By Chanel Ward
The Latino Cultural Arts Center’s (LCAC) Sun Valley retail shop, Hijos del Sol, unveiled its newly commissioned mural by artist and Denver native, David Ocetolotl García on December 7. The brightly colorful and boldly expressive mural sits on the front of the gift shop, located on 8th Avenue and Decatur St. in Denver, CO, where passersby can get a glimpse into the very soul of the gift shop.
Pairing effortlessly with the collection of hand-made pieces of unique jewelry, trinkets and clothing to hand-woven tapestries and literature from Latinx writers, the preservation of Latino culture through artistic expression is a mission that the founder and board chair of LCAC envisioned from its inception four years ago.
Adrianna Abarca, founded LCAC as a North High School graduate and North Denver native with a B.A. in Latin American Studies from University of Colorado in Boulder. After working in the arts community in San Francisco, CA for several years and traveling across the US to find the true essence of Mexicano culture, Abarca found a need for the same in her home state, where change and gentrification had disrupted the once culturally rich city.
“We’re a non-profit and we work in conjunction with existing Latino cultural arts organizations, but we do our own programming as well and we’re working to build a cultural campus,” explained Abarca. “That means we’re going to have three different locations that we’re going to offer components of Latino cultural arts that are on these three different locations and the first site we’re going to open is the Academy of Latino Cultural Art’s on 12th Avenue off of I-25.”
The mural by García titled, Hijos del Sol or Children of the Sun, was inspired by the name of the store but also, “the idea is that we’re all creatures of the sun, and the importance of the sun in how it manifests in our cultural heritage and importance of our connection with plants and flowers and also our connection with animals,” explained García. “So, it depicts community in honor of the sun, there’s different characters, there’s different elements within the piece that are symbolic.”
“There’s a lot of symbolism within the piece,” said García, “but ultimately it’s just to bring some light to the space and just bring colors and honor life itself.”
Alfredo Reyes, LCAC’s Director of Programs helped to develop the Cultural Center with Abarca back in 2014 before leaving to work on his PhD at the University of California. He decided to move back to Denver three months ago to a warm welcome from Abarca, who was happy to get Reyes back into the work he had known and loved before. Here, Reyes can fulfill his passion of art and culture, while lending his expertise in “philanthropy, grant making and art-based youth development programs,” to maintain that vision.
“There’s a community behind the vision now, where before that vision was in a very small group,” Reyes expressed about the rapidly growing non-profit.
“In the next six to nine months I’m engaging in a listening tour,” said Reyes. “I’m going out into the community and I’m interviewing artists, I’m interviewing young adults, I’m working to interview families to ask them what their vision of the Cultural Arts Center is and what their creative needs are; then I can develop programs based on their feedback to continue to develop this in a way that will last, not just decades, but hundreds of years.”
He also explained, “We’re here to develop artists as entrepreneurs and supporting artists in getting their arts and crafts out into the community in a way that supports them, supports local artists and continues that tradition of having handmade crafts.”
The Academy of Latino Cultural Art’s is currently in the demolition process and is expected to be complete by 2020 and opened by 2021.
Hijos del Sol is located at 2715 W 8th Ave. in Denver, and is available to shop via appointment by reaching out directly to Abarca at 720-353-2233. All proceeds help fund the programing for the LCAC. If you missed last Saturday’s unveiling and special holiday shopping hours, you can still stop by on Saturday, December 21st, between 11am – 4pm for one last open shopping day this year, just in time to buy a piece of history for all the hijos and hijas in your life. Visit LCAC website: latinoculturalartscenter-denver.org.
Chanel Ward is an Independent Reporter for The Weekly Issue/El Semanario.
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