The Museum of Contemporary Art Denver is awarding over $20,000 in college scholarships to the next generation of creative, innovative, and fearless graduating high school seniors who demonstrate a willingness to risk failure in the pursuit of something new. The Failure Awards scholarships reward Colorado students who embrace the spirit of creative risk-taking with scholarship monies that can be used at any accredited four-year institution towards educational expenses. While so much of student life is focused on achievement, MCA Denver believes that in order to create something original and authentic, it is necessary to risk failure. The Failure Awards are given not on the basis of academic merit or athletic prowess, but rather on a student’s demonstration of a willingness to take these risks.

The Failure Awards are based on documentation of a project the student created or produced that demonstrates originality and creativity. This can be a creative project, like a novel, a play, an opera; a technology-based project like a design for a new car, or a spaceship, or a robot; or something that falls outside of these criteria altogether. Some projects may present solutions to problems in the world, however, all projects will be considered, no matter how harebrained, impractical, or absurd.

Of all the submitted projects, six finalists will be invited to present their projects to a panel of judges on April 13, 2019, at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver.

The Failure Awards:

$10,000 Top Prize
$5,000 Second Prize
$3,000 Third Prize
$700 x3 one-time awards


Students who meet ALL of the following criteria are eligible to apply.

  •         Are a resident of and attend high school in Colorado
  •         Will graduate from high school in the spring of 2019
  •         Will attend an accredited four-year college or university in the fall of 2019
  •         Are able to attend the Failure Fair on April 13, 2019


Applicants must submit documentation of a project, which they have undertaken and completed during their high school years, that demonstrates a higher level of creativity in the attempt to create something that is genuinely new. We are looking for projects that contain originality and authenticity. All types of projects will be considered, including, but not limited to: visual arts, drawing, painting, photography, sculpture, dance, theatre, performing arts, instrument or voice composition, design, fashion, culinary arts, technology, gaming, robotics, business ventures, social innovation, or other creative practice. The project must be the original work of the applicant. Group projects will be considered, but students must clearly articulate their role in the project. Projects must be complete, or in a final stage of completion. Scholarship monies cannot be directed towards completion of the project.

Finalists will be selected based on their project description and supporting documentation, their demonstration of creative risk-taking, their presentation plan, and their letter of recommendation. If selected, students will present their project to a panel of judges, as well as to the visiting public, during the MCA Denver Failure Fair. Each student will be given five minutes to present their work. Participants will be evaluated on originality, innovation, and their ability to present a project within the theme of risking failure as an integral part of the creative process.

Finalists must be available to present their projects to a panel of judges at MCA

Applicants who cannot present their work at the museum will not be eligible for this scholarship. Neither MCA Denver nor The Denver Foundation will reimburse for travel or lodging expenses.


The top three winners of the Failure Awards Scholarships will receive a college scholarship to be distributed over four years. The Failure Award Scholarship Top Prize winner will receive $10,000, distributed in four annual awards of $2,500. The Second Prize winner will receive $5,000, distributed in four annual awards of $1,250. The Third Prize winner will receive $3,000, distributed in four annual awards of $750. Seven additional winners will be granted one-time Near Miss Awards of $700 each. Scholarship awards will be paid directly to the recipient’s school and can be used towards tuition, fees, required books and supplies, room and board, and other qualified educational expenses. Award disbursement is contingent upon the financial aid and scholarship acceptance policies of a recipient’s school. All first-year grant distributions and one-time awards must be utilized for the 2019-20 academic year. Exceptions made for students who have been accepted into a college but defer enrollment for one year (commonly referred to as a gap year)


If you have a specific question about this application, please contact Sharon Harper at The Denver Foundation, or call 303-996-7348.

If you have questions about the MCA Denver Failure Awards Scholarship, please contact MCA Denver, or call 720-298-7554.

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