2018 Honoree: Arts and Society Award
Susan Jenson has passionately dedicated her career to engaging the community and transforming lives through her commitment to the arts in the Denver region. For more than 15 years, she has served as the Executive Director for Downtown Aurora Visual Arts, or DAVA, which in 2018 will be celebrating its 25th anniversary. Susan believes the arts personalize learning for all young people. She helped design on-site art classes and art-based job training that connect young people from underserved communities to creative arts programming. Susan’s emphasis on excellence in the arts combined with positive youth development, encourages students to engage with issues and concepts that impact them personally and build the 21st century skills they need to succeed. As a champion of the arts, she uses all mediums to spark an artistic fire within youth in an environment where they feel safe, included, and inspired. Because of her tireless work to ensure kids have access to these resources, 99% of DAVA participants go on to careers in business, technology, the sciences, and education.
Susan’s work at DAVA has not gone unnoticed, meriting the organization local and national distinction. In 2014, former First Lady Michelle Obama awarded the program with a National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award. Each year, NAHYP recognizes 12 of the country’s best creative youth development programs for using engagement in the arts and humanities to increase academic achievement, graduation rates, and college enrollment. Under Susan’s tenure, DAVA was also the recipient of National Exemplary Award for Innovative Substance Abuse Prevention Programs, Practices, and Policies, the Aurora Civic Excellence Award, and an El Pomar Award for Excellence.
Beyond helping Denver’s youth, Susan has dedicated her time to serving individuals and communities outside of DAVA. She served on The Denver Foundation’s Arts and Culture Committee and is a member of the foundation’s Community Legacy Society. Her teaching experience includes lecturing at University College at University of Denver, Metropolitan State University, and the University of Colorado Boulder where she has led courses in Modern and Contemporary Art and Best Practices in Cultural Arts Organizations. Susan’s community service has been carried out with the same enthusiasm; she worked on SCFD’s new Inclusivity Fund Advisory Committee, the Cultural Arts Plan for the City of Aurora, the Colfax Community Network’s Board of Directors, and was a founding member of the Alliance for Creative Youth Development. Susan’s passion for the arts and learning continues to fuel her commitment to serving others and enriching our community.