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PULP Originals

The Four Year

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The campus of Colorado State University-Pueblo can be seen from miles away. Positioned on a reclusive hill on the edge of town, the school watches over Pueblo silently. To onlookers, its distinctive architecture is a striking reminder of the students who, for generations, have spent four years of their lives there.

Or at least that’s how it was supposed to be.

When the campus was first built, its state-of-the-art design received national praise in the February 1967 issue of the magazine Architecture/West.

“The problem which Pueblo posed for a new college was that the architecture be a symbol: a symbol of education and culture; a symbol strong enough to create a favorable image with which to envelope the city,” it said.

The modern campus of CSU-Pueblo was also intended to be a symbol of the hard-won battle fought by the students and legislators who put it there in the first place.

A few years before the campus was built in 1964, the school was known as Pueblo Junior College and its degree options were limited to two-year programs.

“A four-year college will improve the image of Pueblo, benefit the students and parents of the whole of Southeastern Colorado, help sell new industry on the city and in the area and give a tax reduction.” -Richard Cline, president of the Young Democrats of Pueblo, 1963.

“In 1960, Pueblo was one of only four of the largest 200 cities in the U.S. that did not have an accredited four-year college within 25 miles,” according to a commemorative video compiled by the university archives.

At that time, though, local students wanted more.

In December 1960, a crowd of young people gathered in a ballroom to show their support for a four-year college in Pueblo. Their dream, which would allow them to obtain more advanced degrees, meant that they could get an education within the city limits of a town that many of them called home.

And the Puebloans who stayed were loyal to their town. In a February issue, co-editor of campus newspaper, The Arrow, Jim Osnowitz wrote in an editorial that students were remaining too loyal to their Pueblo high schools upon entering college.

Regardless of their motivations, though, Pueblo students were eager to stay in their hometown for college and make a good impression on the public, which would ultimately vote on the measure.

“If PC were already a four-year college, impressions would not be so important, but as it stands now, one of the most important phases of transformation of the school’s status is that of public relations. This is mostly up to the students and the impression they make on the public,” wrote Peggy Stock, co-editor of The Arrow.

The push for a four-year university in Pueblo wasn’t just limited to students, however.

The rest of the community saw the school as an opportunity for Pueblo to grow economically and for the city’s image to improve.

Pueblo Senator Vincent Massari led the legislative push to turn the university into a four-year institution in the ‘60s, with tremendous support from the community.

“A four-year college will improve the image of Pueblo, benefit the students and parents of the whole of Southeastern Colorado, help sell new industry on the city and in the area and give a tax reduction,” said Richard Cline, president of the Young Democrats of Pueblo in 1963.

“The money from the state government will continue to be forth-coming in 1964—especially in the view of the rapid growth and economic importance of our area,” he said.

All of those hopes weren’t new, however.

In 1926, before a university even existed in Pueblo, the Colorado senate killed a bill that would have created a four-year college in the town. Within a few years, though, Pueblo had a two-year school.

When the college began accepting its first students in 1933, the entire population fit into three vacant rooms in the Pueblo County Courthouse. Then known as Southern Colorado Junior College, the school only accommodated 63 students. In 1935, SCJC’s first graduating class consisted of 17 students.

Students protest for university status at then Pueblo Junior College. Photo courtesy of CSU-Pueblo archives

Students protest for university status at then Pueblo Junior College. Photo courtesy of CSU-Pueblo archives

As the school began to grow, it moved into buildings in central Pueblo and stayed there for 29 years. The Orman Avenue campus, now Pueblo Community College, welcomed students to its first building in the fall of 1937.

The original building plans for the Orman Avenue campus were meticulous. These old documents, signed by people who are now long-gone, depict a time when typewriters and cursive writing were the standard.

Fading blue ink accounts for even the most seemingly obvious building instructions, including a declaration that, “Before ordering (bathroom) partitions, the contractor shall take measurements at the building.”

There came a time, however, when even those buildings, with all of their scrupulous planning, failed to house the growing student population.

Various 1960s issues of The Arrow reported that the school began breaking enrollment records nearly every consecutive semester back then.

