Las Artes de Denver:
The lively Latino, Hispanic and Chicano Art World in the Mile High City
A longtime part of the Mile High City’s multicultural mix, the Latino, Hispanic and Chicano community has made its mark on Denver in countless ways. Por ejemplo: the Latino arts scene is among the most active and vibrant in the U.S., as innovative and imaginative Denverites create massive murals, traditional crafts and artistic masterpieces. Here’s a broad overview of just a few of the happening spots in Denver’s Latino arts world.
One of the most exciting neighborhoods in Denver is the Art District on Santa Fe, where dozens of unique galleries, shops and restaurants can be found. The district is home to many Latino-centric locales, including the Museo de Las Americas and the Chicano Humanities and Art Council (see below). Check out galleries like Quetzalli, which is devoted to indigenous, cultural arts of the Americas, and hosts musicians, poets and films on a regular basis. The best time to check out all the ArtsDistrict has to offer is the First Friday celebration, held every first Friday of the month, during which the galleries stay open late for a festive, street party-like event.
The Museo de Las Americas (861 Santa Fe Dr., Denver, CO 80204) is a perfect spot to begin your explorations of Latino Denver. This fascinating location is the only museum in the region devoted exclusively to Latino culture. Taking a Pan American approach to its exhibits, the Museo ambitiously covers a lot of ground, as it collects, preserves, and interprets the art, history, and cultures of the Americas from ancient times to the present. Located in the heart of the Art District on Santa Fe, the Museo was founded in 1991 and boasts an ever-changing selection of exhibits, not to mention a wide array of educational offerings. Every second Saturday of the month is Target Family Free Day, with free admission and creative activities for children, teens and exhibit tours for adults. You might also want to check out the Museo’s Spanish Happy Hour where every third Friday of the month Denverites with a shared interest in speaking Spanish meet to have a drink, eat and make new friends while practicing their Español.
For more than 25 years, the Chicano Humanities and Art Council – nicknamed CHAC – has been showcasing Denver’s extensive community of Chicano artists, artisans, and activistas. CHAC (772 Santa Fe Dr., Denver, CO 80204) regularly exhibits locally and nationally recognized artists in the gallery and in the gift shop known as La Tiendita (“the store”). The gallery usually offers two shows each month by local visual art exhibits and performances by area musicians, actors, dancers, writers and poets. There’s always something going on at CHAC, bu some popular annual events include the Members Season Opener in January, Santos & Crosses in August, El Dia De Los Muertos in November and the Luminarias de la Guadalupe & Christmas Mercado in December. And if you’ve got kids, definitely take them to CHAC’s Cookies y Leche Workshop, held every third Saturday of each month. Each session offers kids a hands-on educational art projects along with refreshments. Classes are lead by CHAC member artists and include seasonal hands-on projects such as Christmas ornaments, Valentines hearts, and Calaveras "Sugar Skulls" - a traditional Mexican ornament/treat used for El Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).
Over at the renowned Denver Art Museum, check out the amazing New World department, where you’ll view an amazing collection covering stylistic movements from all geographic areas and cultures of Latin America.
Of course, some of the best Denver Chicano art isn’t confined to the interiors of museums and galleries. All over the city, you’ll encounter brilliantly colorful murals created by Chicano artists that illustrate the hopes, history and struggles of the city’s Latino community. A few of Denver’s best Chicano murals include Emmanuel Martinez’s Confluent Peoples (at the entrance to Confluence Park at intersection of Cherry Creek and South Platte River) and La Alma (in the heart of Denver’s west side); Carlota Espinosa’s Pasado, Presente y Futuro at the Denver Public Library’s Byers Branch (675 Santa Fe Dr.) and Escuela Tlateloco (2949 N. Federal Blvd.); and, Leo Tanguma’s Peace and Harmony with Nature, located in Denver Airport’s main concourse. These are the kinds of massive pieces that simply have to be seen in person; do yourself a favor and discover these amazing works while you’re here in Denver.