Black Creativity Matters to Denver Ad School, Cactus

Looking to lead with real action, the Denver Ad School (DAD), in partnership with Cactus, the Denver creative agency known for its award-winning work in the mental health and wellness space, have launched Black Creativity Matters, an annual scholarship fund that’s designed to remove one of the biggest barriers of entry for young Black creatives into the advertising.

The initiative also aims to provide Colorado-based agencies with a consistent pipeline of Black, portfolio school-trained talent who are ready-to-work and looking to begin their careers in the state.

The scholarship is being funded by a collective of Colorado advertising agencies, including Cactus, Fact & Fiction, CPB, TDA, Madwell, Fortnight Collective, Vladimir Jones, Motive, LRXD, and Karsh/Hagan. Agencies have committed to covering half the tuition for a Black student and Denver Ad School is matching the agency contributions dollar-for-dollar, with the goal of providing full-ride scholarships per year. Currently, they have raised nearly $160,000, enough for 10 students, but that’s a number they hope to grow.

Denver Ad School made the announcement on their Instagram account on July 6.

“Advertising has a diversity problem. Portfolio schools have a diversity problem. So we’re choosing to be a part of the solution. Together with ten of Colorado’s top ad agencies, we’re showing the rest of this industry that we believe Black creativity matters. Follow the link in our bio to read more about how we’ve started a scholarship fund to ensure that all Black creatives who want to attend a portfolio school can come to DAD for free.”


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“We started DAD with the goal of making a quality, comprehensive portfolio program that was attainable for every student regardless of race, gender, orientation, or privilege,” Jesse Alkire, Founder of the Denver Ad School, says. “But right now, the Black community needs our help the most. Together with these great local agencies, we’re saying enough is enough — it’s time to remove the biggest barriers to entry for Black students and dismantle any ad agency’s tired excuses for not hiring more Black creatives. Colorado is committed to making an actionable difference and I hope the rest of the industry takes notice.”

Heather Vanisko, Director of the Denver Ad School, notes that initiative isn’t about getting a pat on the back for a job well done, but rather trying to change a big part of our business that’s long overdue for a change. 

“Different voices expose us to new ideas, which in turn allows us to be more thoughtful in our approach and messaging,” Vanisko. “It’s time for ad agencies to listen to what many of us have been saying for years — Black creativity matters because it makes the work better.” 

Adds Jeff Graham, Cactus President + CMO, “Our industry has a real diversity problem nationwide, and it’s especially pronounced here in Colorado, a state with a four percent Black population. We are a creative market in desperate need of the stories, skills and influence of Black creators. Instead of sharing well-meaning platitudes on social media, the Colorado creative community wanted to lead with real action, while acknowledging this is just a first step. It’s a chance to put Colorado on a national stage and show aspiring creatives that our state is a welcome and nurturing place for Black creativity.”


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Click here for the scholarship application.

SOURCE: Denver Ad School

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