Last spring the operators of the Chicano Humanities and Arts Council, or CHAC, announced that skyrocketing rents had forced the gallery out of its longtime home at 772 and 774 Santa Fe Drive. The news signaled a historic change in Denver's Art District on Santa Fe, making many wonder if longtime galleries could afford to stay in the gentrifying neighborhood.
CHAC made the announcement that it was moving in April, set up a GoFundMe fundraiser, threw a yard sale, raised money at a barbecue and moved into a new building, five blocks south, at 222 Santa Fe Drive, in July. On August 3, the gallery officially reopened its doors.
"The community has been super-supportive," says Jay Michael Jaramillo, CHAC's event coordinator and son of one of the council's founding members, Jerry Jaramillo. "Every First Friday has been packed since our opening on August 3. We're now kind of the beginning of the Santa Fe arts district down south."
Since its beginnings in 1978, CHAC has been working to provide a space for Chicano visual and performative artists in Denver — a tradition the organization is continuing.
Jaramillo says that the new space is bigger than the original one. Instead of galleries being broken up into two buildings, CHAC now has one large room farther south on Santa Fe Drive, which has helped unify recent shows. The grand opening alone included two parent-child collaborations, one between Jaramillo and his father and another between founder Carlos Sandoval and his daughter.
"It was great to bring in the new while still staying true to the organization by serving those Latin roots," Jaramillo says.
Other shows have included the Día de los Muertos show in October and an annual Christmas Mercado in December.
While CHAC has been open for every First Friday since August, January offers a show looking toward the future of the space and the Latinx community: The Next Generation, which spotlights artists ages thirty and younger.
"Expect to see stories told through the lens of children, and the evolving art of emerging artists who are making an impact with art as their vehicle for change," says Jaramillo. "There are artists ranging from kindergarten all the way up through grad school."
The show also includes a collaboration through Metro State University's Journey Through Our Heritage project with public schools, which encourages students to explore "African American, Native American Chicano/a, Mexicana/o, Mexican American and Latina/o Studies." This opening will include works by students involved in the arts in Denver schools like North, Thornton and Lincoln high schools, a team of artists from Sydney High School in Sydney, Nebraska, and also works by Yohel Yurilca from Peru.
"CHAC is featuring the art of our youth in order to tell the stories that are important to the young people that are our future in this world," Jaramillo explains. "The young people who are showing at CHAC in January 2019 have progressive thinking, gentle hearts and talent that is undeniable."
Jaramillo says that with this show, and all those moving forward, the gallery should feel like the CHAC visitors have known for the past forty years. But there will be some changes.
With a new space and a new year, CHAC will be expanding and shifting some of the themes in its calendar. For example, February has traditionally been the month for the Milagros del Corazón show — a Valentine's Day fundraiser that translates to "miracle of the heart." That will now be called The Heart of Art.
October's exhibit will focus on Southwestern folklore, and in November, CHAC will host a Celebration of Life beginning around Día de los Muertos.
New shows coming to the gallery include Amor Es Amor (Love Is Love) in June, which will celebrate the LGBTQ+ people within the Latinx community. "We want to be open to all communities," Jaramillo explains. "This is one relationship we really want to bridge the gap between."
Jaramillo says the gallery welcomes Latinx artists to submit their work to the space in the new year and to continue being a part of the art district's story.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
"Our community has really stepped up since the move, with members stepping up into more advisory-committee roles," he says.
CHAC hopes The Next Generation, which opens tonight, will not only celebrate the youth in the Chicano and Latinx arts scene but will continue the tradition CHAC set out to preserve since 1978.
"Expect to experience the cultural community that CHAC has cultivated for generations, which continues at our new gallery space," Jaramillo says.
The Next Generation opens at 5 p.m. tonight, January 4, and runs through January 29 at CHAC, 222 Santa Fe Drive. Learn more on the CHAC website.