Meet the MasterMind Class of 2009

Nolan has made a career of teaching others how to make clothes. But as with so many of our other MasterMinds, for her teaching is far more than a career; it's a calling. The EGOS sewing/design program currently has close to a hundred students — some taking only one course as a hobby, some signed on for all five in the track that leads to their getting a certificate in fashion design, on the way to a community college associate's degree or maybe even the prestigious design program at Colorado State University (EGO alums always get in because they're so well trained in the basics, Nolan says). Those students range from high school age to a spry 84 (her daughter drives her downtown to class), "but all have a passion for something they really want to do, whether they're young or old," Nolan observes.

Nolan herself has been at Emily Griffith since 1985, but her ties go back much further than that. The school got its start in downtown Denver just over a hundred years ago, in 1916, "and my grandmother took sewing classes here in 1916," she says. Nolan grew up in Manitou Springs, graduated from CSU with a home economics degree in 1972, got a job teaching home ec at the high school level in Northglenn, then took a gig with Frostline Kits. But she missed teaching adults, and by the time her youngest son was in first grade, she had a full-time teaching job at Emily Griffith, where she's been ever since.

"I really, really enjoy working with the students," she explains, "watching them progress from not knowing how to sew anything to producing fashion shows." In fact, Nolan has offered our fashion/design MasterMinds advice on their own shows, which is how they came to appreciate her keen eye and fashion sense; six of her students were in Frock Out Denver. Many students never shoot for anything that ambitious, though; some sign up simply because they're looking for a creative outlet. And, like everyone else, they find it at EGOS.

Ravi Zupa
Ravi Zupa
Brian Freeland
Brian Freeland

"We have a real wealth of sewing instructors and lots of great equipment so people can come here to learn and satisfy their creative urges," Nolan says. "But they can also get a vocation from this, so they can go on and have a satisfying career." And sew it goes.

— Patricia Calhoun

2008: Mona Lucero

2007: The Fabric Lab/Josh and Tran Wills

2006: Deb Henriksen

2005: Brandi Shigley



When Ravi Zupa looks at art, he feels what he calls "a neediness." And that sensation is the inspiration for the art that he creates in turn. "I just try to craft something that hits people with an immediate experience," he explains. "I just like art so much, and I get such a visceral, immediate experience from looking at books of art or looking at art on the street or whatever it is, and I just want other people to have the same experience that I have and feel the same neediness and vibrance that I feel when I look at art."

Zupa's relationship with art is not only strong, it is also multi-modal: He's used his talent to create paintings, drawings and videography, effortlessly flirting with the boundaries between mediums. "They're all sort of connected," he says. For a time, he worked in the commercial animation and film industry in San Francisco — he did commercial work for KFC, Nike and Ritz crackers, as well as the Rocky & Bullwinkle film — and also dabbled in website and video-game development. Here in Denver, his efforts have been far less mainstream: He's working as a community educator with Deproduction/Denver Open Media; creating music videos with Oakland's anticon. hip-hop collective; teaching free (!) drawing lessons to anyone who wants to learn; working on some pieces for Artopia and some for WaterCourse Foods; and creating art and video for the Parts and Labor Union, his collaboration with Mat Reichardt that's "a really textured performance. We're trying to blend everything that we're interested in — so, music and video and live performance and narrative," Zupa explains. "There are so many opportunities now to combine those things.

"Whenever I'm working on art, it's always like I'm going back and forth between a lot of things," he adds, then laughs. Those things include drawings of hideous monsters vomiting a torrent of birds into a toilet; detailed depictions of fighting samurai with a dinky robot set off to the side, holding a sword and watching the action (in the middle of which, inexplicably, sits what appears to be an ant sticker); a crying baby stuck in a pelvic bone whose umbilical cord stretches almost from the top to the very bottom of Zupa's website (; music videos and animated shorts that seem to come from a dream world.

Zupa delights in the imagination of children — and in many ways, he never grew out of his own childhood imaginings. "I started doing art at the same time everybody else did," he says. "I just kept going. Every little kid is an artist. Every kid's a dancer and a singer and everything, but then at some point along the way, we lose it."

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