At the time, Pueblo Junior College only had 23 actual classrooms. As the population grew, so did the need for new buildings, especially if the school was going to be a four-year institution.

The student population was growing so fast in the face of the transition to a four-year college that many students were concerned with having to stay at the Orman Avenue campus while the new campus was built.

“I am sure that all will agree that the long-term benefits to be derived will make it all worth while, as we envision the development of one of the most beautiful college campuses in the state of Colorado,” Pueblo Junior College President M.C. Knudson wrote in a 1962 Arrow editorial.

“If the (board of trustees) approve this plan of dissolution and the necessary funds are forthcoming from the state legislature, Pueblo Junior College will cease to exist on Sept. 1, 1963, and become a state-supported four-year college,” he wrote.

In May 1964, about 2,500 people attended the groundbreaking ceremony for a campus that would go on to house generations of Pueblo students. But recently, enrollment has been dwindling and, unlike students who were proud to stay in their Pueblo hometown for school, students are now finding themselves leaving their hometown in droves.

Would Pueblo even have a four-year college if it were up to modern Pueblo kids to fight for it?

Three years ago, when my friends and I first started applying to colleges, nearly all of them said they wanted to get out of Pueblo, and many of them did.

Even today, when I tell people that I stayed in Pueblo for college, they give me a sidelong glance, like they think it must have been my only option. CSU-Pueblo’s reputation among young people is that it’s a cheap and easy school to get into. Too easy. So easy that it must be a fallback school.

And the city of Pueblo isn’t exactly favorable among young people, either.

In some ways, it’s difficult to blame the kids who leave. The standard complaint is that there is nothing to do in town, especially for people under 21. And it’s true. An 18-year-old would be hard-pressed to find a place to hang out after 10 p.m. in Pueblo.

The pride that young people felt in the ‘60s for their hometown has been replaced by a series of explanations as to why they chose to stay here for school.

In Osnowitz’s editorial about college students remaining too loyal to their high schools, he shared his annoyance with students who still wore their letter jackets to class and attended high school football games. To him, their pride in the Pueblo community outweighed even their pride in their college.

Today, students who stayed in Pueblo for college feel like they have to explain themselves. This conversation pops up from time to time, when I’m in the company of a fellow Pueblo native who decided to attend CSU-Pueblo. The topic has actually inundated so many conversations that the explanations have become robotic.

One friend of mine told me she stayed because she didn’t want to move. She simply wanted to stay at home. Another said she didn’t want to pay more for the same education at another school. But those explanations are never enough for critical outsiders.

It’s not enough that I liked CSU-Pueblo’s mass communications department or that I thought I could still get a good education here. It had to be that I got a full scholarship. To other people, that must have been the only legitimate reason why I would stay here. And sometimes, I catch myself telling them that.

In recent years, a stigma has developed amongst young people about attending college in Pueblo. But if high school students don’t want to stay here for college, then what were the students and legislators in the ‘60s fighting for?

Would Pueblo even have a four-year college if it were up to modern Pueblo kids to fight for it?

In 2013, the administration of CSU-Pueblo announced a budget crisis that it attributed to declining enrollment. When it was all over, 22 staff positions were cut, most of which were unfilled.

To this day, the administration is concerned with working to increase enrollment numbers. The university reported gains in enrollment in fall 2014 and again in the spring, when the total on-campus enrollment was 4,082. According to the CSU-Pueblo fact book, even that number is down 1,148 from fall 2011, when the on-campus enrollment was at 5,230.

That’s a sharp contrast to the 1960s, when enrollment records were breaking after every consecutive semester.

In a fall 2012 survey distributed to entering CSU-Pueblo freshman, 33.5 percent of the students who took it identified themselves as Pueblo natives. Another 23.1 percent identified themselves as natives of other southeastern Colorado counties and 27 percent said they were from other Colorado counties.

So, if the majority of CSU-Pueblo’s students are from around Pueblo, and enrollment is down, what does that mean for Pueblo?

The idea that local kids are moving out of town isn’t only a problem for Pueblo. Millennials have been flocking to urban areas since they have been old enough to move and according to Pew Research, it looks like the upcoming generation will continue that trend.

