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Museum of Contemporary Art Denver Offers Scholarships to, Ahem, Failures

The winners of MCA Denver's 2016 Failure Awards Scholarship.
The winners of MCA Denver's 2016 Failure Awards Scholarship.
Kelly Shroads
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Most parents are terrified by the idea that their children might someday be considered failures.

But the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver is encouraging the label — and even incentivizing it.

MCA is accepting applications for its Failure Awards Scholarship, which gives money to college-bound Colorado high-school students who have risked failure for a creative project. The top-prize winner will receive $10,000 toward their college expenses, and five additional award recipients will receive $500 each.

"We're open to looking at other types of projects that embrace risk-taking and show a willingness to risk failure to create something new," says MCA director of programming Sarah Kate Baie. "We want to encourage that kind of spirit among young people."

Students have until February 13 to submit their applications; finalists will be announced March 10. Six finalists will be invited to present their projects at the Failure Fair, at the MCA on April 28 and 29, and a panel of judges will select the winners. For more information, visit mcadenver.org/failure.

To get a better sense of the kind of projects the MCA is looking for, Baie gave us insight into last year's winners (when award amounts were different).

Olivia Borden presents her doll-making company to Failure Fair judges.
Olivia Borden presents her doll-making company to Failure Fair judges.
Kelly Shroads

Olivia Borden, winner of the $2,500 scholarship
When Olivia's family lived in Latin America, they often completed service projects. "The experience was a formative one for her, as you might imagine," Baie says. When she returned to the States, Olivia, who is from Fort Collins, started her own business to make and sell dolls called Oli-Bo-Bolly. Its business model is similar to that of TOMS shoes: For every doll sold, Oli-Bo-Bolly gives away a doll to someone in South America.

Dominic Frideger and a friend built a solar-powered car for a cross-country race.
Dominic Frideger and a friend built a solar-powered car for a cross-country race.
Kelly Shroads

Dominic Frideger, winner of the $5,000 scholarship
Dominic, who's from Durango, and a friend built a solar-powered car to compete in a race from Texas to Minnesota. They hadn't completed the car in time for the Failure Fair, so they brought a prototype.

Owen Earl composed and choreographed an entire ballet.
Owen Earl composed and choreographed an entire ballet.
Kelly Shroads

Owen Earl, $10,000 scholarship winner
Without any help or experience, Owen, then a student at Jefferson County Open School, composed and choreographed an entire ballet. Before the performances, "everything that could go wrong went wrong," Baie says — like his lead dancer getting sick the night before the show.

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