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CNCC welcomes art, gauges decreased enrollment

Joe Moylan

A sculpture by Mark Leichliter is one of many pieces on display at Colorado Northwestern Community College's new Craig campus. While the college is moving forward with expansion projects, college officials are surprised by a decrease in enrollment this semester.
Joe Moylan

"Ike Mo Uta," a wind-powered kinetic sculpture by San Diego artist Jeffery Laudenslager, spins in the breeze Friday at Colorado Northwestern Community College's new Craig campus. The piece is one of more than 30 pieces of art anticipated to be displayed at the campus by the end of the year.Joe Moylan

Jeffery Laudenslager has experienced a lot in his 65 years of life, he's enjoyed success and gone through his fair share of tough times.

He's a Vietnam War veteran, a former owner of a successful construction company and a divorcee.

But, Laudenslager, a San Diego native, is probably best defined by his hobby as a sculptor.

"A hobby is a good way to describe it," Laudenslager said. "I'm not sure when the transition took place into professional sculptor, but I have always been able to sell my work on some level."

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His recent sale is evidence. One of Laudenslager's pieces — "Ike Mo Uta" — is now on display at Colorado Northwestern Community College's new Craig campus, 2801 W. Ninth St.

The sculpture is a wind-powered kinetic sculpture inspired by the painting "The Great Wave off Kanagawa" by Katsushika Hokusai.

"Balance is an essential ingredient," Laudenslager said. "There is always a play off of mass and surface area, and all of my pieces require counterbalance weights."

"Ike Mo Uta" is one of more than 30 artistic samplings anticipated to be displayed at CNCC's Craig campus by the end of the year.

CNCC has already acquired and displayed a second sculpture by Fort Collins-based Mark Leichliter, who could not be reached for comment.

A third sculpture, "Poetry in Motion II" by Kathleen Caricof, of Denver, is expected to arrive in Craig later this week.

"It represents the continuation of learning and the journey we are all on," Caricof said. "I'm excited for it to be up there. It has a lot of color, so it will draw a lot of people into it."

Despite the increasingly engaging campus, Gene Bilodeau, vice president of CNCC's Craig campus, said the campus' enrollment is down this fall.

This semester's enrollment at the Craig campus is at about 275 students, including both full and part-time students, which is about 150 fewer than at the same time last year, Bilodeau said.

The reduced enrollment is a bit of a mystery, he said, because the nursing program is full and the auto tech and cosmetology courses have the same enrollment numbers as last year.

"We typically add students throughout the year and usually end up with an enrollment of 500 to 550 by the end of the year," Bilodeau said. "But, we haven't discovered a theme as to why enrollment is down this year."

Bilodeau said the reduction in the student body is surprising considering the positive response from students and the community since the new campus opened in August.

"That's what is so interesting about this year compared to last," Bilodeau said. "We've been warmly received by the community and the students. People have been saying they love the campus and they love the atmosphere.

"They say it just feels more like a real college, but we can't figure out why there is a decline."

Bilodeau thinks the economy may be affecting enrollment even though academic institutions have traditionally seen an increase in student populations during sour economic times.

"When the economy is down, enrollment usually goes up because people are trying to expand their skills," Bilodeau said. "When the economy is good, enrollment trickles down a bit because everyone is working.

"This economy is a different animal because it's down, and so is our enrollment."

Despite soft student numbers, Bilodeau said the college is proceeding with projects, which include finishing the auto tech building this month and preparing for the construction of CNCC's first residence hall.

Bilodeau said the long-term plan is to have six residence halls housing 32 students each and to complement the smaller residences with a larger 125-student building sometime in the future.

Bilodeau said he and Russell George, CNCC's president, will present the plan before the state board of community colleges in December to discuss the scope of the residence hall project.

Bilodeau hopes to begin construction on the first 32-student residence hall in the spring and have it ready for occupancy at some point during the fall 2012 semester.

He said the college will continue to phase in additional residence halls in the future as needed.

And as they do, there will be art beside them to enjoy. Laudenslager said he's pleased to have his work among the selections.

"I think it is a great piece for the college," Laudenslager said of his artwork. "And, I hope the community enjoys the sculpture as well."

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