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Lares Feliciano, “Gemini Season 2,” collage.
Lares Feliciano, “Gemini Season 2,” collage.
Courtesy of Lares Feliciano

Colorado Creatives: Lares Feliciano

As a bicultural artist, queer activist and simply a human helping others, Lares Feliciano is all about 24/7 community. A brand-new RedLine resident working with collage, film, animation and curation, Feliciano turns the tables every day to serve working artists and school kids as the program director for Think 360 Arts. It takes a big heart, a dollop of empathy and great will to keep all of that going at once. Learn how and why Feliciano does it all as she answers the CC questionnaire.

Lares Feliciano, an artist with a big heart.
Lares Feliciano, an artist with a big heart.
Photo by Sarah Darlene Palmeri
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Westword: What (or who) is your creative muse?

Lares Feliciano: I love digging through any kind of archive — old books, magazines, videos and photos. I can spend hours watching vintage instructional videos on archive.org or poring over a 1967 yearbook I picked up at a garage sale. It fascinates me how primary sources paint a picture of the way the world once viewed itself and how much light that sheds on how we define ourselves today. The process of sifting through these found materials feels ritualistic, like I am part witch, part detective, as I gather, deconstruct and finally piece them all together to build new meaning.

I am also really inspired by identity and the uncomfortable in-betweens that manifest throughout human experience. In a world that is so attached to binaries, I find freedom in making room for that which exists in the gray. Particularly, I am interested in queer identities, mixed-race experiences and complex expressions of grief.

Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to invite to your next party, and why?

I would love to talk shit and cast spells with these three incredible women:

Lolita Lebron, Puerto Rican nationalist and revolutionary. She was radicalized after the Ponce massacre and spent her life fighting for Puerto Rican independence.

Elvira, because she is a sassy, witchy babe, and Scared Stiff is my favorite pinball game.

Aubrey Plaza, also a sassy babe who happens to be half Puerto Rican, half Irish, just like me. We’re also both hilarious.

What’s the best thing about the local creative community in your field — and the worst?

Whether it’s the arts nonprofit world, the queer art community or makers of moving image, each scene is committed to collaboration and support. I feel like folks are always open to new ways to work together and show up for each other. I am also continually inspired by the ways Denver artists use their work to question, challenge and engage their audiences. The worst thing? Finding affordable space to work and to live is becoming increasingly hard in Denver. This isn’t news. And it isn’t a reflection on the community, but rather the economy, government priorities and the realities of late-stage capitalism.

How about globally?

The interchange of ideas and art through the Internet is boundless. It is easier than ever to produce and share work on a global scale. At the same time, it is not uncommon to see corporations rip off independent artists, mass-producing their work without the artist ever seeing a dime.

Lares Feliciano, “Rah Rah,” collage.
Lares Feliciano, “Rah Rah,” collage.
Courtesy of Lares Feliciano

What's your day job?

I am very fortunate that my day job is a perfect match to my creative practice. I am program director at Think 360 Arts for Learning, a local arts-education nonprofit that believes in cultivating and sustaining the arts as essential to all learning through creative experiences. I work closely with teaching artists and classroom teachers to create meaningful arts experiences for Colorado’s youth. This work is inspiring and energizing. Last year I facilitated a collaborative art piece with eighth-graders at Fort Logan Northgate in Sheridan. Molina Speaks led the students in writing and performing original poetry. Those same poems were then incorporated into a large-scale mural project led by Tony Ortega. The pride those students had for their work was infectious. I believe deeply in the importance of creative outlets for youth, and am so proud to work for an organization that prioritizes both student experiences and supporting local artists.

What’s your best or favorite accomplishment as an artist?

The revelation that I am not yet done.

Denver, love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?

I love Denver. I've moved around a lot in my life and call many places home. Denver is the place that has invited me to stay a while and allowed me to grow at my own pace. I was in a creative rut when I first moved here and didn’t think I’d ever get my groove back. But this city kept pushing me out of my comfort zone and introduced me to new ways of thinking about my work and art in general. My family and friends keep me grounded here — particularly my boo, my stepdaughter, my Think 360 family and the team of dreamboats that make up Secret Love Collective.

If you died tomorrow, what or whom would you come back as?

I'd really like to be a race-car driver. Or a cat.

Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?

I am part of an incredible group of humans called Secret Love Collective. Each member of the group brings a unique and valuable perspective to the whole. We are all so different, but when we come together the work is effortlessly harmonious. I can honestly say I am in love with each and every one of them. I also have to shout out Girls Rock Denver. This powerhouse group of Colorado creatives works tirelessly to create a genuinely badass space for Denver girls and gender-expansive youth to take risks and express themselves. I am so in awe of every last one of them. I am also obsessed with local beat magicians Rare Byrd$ and am constantly inspired by the brilliant artist, musician and producer Kate Perdoni.

What's on your agenda in the coming year?

So much! Just this week I will move into my studio at RedLine, where I will dive deep into animation projects that have been on the tip of my tongue for quite some time. I am so excited to join the RedLine resident artist community and allow my practice to evolve. In October, Secret Love Collective will set up shop in Understudy with our immersive installation Spooky Valentine. We will host several events, including a Halloween parade. It is going to be totally weird and wonderful! Follow us on social media for updates — you don’t want to miss it! I am also working on a series of animations called "DiaspoRican" which will explore the diversity of Puerto Ricans living in Colorado.

Lares Feliciano, “Cactus,” mixed media.
Lares Feliciano, “Cactus,” mixed media.
Courtesy of Lares Feliciano

Who do you think will (or should) get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?

Sarah Darlene Palmeri: Sarah is an abstract painter and collage artist. Her work is raw, vulnerable and beautiful. She is also seriously prolific, constantly creating new work and expanding her practice. Watch out for the Magazine Project, a project she recently showcased at Understudy and in Santa Fe.

Laura Hyunjhee Kim: I recently met Laura at the Crush Walls launch, where we were both projecting animations on the walls of the Central Market parking lot for BYOB (Bring Your Own Beamer). Shortly thereafter, I found myself in a deep hole watching the many videos on her website. She is doing really innovative digital work, and I am excited to see what she comes up with next.

Nora McBride: Nora and I shared a studio space together in Alamosa. She is a printmaker and textile artist (embroidery mostly). Nora uses nostalgia and pop culture to create weird and evocative worlds. She is a great example of the fact that brilliant creatives exist across Colorado, not just in the metro area.

The Museum of Outdoor Arts Cricket Cinema pop-up tour will present film and digital animation works by Lares Feliciano and five other Colorado digital animators at Supernova on Saturday, September 22, from noon to 8 p.m. on the 1245 Champa Street Plaza, adjacent to the Denver Performing Arts Complex in the Denver Theatre District.

Keep up with Lares Feliciano and her work at her website and on Instagram.

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