At the Cornelius Park ‘n Ride, a modern yet captivating piece of artwork serves as a bus station for the Carolina Area Transit Systems. Designed by Ivan Depeña, one of the newest professors for art and design on campus, this award-winning comfort station provides shelter and restrooms to travelers, using colorful glass canopies inspired by the waters of Lake Norman.
With a masters in Architecture from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, Depeña moved out of Brooklyn, where he had worked as an artist for 10 years. He came to Charlotte in 2014 for an artist residency through the McColl Center of Art and Innovation. Enjoying the Queen City, he decided to move there permanently with his wife and son. “Charlotte felt like a black canvas with lots of creative energy,” said Depeña. “I was embraced by the community very quickly, I felt very much at home.”
Columba Nahum, one of Professor Depeña’s students, greatly admires his artwork. “The material was blue glass mounted in different layers,” they said. “When the sun rays cast upon the glass they reflect beautiful shadows on the ground.”
Growing up, Depeña had a passion for art, attending a nationally ranked high school in Miami called New World School of the Arts, which was a pioneer in dual-enrollment education focusing heavily on visual and performing arts. It was there he learned the fundamentals of art and design, and developed his passion further. Depeña has experience in many mediums of art, such as drawing, painting and sculpture, but what sets his artwork apart is his ability to integrate interactivity, video, light, and other technologies into his pieces as well. “A variety keeps me interested and also keeps me learning,” he said.
Depeña’s work has been exhibited in many museums across the country. His inventive artwork has received numerous awards including the SFCC Visual and Media Artist Fellowship Grant Award, the Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant, and the Public Art Year in Review Award from the National Public Art Network. Most recently he has received a nomination for the prestigious United States Artist grant of 2017. Apart from his dedication to art, Ivan also participates in outdoor activities such as fishing, hiking, and also enjoys road trips.
Now teaching Queens undergraduates, Depeña said, “I have always enjoyed academia and I feel it’s time to start giving back from what I have learned.” Denny Gerwin, Director of Art & Design at Queens, is excited to have a new perspective as part of the program. “With his training in architecture, experience in public sculpture, and interactive media, Professor Depeña brings new skills and expertise to bolster a variety of our disciplines in art and design,” he said.
Along with teaching, Ivan is still pursuing his passion for public art. He is currently working on a piece involving interactive light insulation that will be appearing in the South End area of Charlotte along the light rail. “He seems to be a very creative artist who really enjoys what he does,” said Nahum. “I am excited to learn from him this semester.”