The age grouping for millennials cuts off at people who were born in 1996, so kids that are currently high school seniors belong to the next generation. As those students look toward graduation in May, many of them will likely move out of Pueblo for college, too.

But for the university and Southern Colorado, just like in the 1960s, a new generation of students will have to ask themselves why should they stay and what kind of university they want to build. What is the reasoning? It’s a new millennium but for college students the existential questions of identity remains the same.

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Arts & Culture

Art is Hard with Pueblo illustrator Riki Takaoka

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Takoka, Riki (web)

“I’ve almost quit doing art so many times.”

I’m at a coffee place downtown talking shop with Pueblo artist and illustrator Riki Takaoka. With works currently on display at the Q Pop gallery in Los Angeles, and a recent addition for possible contribution to nationally syndicated contemporary arts magazine Hi-Fructose, (not to mention freelance nominations from Paramount Animation Studios), I figured he and I were in for a quick convo about brushes or pen techniques. I wasn’t expecting that one of the quickest and most accurate caricature artists I’ve ever seen in my life would say he is quitting something he’s clearly great at.

But I was shocked to hear that come from his lips.

Shocked, but sadly not at all surprised. Talk to almost anyone in the so-called creative class, and they’ll tell you a similarly dismal story that usually goes as such;

1) Find something creative you love to do.

2) Take years and years honing and perfecting your craft.

3) Get good enough to be recognized for your art.

4) Ask for compensation for your art.

5) Get chided for daring to ask for said compensation.

image by Riki Takaoka

 

The worst part about hearing that from him is that the illustration work of Takaoka is flat out phenomenal. Blending playfully bold caricatures with a jagged surrealistic quality, Takaoka has developed a signature style and skill set that stands on its own. A style that he points out he has been brewing since childhood.

“When i was a kid, I would draw and redraw the same cover of PSM (PlayStation Magazine) over and over. I was just obsessed with it. I’ve stayed in my room for days sometimes, just trying to push myselfto do better,” Takaoka said.

But all the talent and hard work in the word can’t guarantee financial success in the art world.

When the topic shifts to art as a means of income comes up, Takaoka offers, “Art is hard. Not hard for me to make. It’s easy to make and I love it. Just hard for me to deal with. Or, I guess live off. Deal with trying to live off it. And it’s frustrating to spend hours making a commission piece for someone and then have to beg them to pay for it.”

Unfair doesn’t seem to do it justice. In no other profession other than the creative field will you hear of such a thing. I’ve never once heard of my food service friends offered to be paid by a future profit share, or my wife the hairdresser and stylist proposed exposure for their work as an alternative to actual money. But every day in creative lines of work, artists are at odds with clientele who want assets for nothing or damn near.

“I get that almost every time, everywhere. It doesn’t matter where I’ve been. I’ve lived in Hawaii, in Texas, here in Colorado.” he said. “Unless you’re a well known artist, people constantly try to get out of paying you for your work.”

“There’s been times where I haven’t drawn for three months straight,” he added, sounding a bit dejected. “Because sometimes it just doesn’t feel worth it. But it’s one of the only things I know how to do well.”

I asked him about his experience living and working out of Pueblo.

“It’s a nice place to live. It’s affordable. I can walk around and not feel stressed out about having to have two jobs to survive,” Takaoka said. “But the problem is no one wants to work with each other. Not everybody, but too many.”

Even though the art scene here is by no means perfect, he was quick to add, “but it is getting better I guess. And bigger. People doing more. Taking chances.”

In any other line of work, the odds of failure facing people would break most people. But not Riki.  At the end of our conversation, I asked if he considered quitting forever, which got a sly grin. “I can’t quit, I guess. Maybe I’ll just stop for a while. But not completely. At this point it’s like handwriting to me. Period. It’s almost subconscious. It’s the way I see the world. And deal with it.”

