Defining the art of photography in an age where nearly everyone is armed with a high-quality cell phone camera is now a way of life for Rupert Jenkins (MBA ’07). As executive director of the Denver-based Colorado Photographic Arts Center, Jenkins helps organize shows like the upcoming “iWorld” — which explores how digital media have changed the relationship between art and reality — and oversees CPAC’s educational arm, which offers photography classes for all ages.
“It hasn’t made a huge difference in people wanting to look at photography, but it’s given everyone a camera; it’s made everybody think they can take a photograph,” Jenkins says of the proliferation of cell-phone cams. “And for a lot of people, it’s totally good enough. But it has created a demographic of people that it’s piqued their interest in taking a better photo than what they’re getting. And really those people are our bread and butter here.”
CPAC has been around since 1963, but only recently did it add education to its mission, merging last summer with Working With Artists, a 10-year-old Denver nonprofit that conducted classes and workshops for photographers.
“We were very compatible because our strength was exhibition programming and their strength was educational programs, which we didn’t have,” says Jenkins, who served as CPAC’s president from 2009 until the merger. “It was just a good dovetail.”
Dedicated, according to its website, to the “appreciation and learning of photography,” CPAC currently occupies a pair of neighboring storefronts in the Belmar shopping district in Lakewood, where it offers classes in digital and print photography and hosts exhibits like “iWorld,” which runs through Feb. 11, and last year’s “Borderlines,” an examination of life on the U.S.-Mexico border that will have a repeat showing Jan. 19–March 16 at DU’s Museum of Anthropology.
“We’re really excited about that because it’s a different audience, different outreach,” Jenkins says. “Out here it was a great show, it got really good response, but our outreach was really limited. I think it will be really different [at DU], and they’ll also be able to bring in people to talk about the issues around the border from more of an anthropological perspective.”
CPAC’s 50th anniversary is coming up in 2013, and to mark the occasion Jenkins is working on securing new digs for the organization, creating a dedicated photo center somewhere in Denver.
“It would be a facility that is constructed or designed for our needs, so in terms of integrating the education program and the exhibition program, it would be designed around that,” says Jenkins, who worked for DU’s Myhren Gallery from 2007–09. “And we would be in Denver. We would be where the major part of the audience is; we’d be where the tourists are; we’d be much more visible; and we’d have a lot more visitors.”
Merging business and art is nothing new for Jenkins, who moved from his native England to the U.S. in 1977 and started working in a San Francisco photo gallery a few years later.
“I’d always worked with boards, and there was always an incompatibility between business professionals and artists, and I wanted to be able to relate to both sides — to appreciate where a business-minded person is coming from and what their expectations are, which are very different from an artist’s expectations,” he says. “Really, I went to business school just because I wanted to do something different and because I wanted to sort of bridge the nonprofit and for-profit communities. And now that’s what I’m doing.”
“Borderlines” runs Jan. 19-March 16 at the DU Museum of Anthropology, Sturm Hall 102, with an opening reception from 5-7 p.m. Jan. 19. Museum hours are 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday; visit the museum website for more information.