Denver native, photographer and set designer Charlie Billingsley believes that Black women and girls should be seen and heard. Her mission to give creative women of color not only a voice, but a living, physical presence in the community has coalesced into the Museum for Black Girls, an interactive, multi-room pop-up display Billingsley created with help from a hand-picked all-female crew of local Black artists and creatives. With its themed rooms with names like “Vibe Room,” “Grandma’s Kitchen” and “Iconic Black Women” designed to evoke the cultural experiences and dynamics common to the Black girl experience, Billingsley’s immersive museum has become a hot spot for Black women and girls in Denver.
How did Billingsley realize this dream, and what’s next in her future? Find answers as she takes on the Colorado Creatives questionnaire.
Westword: What (or who) is your creative muse?
Charlie Billingsley: Black women! All of them! My daughter, of course, and my son.
Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to invite to your next party, and why?
Beyoncé. Because duh (lol), but also because she loves creating experiences, and she is working so hard to amplify the voices of Black women and people of color in general. She is also inspiring us through her music to go after our dreams and love our black features. I love that about her.
What is the Museum for Black Girls, and what makes it so great?
The Museum for Black Girls is a vibrant, immersive, beautiful space, celebrating and uplifting Black women and girls all over the world. It is a place where Black girls can feel seen, safe, heard and encouraged to be just who they are. We don't have very many spaces like this, so it's amazing that we were able to create something so special. The energy in this space is absolutely beautiful. Anyone can enter here to see how impactful and influential Black women have been to our culture and our society. Little girls can see positive images of girls that look just like them, which we unfortunately do not see very often. This is a place where girls can come in wondering if they can do anything in the world, and if it's even possible, and leave inspired knowing that they can do anything in the world. You can find this year’s Museum for Black Girls exhibit in RiNo in a space owned by EDENS, a real estate owner, operator and developer.
What’s your dream project?
Building a “Black Girl Magic” set for the queen bee Beyoncé herself or taking photos of her!
Denver (or Colorado), love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
Denver is an amazing city. I am from here. Denver is my heart. I graduated from East High School and grew up in Park Hill. We have the best sunsets. This will always be home. However, the culture for people of color just isn't here. We are working on it, though — our local artists, DJs, content creators and creatives are truly working on it! So I have high hopes that we will get there. But we need more support.
What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?
Provide spaces and make the resources more accessible, for people of color specifically. Denver is wonderful in providing arts spaces and accepting art; however, it has not been easily accessible for Black people. Creating more opportunity or thinking of us when opportunities arrive is a way to help the arts. There are so many amazing artists of color here.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
Danae Simone — she works her tail off. I love watching her journey, watching her grow and create opportunities for other female artists.
What's on your agenda now and in the coming year?
The Museum for Black Girls, for now. We are here for a limited time in this space. So it is my hope to extend our stay here and to also travel with this exhibit and continue providing more opportunities for other artists!
Who do you think will (or should) get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
Moe Gram, for sure, and some of our own artists that are here in the Museum for Black Girls. They really pushed and challenged themselves in the space, and I am so proud. So definitely look out for them. Some of these artists include Aisha Glenn-Bracey with Balloon POP Studio, Kayla Washington and AunJanee Niblett, the artists of our cloud room.
The Museum for Black Girls is open daily except Mondays at 1439 26th Street through April. Learn more and buy timed-entry tickets, $15 to $25, at The Museum for Black Girls. The museum is also hosting an immersive installation/set design workshop for artists with Moe Gram on Monday, March 15 at 2 p.m.; learn more here. Follow the Museum for Black Girls on Facebook and Instagram.
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