Activism

A Fresh Lens: CPAC Takes Over Month of Photography for 2021

"The Queen" will be on display at the Colorado Photographic Arts Center as part of Month of Photography.
"The Queen" will be on display at the Colorado Photographic Arts Center as part of Month of Photography. Alanna Airitam
Samantha Johnston and her small but mighty team at the Colorado Photographic Arts Center are hard at work developing Denver's next Month of Photography. The biennial festival, which celebrates photography in all of its forms, will start in March.

This will be the first year that Johnston has led the project since photographer and curator Mark Sink, who built MOP from scratch, handed her the reins in 2019. Not surprisingly, it's a rough time to organize a region-wide event. For months, as her own organization has struggled to keep exhibitions and workshops safe and funding coming in, Johnston has also been planning a MOP that will work during a pandemic. With her small team, she's been organizing community meetings, building a new website, reaching out to spaces, working on a printed guide, and recruiting artists to participate.

"The festival is going to happen," Johnston says. "But it’s going to look different."

Still, she has a major impetus for moving forward with the month-long event: The art form has played such a crucial role in helping people understand what's going on in the world, connecting them not just to the stories of COVID-19 and the anti-racist protests that swept the country, but the emotion behind them, too.
Román Anaya's work will be on display at Union Hall as part of the Mirror Mirror exhibition. - ROMÁN ANAYA
Román Anaya's work will be on display at Union Hall as part of the Mirror Mirror exhibition.
Román Anaya
So far, MOP has eighty events scheduled for March, both online and in person at 55 participating spaces; they include workshops, exhibitions, lectures, panels and more. While Sink will be leading The Big Picture, his annual wheat-pasting project, CPAC will collaborate with SaveArtSpace on billboards around town as well as the Denver Theatre District's Night Light Denver on a month-long series of projections on the Daniels & Fisher Tower.


Johnston is eager to share CPAC's Reflecting Voices: Alanna Airitam, Narkita Gold and Rashod Taylor; in the meantime, she notes that people can already see Zanele Muholi's work as part of Hail the Dark Lioness at the Center for Visual Art. In particular, she's looking forward to MOP elevating the work of BIPOC photographers, helping create empathy between viewers and artists as they explore social issues.

"Pictures allow us to have that conversation and think about things from a different perspective," Johnston explains. "It’s different than someone talking about it or reading an article. ... How do we use art as a tool to break these barriers down? I’m excited to have all of this happen and still bring the community together and have these conversations."

For more information, go to the Month of Photography website
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Kyle Harris has been Westword’s Culture Editor since 2016, writing about the arts, music and film.
Contact: Kyle Harris