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Sheccid Alcaraz, right, flips through artist Jamie Chihuan’s portfolio Saturday during Celebración de la Comunidad at Chautauqua Park. (Kelsey Hammon)
Sheccid Alcaraz, right, flips through artist Jamie Chihuan’s portfolio Saturday during Celebración de la Comunidad at Chautauqua Park. (Kelsey Hammon)

Outside at Boulder’s Chautauqua Park on Saturday, Sheccid Alcaraz flipped through Jamie Chihuan’s portfolio, taking time to admire the collection of paintings.

Chihuan, a University of Colorado Boulder student who grew up in Longmont, put his art into words.

“People describe it as surreal — lots of desert landscapes and vibrant colors,” he said. “I do play with imagery of hearts and skulls.”

Chihuan was one of several artists who shared their work as part of the first Celebración de la Comunidad. The arts and culture event was hosted by the Colorado Chautauqua Association, a nonprofit organization that manages the area’s 26 historic acres. The event, which attracted more than 100 people, marked Chautauqua’s first bilingual celebration of the Latino community in the Boulder area.

In addition to numerous works of art, people could sample from multiple food vendors and listen to live music performed by Gaby Moreno, a Guatemalan singer-songwriter, and Verena, a singer and songwriter from Mexico. Helping to develop the event were representatives from Boulder County; SUMA, a community organization promoting diversity; Engaged Latino Parents Advancing Student Outcomes, a grassroots movement seeking to close student education gaps; and the Latino Chamber of Commerce.

Leticia Perez, of Boulder, snaps a picture of her daughter, Indira Perez, 4, center, and her two friends Saturday at the Celebración de la Comunidad in Chautauqua Park. (Kelsey Hammon)

A centerpiece of the art featured Saturday were dozens of benches reclaimed from the charred trees of the Calwood Fire and turned into a canvas for artists to create a signature work. The benches are being auctioned online through Sunday to raise money for Chautauqua’s wildfire prevention efforts and Cal-Wood Education Center’s ongoing wildfire recovery campaign. The Cal-Wood Education Center is an environmental education center that teaches youth and their families through hands-on programs, including Latino Family Camps.

Back at Chihuan’s art booth, he said, “As a Latino artist, I feel like it’s very hard for myself to get recognized in the art world that is mainly filled with white people,” Chihuan said. “It’s really hard when I go into a building and people look at me as though I’m a thug or something. People honestly think I don’t even create the art on this table sometimes, and that kind of diminishes me.”

But, Chihuan said those challenges “keep me going in a sense,” inspiring him to show people what he can do as an artist. He said he looked forward to the opportunity Saturday to show his work and connect with those who appreciate art.

After browsing the paintings at Chihuan’s table, Alcaraz, of Longmont, sat on a bench with her friend Liz Gutierrez to take in the rest of the festival. Alcaraz said she was interested in coming to the Celebración de la Comunidad because as a Latina, she loves dancing and was eager to dance to some Latin music.

“I had no idea Boulder would be hosting anything for the Latin community, so I was interested to see how they would set this up,” Alcaraz said. “Boulder, specifically, is known for being very white, (but) they have a huge Latin community in Boulder County. Even then, a lot of minorities feel thrown to the side and just ignored. It’s important to show them they still have a place as a part of the city and part of the community.”

Alcaraz described the richness of Latin culture and how it should be experienced by more people. She said hate crimes usually stem from ignorance and “people not understanding the beauty or sensitivity of a certain culture.”

“There needs to be more culture shown,” Alcaraz said. “Even members of the Latin community themselves don’t have any idea what our own culture is, because we aren’t exposed to it, and no one is telling us it’s OK to express your own culture.”

Sharing culture and embracing the work of local Latino artists were driving forces of Saturday’s event.

Artist Natalia Vinueza, of Boulder, was inspired by Vincent van Gogh when she created “A Starry Night in Boulder” for one of the Calwood Fire benches.

“I’ve always been inspired by (van Gogh’s) work and use of color,” Vinueza said.

Vinueza, whose parents are from Puerto Rico and Ecuador, said she was raised in both countries and also in south Florida for some of her childhood.

“As soon as I came to Boulder (in 2016), I realized there was a lot of support for artists here,” Vinueza said. “I happened to start stumbling on projects like these that were put on by the city or organizations like Chautauqua.”

Also browsing the art Saturday was Boulder County Commissioner Marta Loachamin, who represents Longmont.

“I’m a big supporter of Cal-Wood Education Center, and I’m really interested in supporting their work to a research center as well for us in Colorado,” Loachamin said. “That’s one of the reasons why it’s important to me to bring attention to the work they are doing … and encourage community members to continue to support Cal-Wood as a part of our open space, our community building and the work that Rafael Salgado (Cal-Wood’s executive director) has been doing for years that has touched a lot of young people’s lives.”

When asked about the importance of Saturday’s bilingual event, Loachamin said, “I think it’s another step in acting on being inclusive, versus telling people we’re inclusive.”

Community Art Project

To learn more or bid on the benches created from charred Calwood Fire trees, visit