Published: Feb. 25, 2019 By
Matthew Hoffman's Go For It inflatable sculpture

This week an inflatable version of Go For It, a creation of the Chicago-based, internationally recognized artist Matthew Hoffman, is on display in the south quad of the Engineering Center at CU Boulder. 

Hoffman, who became famous for the You Are Beautiful project, was invited to CU Engineering as part of the Art is Engineering program run by STEM educator and lecturer Elisabeth Stade

Art is Engineering is a program that offers spontaneous experiences of art in the engineering complex. Stade, along with Noah Finkelstein at the CU Center for STEM Learning and Bud Coleman of Theater and Dance have been collaborating since 2017 to host public, creative experiences. 

Monday afternoon, students passing through the Engineering Lobby expressed interest about the installation, wondering where it came from and what it means. Sophomore Nayef Bourisli, (ECEN ‘21) said, “I like the red—it really stands out in its surroundings.” Mechanical engineering students Aaron Zetley (‘20) and Maya Rudd (‘21) agreed “it’s nice to see art in the building.”

Breaking Stereotypes

“The stereotype of the nerdy engineer hides the rich creative experiences of our [engineering] faculty, staff and students. Art is Engineering is a place we allow our creative identities to come out, not because it gets us an A in class, but because it expresses who we are,” Stade said. 

The idea came several years ago during a summer mentorship program that Stade ran for underrepresented students in STEM. She asked a Latina girl what had surprised her most about the various labs on campus and she replied, “the colors!’, referencing the artistry and creativity she saw in Mike Eisenberg’s Craft Tech Lab.

This conversation sparked the idea to offer spontaneous art experiences in the Engineering Center. During the 2017-18 academic year, Art is Engineering hosted seven pop-ups in the Engineering Lobby. Everyone was welcome to stop by for a cupcake plus time and space to engage in simple art projects like upside-down drawing. 

Initially, the Art is Engineering team expected non-traditional students to be attracted to the projects. According to Stade, however, the team found that, “true to the ideals of universal design, when we consider the needs of underrepresented populations, we find solutions that benefit us all. It turned out that all kinds of engineers love to do art.” 

Stade’s team thought that they might need cupcakes to bribe participants to do an art project for 15 minutes. As Stade recalls, “‘passerbys would say, ‘I’d love to make some art, but I’m no good at it.’ We’d say ‘just do it for the cupcake,’ and sometimes they’d stay for 27 minutes, or 46 or an hour and 17 minutes. The cupcake gave them permission, but it’s not about the cupcake.”

The 2018-19 pop-ups are being organized by undergraduate engineering students Mary Hansen and Daniel Crook. 

“It was Hansen’s idea to bring Hoffman’s work to the Engineering Center, and I’m so glad that we could make it happen,” Stade shared. 

Where to go

Go For It is open to the public Feb. 25-26, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. in the Engineering Center’s south quad. The Engineering Center is located at 1111 Engineering Drive in Boulder.

Art is Engineering receives support from The BOLD Center’s Innovative Inclusion Ideas program, which supports faculty and staff to test projects that support a more inclusive engineering environment.

What’s Next

Denver poet Franklin Cruz will be joining CU Engineering in March for activities around visual storytelling, poetry and being a “super nerd.” Dates and times will be published soon. Cruz is a Latin queer poet born in Idaho, raised in Texas and polished in Denver. The TEDx Mile High speaker has performed his spoken work at University of Denver, the Denver Art Museum throughout the southwestern United States. His work embodies self-love, transformation and science and depicts life as a child of immigrants.


Maria Kuntz is the assistant director for communications, inclusion and community in the College of Engineering & Applied Science.