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Arts & Culture

Land Lines : PULP Artist of the Month

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Denver’s Land Lines occupy a truly unique headspace upon listening, which can only be described as “Fresh off the boat from Chilligan’s Island”. The Mile High trio, comprised of Martina Grbac (cello/vocals), Ross Harada (drums) and James Han (electric piano/organ), seamlessly meld vintage-modern baroque music with pop shimmer and gloss, like having a dance party at the symphony. Musically, Land Lines is at times is sparse and introspective, with clever and brooding lyricism, only to then turn that right on its’ ear as with bursts and blooms of  thundering pop force, (which contains equally clever and brooding lyricism). On their newest album “Natural World”, dark and moody synthesizer tones playfully buzz and pulsate to and fro over drums that are the audio equivalent of a saunter and sashay. But the lively pluck and eerie hum of the cello (compliments of Martina Grbac) is what sets this band apart from the pack, providing an melodic orchestral punch that cuts through the dense sonic layers like a Hattori Hanzo sword.

 

for fans of /// Portishead • Lady Lamb the Beekeeper • Beach Fossils

hellolandlines.bandcamp.com

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Music

The Local : BRIDGES

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BRIDGES may easily (and quite erroneously) get lumped in with every other current metal/hardcore band playing out today, but this does them no justice. Shifting between the audible snarl and massive attack of hardcore and metal to delicate and downright pretty alternative minded exalt on a dime, BRIDGES, in a very big sense, play simply heavy music. Not heavy in the classic metal distorted-and-detuned-riffs kind of way, but heavy in perhaps an emotive sense. There are elements of hardcore and modern metal, yes, but the real strength behind this band is that their music largely defies any easy categorization, instead using the 60+ years of combined innovation to bring about one of the most well versed and original bands currently in Colorado.   

On a whim, I asked them to quickly list the bands that they had played in or currently part of. They easily listed over a dozen, with some being short tenures in young acts fresh out of high school with others spanning for multiple years, tours, and record label heat.

But what really amazes me about BRIDGES is their reverence for each other. In all my time spent hanging out with bands (both my own and other), I have never encountered a band which seems to enjoy the presence of each other more. They bring the act of playing music back to a core that often falls by the wayside; Simply enjoying it.

I spoke with BRIDGES on a dimly lit porch, beers flowing, on a windy night Tuesday, November 10th 2015.

PULP/ Your previous bands all kind of sound like a lineage tree of Pueblo metal and hardcore. After hearing all that, how does it feel?

 

Matt (Herrera/guitar) / I think it’s really cool. I’ve always been fortunate that with all of the bands I’ve been in were with friends. Just playing together, getting along outside of music. And now, we’ve all been in other bands when we were younger. I met Joe and Adam when they were both probably like 14 o4 15, and now I’m playing in a band with them? I never would of thought.

 

Tyler (Boyce/Vocals) / But I can say that out of all the bands I’ve been in, this has been the most fun to be a part of. On a writing level and on a friendship level. It’s just always good.

 

In some of your previous bands, there was some label heat and contracts and business stuff. Are you dealing with any of that stuff now?

 

Tyler/ It’s definitely a lot easier with BRIDGES. With my old band, some of the guys got so sucked into wanting to “make it” that we were writing too fast and putting out stuff that wasn’t ready, and wasn’t as good as it should have been.

 

Matt /  Well with (previous band) Son of Man, it ended the way it did because by the end of it, it wasn’t any fun. It was all business. I want to try and take a more organic approach with this band. I want to still be busy, but not push anything that isn’t ready or right. Instead of worrying about obligations and the business of it, I want to focus on writing the best music we possibly can. Everything is so saturated right now in our genre. I don’t know exactly what our genre is, but it’s hard to stick out. I’d like to push our own thing, and not falling into a mold. My favorite bands have always been ones that are heavy, bot not in the usual way, you know?

 

How do you feel like BRIDGES differentiates from other acts out now?

 

Matt/ Well. Bands have started to, and I even hate saying this, but using dance moves and choreography.  It’s so stupid.

 

What does that mean? Like dancing with guitars?

 

Matt /  Yeah, like head banging and spins and stuff. It used to be, when a band was getting into the music, it was just something that happened naturally. In Son of Man, really we were all just trying to keep up with (SOM bandmate) Mo. But I get it, when I was younger and in a band, we did tons of stupid shit. I mean, it was the late 90’s. We all loved Korn and Limp Bizkit, so use your imagination. (laughs) But it totally sucks when people and bands are more worried about a dance move or a look than what they are writing.

