Art Base, a nonprofit cultural center in Basalt, is working with youth from the town's Latino immigrant community to create dream homes through art. Led by local artist Ajax Axe, the project is helping twelve young men and one young woman, some DREAMers and others recently arrived immigrants, to explore the concept of home and connect to where they live today.
Basalt is where many workers who serve the wealthy ski haven of Aspen live, and the economic gap between the two towns is stark.
"It's weird for them to live in this small community with such a big disparity," Ajax says. "There's this disenfranchisement...kids want to participate in events that are popular here, like skiing, but can't because of money, language."
All the participating students are enrolled in the English Language Development program at Basalt High School led by Leticia Ingram, the 2016 Colorado Teacher of the Year.
Students started working on September 18 and will finish up before a gallery opening on November 10; the show will run through December 22. Collectively, the group designed the town for the mural and decided to use cardboard with gold, black and white paint for the houses. Also as a group, they've been working on answering a question: How do we know when we're home?
"We've talked about this a lot; safety and being homesick for families that are in other countries were topics that came up. I don't know if they get to talk about this stuff. That's been my takeaway," Ajax says.
While the participants in the project are all immigrants, their experiences of coming to Colorado were vastly different. Some came from Mexico, some from El Salvador, and one from Honduras. Their diverse backgrounds are shown in how they interpret an ideal home. Some stuck to traditional looks; others created futuristic designs.
Each home will be presented as a part of a collage in a larger mural, which will be revealed at the gallery opening. Members of the community will be invited to see the group's dream homes and to color in blank spaces of the mural to contribute their visions of home.
Home: Unpacking Self and Place opens at 5 p.m. Friday, November 10, and runs through December 22 at the Charles J. Wyly Gallery at the Art Base, 99 Midland Spur in Basalt. For more information, call 970-927-4123.