Get the maximum education at University of Colorado Denver's Mini-School series

The idea behind the University of Colorado Denver's seasonal Mini-School series is simple: invite a wide array of experts who are interested in talking about their chosen fields, and then invite the public to come learn from them -- for free. The school has had a successful medical series for decades; last year it introduced the Mini-STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) School series, which this year will be joined by a Mini-School for Arts & Architecture. And both start this week.

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The schools -- which run in eight-week sessions, but you can sign up for individual nights -- are designed to engage everyone from middle-schoolers to their grandparents. A two-hour class is devoted to each topic, with a question-and-answer session following.

"We always have a big audience who are very curious to learn," says Inge Wefes, CU Denver Graduate School's associate dean. "We decided to call it arts and architecture for this series -- but you know, there is lots of physics in art and architecture and there are topics you could also put in the STEM classes. These intersections and divisions of art and architecture are kind of artificial -- they are just to help say what the series' focus is on."

For example, Maria Buszek, an associate professor of Art History, will lead "Modern? Post-? Alter-? Talking Contemporary Arts" on February 6, touching on contemporary artists and their interactions in popular culture. "She's teaching from an art history perspective -- art changes over time, just like everything," says Wefes. "Buszek says, for example, Lady Gaga's latest album, Artpop, was released and debuted at number one, and the cover was done by Jeff Koons, who is a visual artist."

Adds Wefes: "These topics are about the things that are surrounding us, yet we run around with this private ignorance and don't even wonder about them. When you talk about something like landscape architecture, we all think, all right, that's just about making the flowers in the pots look straight -- but it is about the whole concept of creating it and how it has all changed over the ages."

Although the classes are free, advance registration is required -- and the auditorium-sized "classroom" often reaches capacity. The Mini-STEM School series begins at 7 p.m. tonight at the Baerresen Ballroom in the Tivoli Building. The Arts & Architecture Mini-School will begin this Thursday, January 30 at St. Cajetan's on the Auraria Campus. The first four weeks will focus on arts presentations and the second four weeks will look at architecture. For more information or to register, visit the Mini-School's website.

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