate Student - Theatre and Dance
This year, we are proud to announce that Jess Carmona is the Theatre and Dance award winner. A native of Colorado Springs, Jess became passionate about Props Design after he worked on Cabaret and met New York City-based props master Jay Duckworth. Jess continued working in properties, also gaining knowledge across the spectrum of technical theatre. He is a terrific scholar, consistently offering theoretical insight in classes like Women in Theatre, Theatre History and other staples of programmatic scholarship. Jess looks forward to continuing in the theatre, specifically in props and with a focus on theatre for children. CONGRATULATIONS JESS! We are all so proud of you.
Outstanding Undergraduate Student - Visual Art
Deborah Schoen’s creative work exemplifies the interdisciplinary mission of the Visual and Performing Arts Department. Her work utilizes sculpture, photography, video art, performance, and installation to explore the ideals of the American dream in relation to the female experience. Integrating artistic influences from performance art and socially engaged practices, The Deborahs Project is a complex interaction where participants assume the role of Deborah in a real-life avatar situation that questions individual identity, trade economies, online personas, and critically examines the demands of working mothers in our society. Another exemplary project is Deborah’s permanent public sculpture installed in the University Village Colorado. Deborah’s design was the first artwork in the UVC designed to create an environment, activating the space for viewers to physically enter. This project led to her employment as a metal fabricator, blacksmith and gallery associate at a fabrication studio in Monument, Colorado. Deborah’s work has been exhibited at the Heller Center for the Arts & Humanities, Cottonwood Center for the Arts, and The Modbo and SPQR galleries. The interactive installation The Deborahs Project on a one-year exhibit at the Ent Center for the Arts. Recently, her work was featured at the GOCA121 Great Expectations: highlighting some of “Colorado’s Front Range Emerging Artists.” In November 2020, the Kreuser Gallery will host an exhibition of her work. And recently, in response to the recent COVID-19 health crisis, Deborah activated The Deborahs Project by mailing out “Deborahs pocket masks” to aid others during this uncertain time in our history. Deborah’s awards include the Linda Holmgren Jensen Endowed Scholarship for the Arts, a curatorial internship with the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia, and several awards from the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs: The University Village Colorado Public Sculpture scholarship, the LAS Faculty & Student Creative Works grant, Auxiliaries Directors Lease Award, and LAS Outstanding Post-Student Award. Deborah’s work has been published in Virginia’s Chrysler Museum of Art Magazine, Southside Daily, The Virginia Pilot, the online publication Design Within Reach, the UCCS Riverrun and Communique, and the Colorado Springs Gazette and The Tribune.


(AY 2019-2020)

John Bartlett
Caleb Hall
Mady Pritchard

Harris Visual Art Scholarship
The Harris Scholarship was established by Jeniel Harris in 2008. Ms. Harris was a non-traditional age student at UCCS. She established this scholarship in appreciation of the quality of education she received particularly in the classes with Louis Cicotello. The scholarship supports and encourages visual art students to explore and take risks with their work. Sadly Ms. Harris passed away in 2011; Phil Harris has recently and most generously endowed the award in her memory.

Louis M. Cicotello Award

The Louis M. Cicotello Award


The Louis M. Cicotello Award honors beloved art professor Louis Cicotello, who died in a climbing accident in 2011. An innovative artist whose work engaged in a dialogue with popular culture, Cicotello believed that artists provide the creative foundation for the cultural vitality of a community. This award recognizes the accomplishments of a VAPA student graduating with a concentration in Visual Arts and it meant to help young artists launch into their post undergraduate professional lives.

The Louis M. Cicotello Award

Martha Wheeler The Louis M. Cicotello Award honors beloved art professor Louis Cicotello, who died in a climbing accident in 2011. An innovative artist whose work engaged in a dialogue with popular culture, Cicotello believed that artists provide the creative foundation for the cultural vitality of a community. This award recognizes the accomplishments of a VAPA student graduating with a concentration in Visual Arts and it meant to help young artists launch into their post undergraduate professional lives.