 

Josh (Ewing/bass) / Every time we jam, it’s all organic. (laughs) When you start choreographing it, it seems fake and more like going through the motions than having fun.

 

BRIDGES has always been a more sonically adventurous band to me. You’re heavy, but it’s more in layers rather than in riffs. Is that something you try to do on purpose?

 

Matt/ We’ve always made it a point to not write the same way twice.We all love different things; Clean parts, and having melodies and parts that go places, rather than just the same riff over and over. There’s no point in having two guitar players who are playing the exact same thing. We even talked about writing a pretty and clean (guitar tone) song at some point. It’s always better to try and work toward something new. It’s exciting.

 

Tyler/  And that’s one of the thing that initially interested me about trying out for the band. Like you said, there are layers to it. And it’s very intricate. You can dissect it, and you can find so many different types of music in it.

 

Joe (Johnson/Guitar)/ It’s just nice to have the people to do it. We’re all open minded.

 

Do you think Pueblo is hurting for an all ages place to play?

 

Matt/ Oh, totally. I think it has taken Phil’s (Radiator) being gone, and kind of ripped out without a choice, for people to realize that it is hurting. Sure, they’ve re-opened now, but they’re not all ages. It feels like there’s this big gap, but it’s slowly being filled back up. We played a show at the Daily Grind a while back, and we got to play for a bunch of kids who wouldn’t have otherwise got to see us. There’s an untapped youth market here in town, but there’s nowhere for them to go see bands play.

 

Tyler/ Another thing, is there are now finally young bands still in high school that are starting to pop up. But this scene isn’t what it used to be. Everyone we know now is older, and no one really kept going. Where are these new bands supposed to go?

 

Matt/ It’s a bummer because I’ve never even heard of these guys, and there’s nowhere to check them out. We’ve only played Pueblo twice in the last year.

 

Any reason for that?

 

Tyler/ It’s hard to find places where you can play. It’s hard when no one wants to invest in Pueblo. Everyone thinks that Pueblo is this s— hole, and it is a small town, but I love it here. I’ve seen and met a lot of cool people, and there’s a lot of cool things happening here. But nobody chooses to get up off the couch to see them. and yet everyone complains that there’s nothing to do. That’s the saddest part.

 

Josh/ There’s a lot of great stuff here that fails due to lack of support.

 

Matt/ There’s so much negative stuff being said and reported about our city, it’s just nice when people can get out there to other places and show them that we’re not all gang bangers and drug addicts. I mean, we all make jokes sometimes, but I want to share that there are good people and good things going on here. When bands come down here to play, they all say it’s great, you know?

 

With the band all coming from such different musical styles, is writing the way you do more difficult?

 

Tyler/  When we write stuff, we all kind of write with it too. Someone has an idea, and we all try to make it fit with how we see it, and still make it into something we’re all looking for. We all compensate for each others’ styles in that way. It’s a team effort.

 

Josh/ I think it helps that we all try to have an open mindset with writing. No one ever comes in and says “I have an idea and it has to go exactly like this.”

 

Do you feel like it makes it more unique that way?

 

Matt/ It makes it more real, and definitely gives it a more unique identity. It’s great. It makes it so that we can’t make anything cookie cutter. It’s good to be able to do that. More rewarding that way.

 

Tyler/ I also think it’s maybe why we all get along so well too. There’s never anyone jumping down someone’s throat about not playing something the “right” way. We just want to make something that we like a lot and can be proud to show people. We put a lot of time into it, and when we get any kind of good feedback about it, to say that it gave them some sort of feeling or emotion, that’s the coolest thing about making music. And makes us happy.

 

Josh/ And it’s totally applicable to anyone doing any kind of art. If you’re doing it the way you want, not under anyone else’s guidelines, and attain results that they’re proud of, especially if it’s someone telling you they love it, definitely makes it way more rewarding.

 

Is that part of the reason you guys play music to begin with? For that feeling?

 

Josh/ Oh, definitely. The core factor of it comes down to I love to do it for myself. I love playing music and playing it with my best friends.

 

Tyler/ Exactly. The best part, is you get to show up, hang out with your best friends, and make music that hopefully you can all enjoy and get behind. If not, why are you doing it?

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