Students from the CU Denver design-build program sit on the new outdoor stage they built in Ridgway

Music will emanate from the center of this small Western Slope mountain town this summer — thanks to students in an Advanced Design-Build Studio class at CU Denver.

Fifteen students and two instructors (Rick Sommerfeld and teaching assistant Craig Cherry) spent the recent Maymester building a 600-square-foot outdoor performing arts stage in Ridgway’s Hartwell Park. The group received technical help from acoustics specialist MC Burns.

The students worked on the stage design during spring semester. They installed the foundation over spring break and completed the project during Maymester. In all, the project took about 18 months, said Sommerfeld, senior instructor and director of the Design-Build Certificate Program in the College of Architecture and Planning.

The project began when an alumnus of CU Denver’s Design Build program, who lives in Ridgway, contacted Sommerfeld and said the community needed an outdoor stage for its main town park. This kind of project is quite unique, Sommerfeld said.

“Students usually finish projects on paper and maybe talk to some professional architects for feedback,” he said. “They rarely get to see a project all the way through like this. They got to see how the construction documents came together. They met with the Town Council and spoke at public forums. They they did the work with their hands building the stage. I think they really got a lot out of it.”

Ridgway residents and a few companies donated materials and funding for the project, while the CU Denver students donated their time and labor.

Design Build students every fall contribute a design-build project to the Navajo Reservation in southern Utah. Next year, the class will build a community garden along the new light rail line to Golden. The garden will be installed at the Lamar Station stop.

So, whether working in adobe, on gardens or a sound stage, CU Denver students are having a meaningful, long-lasting — and even musical — impact on communities across the region.

“They’re about to start their concert series for that stage,” Sommerfeld said. “During the whole month of July, they do (a concert) every Thursday.”

The students produced a comprehensive blog about the process of building the performing arts stage in Ridgway.

Students on the design-build team: Jordan Borkovec, Megan Brankamp, CK Dohrmann, DJ Gratzer, Marcus Johnson, Eva Kirkman, Afsaneh Makooi, Brian Martin, Laura Mears, Aaron Michalak, Jenna Nelson, Lauren Peterson, Nathan Sandberg, Jennifer Reece and Christine Walsh.

(Photo: Students in the Design Build program at CU Denver sit on the new outdoor performing arts stage they built in Ridgway, Colo.)

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