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During the summer, many University of Colorado students are working in internships to gain experience in their desired career field before they graduate.

But for CU art students like Ryan Ruehlen, art residencies become a priority during the summer months when projects and classes are on hold until fall.

However, Ruehlen said between teaching painting at CU, studio art and graduate classes, he doesn’t get much time to do residencies.

“I’ve actually never done one before, mainly because of the time constraints,” Ruehlen said. “But I found a 10-day residency this summer that will allow me to get back before school starts again.”

At the end of July, Ruehlen will travel to Utah for his first residency, Relevant 2011. He was asked to bring a completed piece to contribute to a month-long exhibit at the Kimball Art Center in Park City.

Ruehlen is spending the next few weeks finishing his piece, “Oxygen Tent,” a sculpture made of recycled materials and wood inspired by his earliest memory.

“When I was about 1 1/2 years old, I had severe pneumonia and they had to put me in an oxygen tent,” Ruehlen said. “I wanted to recreate that white, glowing, warm and soothing place.”

Ruehlen’s piece — a yellow box on white table legs, adorned with abstract woodcarvings and a landscape of his Kansas home — sits about five feet tall.

Lisa Severy, director of CU Career Services, said art residencies provide students like Ruehlen with working experience, much like an internship, but also a unique learning environment.

Artists are often encouraged to branch out and experiment with new formats or techniques and are given time to focus on that specific aspect during their residency, Severy said.

“Like most experiential education programs, the benefits long-term include, not only the experience itself, but also the contacts and network create within the field,” Severy said.

Ruehlen will join five other artists from around the country for the program.

Each artist will create a piece to exhibit at the Park City Kimball Arts Festival and will be auctioned off to raise money for the art center.

The program’s futuristic theme and Ruehlen’s recent interest in his own memories inspired a floating biosphere concept, which Ruehlen said he’s hoping to create during the residency.