By Joe Contreras, Latin Life Denver Media
It had been quite a while since I had visited Downtown Denver, since before Covid-19 took hold in early March of 2020 when most everything closed up. Then with all the protests and destruction to the city’s political and cultural center I had even less interest in visiting the area. I didn’t want to see what had become the beloved city I was born and raised in.
But I was quite curious about the new ‘Hecho en Colorado’ exhibit at the History Colorado Center at 1200 N. Broadway. It promised to be a fascinating exhibit that included several of Colorado’s long time artists that includes sculptures, textiles, photographs, books, and clothing designs and much more all that complement an array of painting spread throughout the new Ballentine Gallery. It was an exhibit that has been 50 years in the making. It sounded very unique and also like something that doesn’t make it very often into Denver’s mainstream art and history museums.
At the invitation of Curator, Adrianna Abarca, whose family also owns the entire collection, I decided to go down and meet with her to tour the Hecho en Colorado exhibit and learn what it was all about.
Turned out there was plenty of nearby parking and the damage was not near as bad as I had expected. Much of the graffiti had been cleaned up although there are still some boarded up windows and fence barriers around the library and Civic Center Park. But all in all the Colorado History Center felt very welcoming.
Abarca led me to the exhibit which is located on the first floor just left of the entry way. The Ballentine Gallery is the first thing you encounter when you walk in past the ticketing area. There used to be a long wall there that served as a backdrop for guest speakers for various receptions and events. The wall shielded two classrooms that were behind them. Much of the wall has been removed and the classroom area has been transformed into an intimate space that beacons visitors to come see what’s inside and wow is there a lot to see and learn in that quaint setting.
Abarca told me about the love her family has had for art over the decades, particularly that of her father, Luis Abarca, who started the Abarca’s family art collection. Her story and that of her father and how this exhibit came to be was recently featured on the front page of the Life & Culture section of the Denver Post. “When Art is the Stuff of History”. Page One, Page Two
“Most of the work in this exhibit is a representation of the signs of the times as portrayed by the artists who created them,” said Abarca, adding “this is the first time an exhibit combines Chicano and Mexicano art works in a major institution.
The artists come from throughout Colorado, The U.S. Southwest and Mexico but they all created their works while living in Colorado, hence Hecho (made) en Colorado. The are works by Carlota EspinoZa, Carlos Fresquez, and David Ocelotl García, Daniel Luna, Carlos Sandoval, Josiah Lee Lopez, Abi Rosales, Armando Silva, Carlos Fresquez, Quintin Gonzalez, Leo Tanguma and several others.
“Art and history go hand and hand and they shouldn’t be separated out in various institutions says Abarca, “The artist are reflecting on not only their own identity and experiences as an individual but also the experiences and identity of the communities they come from in a certain time in history. You can see yourself, your culture, your history and your community reflected in the artwork of this exhibit”.
As a result each piece in the exhibit has it’s own story to tell. Abarca hopes to add an audio tour to Hecho en Colorado so that visitors can better understand the various works and the people who created them.
Darlene Dominguez said of the exhibit that she enjoyed the variety of art mediums on display. “There is just about every type of art work here that represents Latino expressionism over the past 50 years. Books and poetry written Lalo Delgado and Manuel Ramos to Photographs by Daniel Salazar and Juan Espinoza to clothing by Jay Salas’s Zoot Suit to a Norberto Mojardin gown not to mention all the artists, sculptures and other works that make up our existence,” she said. (see photo gallery below)
Hecho en Colorado continues through January 10th at the History Colorado Center. Tickets must be purchased in advance at: Info@historycolorado.org. While you are there don’t forget to stop at the gift shop for some great mementos.
History Colorado is delighted to announce an inventive and special series of “Cafecitos” to welcome our newest exhibit Hecho en Colorado. Join us on one of these carefully curated intimate tours for groups of ten or fewer on Friday mornings. Meet us in our lobby for some coffee and socialization and then experience a guided tour by the founder of the Latino Cultural Arts Center and exhibit curator, Adrianna Abarca. The brand new exhibit will feature art from Chicano, Mexican, and Native artists from across the state. Cafecitos are ideal for community, family and small groups seeking intimate ways to learn and share experiences together. Singles are welcome to sign-up as well and join on one of these tours.
NEW Familia & Amigos Private Group Tours with Adrianna Abarca
For those who can’t make a Cafecito, we are now offering Familia y Amigos Private Group Tours with LCAC Founder and Hecho en Colorado Curator, Adrianna Abarca. Enjoy $2 off when you book an exclusive 1-hour tour with 8 of your closest friends and family. Schedule directly with Adrianna Abarca by calling 720-353-2233.
Photos by Joe Contreras, Latin Life Denver Media