Not content to only be a professional photographer, Colorado native Carina Bañuelos-Harrison serves cultural and art-related communities as a social-justice fighter and public-art administrator/curator for the City of Aurora. She’s also a mom, but still finds time to support and work with artists of color on projects with political underpinnings. Bañuelos-Harrison talks about the importance of appreciating one’s roots, personal heroes and how the public art process can be improved as she answers the Colorado Creatives questionnaire.
Westword: What (or who) is your creative muse?
Carina Bañuelos-Harrison: I would have to say my Latinx art community and culture are my creative muse. I find so much inspiration in the constant support I obtain from my family and artist friends. Working on different projects with my community and seeing the projects come to fruition (from beginning to end) and seeing the result be so impactful collectively is tremendously fulfilling.
Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to invite to your next party and why?
The Mexican photographer Graciela Iturbide has been so inspiring to me from the minute I was made aware of her work while studying art history; Floyd Tunson, my high-school art instructor and the first person to make me step out of my artistic comfort zone; and Justin Favela, my friend and mentor, who reminds me to keep creative friends close and work together because “visibility leads to representation, and representation matters.” All three are artists of color just like myself and have been a part of shaping my creative path. It would be interesting to hear what inspires and drives each one of them, as well as the group’s similar creative ideas, not to mention there would be so much laughter, good food and music.
What’s the best thing about the local creative community in your field — and the worst?
Not only do I work as a local artist/photographer, but I also work in the field of public art. Currently, I am one of two staff members in the City of Aurora’s Art in Public Places. One of the best things about my field is that I get to work with a variety of artists from local and national creative communities. I would say the worst thing is that we continue to see a lack of representation by artists who are part of marginalized communities within platforms like galleries, museums and public art.
What made you pick up a camera in the first place?
Taking art classes as a teenager, one of the most memorable art lessons was that of the pinhole camera. I remember making a camera out of a large silver paint can. After that I was pretty much captivated with photography. I learned to develop my own black-and-white film and worked on photos in the darkroom. I was fortunate enough to go to college and study photography, and after that I have been able to independently work as a photographer and creative.
Denver (or Colorado), love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
I was born and raised in Colorado and briefly lived in Texas and California, but Colorado is my home. I also want my two children to grow up here and appreciate Colorado as much as I do. As a photographer, I also think about the natural sunlight Colorado has, as well as the backdrop of the beautiful mountains.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
This coming year I will officially launch my own art-curating business. I am founder, curator and photographer for Art and Color. Most important, I am an advocate for artists and art organizations that are part of marginalized communities; helping artists exhibit their work in art spaces and other locations is a personal passion and commitment. I bring the lens of intersectionality and equity, because my own experience and involvement in the art world has observed that this component is/has been missing.
Who do you think will (or should) get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
I would have to say Jasmine Baetz should get noticed in the local arts community. Jasmine is currently a ceramics MFA student and graduate teacher program lead at the University of Colorado Boulder (my alma mater). I reached out to her a few months back about giving my family and me a tour of a public art sculpture, “Los Seis de Boulder,” a monument that commemorates the Chicano movement and, specifically, six students and social-justice activists who were killed in two separate car bombings in Boulder back in the ’70s. Before Jasmine’s idea to create the memorial came to be, there had been no memorial in existence to remind the community or campus of the serious events that happened to these students.
Learn more about Carina Bañuelos-Harrison and her work at her website, on Facebook and Instagram.