Top 5 of 2020- Year in review at the Firehouse Art Center

By Grace Gutierrez and Firehouse staff

After the difficult year we have all had, it is important to take time to reflect on the events that helped us grow in 2020. To celebrate those moments, we have compiled a list of our top 5 experiences that we, as an organization, are grateful for. From the simple task of painting our gallery walls gray, to events that proved even with Covid-19 restrictions our community’s resilience, we are thankful for the moments that reminded us why we do what we do. 

Helios Lucida- Unusual Suspects

June 10-July 26, 2020

Staff Pick: Elaine Waterman, The FAC’s Executive Director-

“One of my 2020 highlights would have to be Helios Lucida’s exhibit.  The Firehouse had only been open after our Covid-19 shut down for a little over a month.  It was a really dissonant time, and not how I had planned my first months as the new Executive Director.  Helios’ work was the perfect backdrop for that.  Surreal, almost abstract depending on where you focused, chaotic and different each time I looked at them, they were my friends as we tackled these ‘uncertain times’ together.”

Lucida’s exhibition included 8 vibrantly constructed paintings of various drag performers, two self-portraits, and an envisioned figure. The work was born from a “need to push portraiture beyond the figurative illustration of a subject and towards an abstract interpretation of the person”, works in the show emphasized a physical revelry in color and material. Curator Brandy Coons writes, “By choosing subject matter to include drag performers and self-portraiture, Lucida allows us to contemplate the various levels of representation, along a spectrum of self-expression with added layers of painterly creativity.” 

Helios Lucida’s exhibition, Unusual Suspects. Photos by Lisa Doane Photography.

Gray is the way- Painting the gallery gray

November 2020

Staff Pick: Brandy Coons, The FAC’s Curator- 

“As curator, I couldn’t possibly choose a favorite exhibit or artist or work that we show in the gallery, as our goal is to constantly surpass ourselves and consistently support emerging artists – I’m happy to say that I’ve been extremely proud and impressed with the work we’ve shown this year, despite the challenges that 2020 has brought us, both as an exhibiting institution but also as a community-serving center for thought-provoking ideas and human connections. 

In light of that, I landed on the time we spent painting the gallery gray for our Inktober show. We’ve kept the space white since taking down Justin Favela’s Nacimiento exhibit in January – in keeping with our presentation of the space as a “white cube” or blank slate that’s generally accepted as a modern gallery standard, giving contemporary work an environment considered “level, airy, open, neutral,” etc. It’s also very economical for a cash-strapped nonprofit, as settling on a single color makes preparing the gallery between exhibits both cheap and labor-saving. 

Our decision to change course from safe and standard this year wasn’t radical – we’ve done it before and choosing gray isn’t exactly controversial (it’s a neutral color after all), but it felt more like our normal self-challenging efforts than anything else we’ve done in the gallery this year. We’ve moved more of our work online and mostly worked from home, but Grace, our intern Chelsea Rice, and I spent two afternoons painting in early November, marking the first time I’d spent more than two hours with other people in the gallery since March. It was hard work, physical, space-changing labor, and it was refreshing and messy. My favorite. 

We’re going to have to spend a lot of staff time and money painting it white again early next year. I know it, the rest of staff knows it, and our Board knows it, but we did it anyway, because it seemed the best thing to do, to present our winter exhibits in their best possible light. The color accented the bare paper installation of Inktober, mimics a more intimate setting for the Front Range exhibit, and will work with minimal lighting to suggest an underwater environment and highlight the simple beauty of Jen Rose’s sculptural installation in January. 

My job and favorite thing at the Firehouse is planning and executing exhibits to engage our community, support artists, and to shake things up within the space; to leave visitors with a sense that they’ve seen something unique, and an itch to return. Within the full range of challenges this year has presented, taking the time to do something beyond the absolutely necessary – deciding that “a little extra” is the real necessary standard, felt really good. It felt like the Firehouse at its best, and I’m grateful we got to do it.”The Firehouse’s gray walls for the Front Range Community College Juried Exhibition. Photo by Lisa Doane Photography

 

Paula Fitzgerald, Megan Morgan, and Katie Thompson-Locavore

January 9-February 2, 2020

Staff Pick: Grace Gutierrez, The FAC’s curatorial and administrative assistant-

2020 at the Firehouse started off strong with an exhibition that included the work of Firehouse artist members and Longmont locals with Locavore. This exhibition, which showed the work of Paula Fitzgerald, Megan Morgan, and Katie Thompson, was showing before I actually started working for the Firehouse in June, but it was an excellent example of the projects I wanted to become a part of. This was a simpler time in the grand scheme of 2020. We were still blissfully unaware of the events that would unfold in the following months, but Locavore, set the tone for the importance our community plays in helping us getting through tough years. The work included was diverse yet all had a common vibrancy that I’ve come to associate with our local creatives. The Mountain, by Katie Thompson, 2020

 

Dia de los Muertos Exhibition and opening procession- 

October 9-Novemeber 9, 2020 

On the evening of October 9th, Longmont’s Dia de los Muertos celebration began with an Invocation at Roosevelt Park led by Grupo Azteca Tlahuitzcalli. Then at 6:30, the gigantes, traditional giant puppets made by local artists, departed from Roosevelt Park with the Aztec Dancers at the lead. Revelers danced with the gigantes through downtown Longmont, and ended at the steps of the Firehouse.  Once at the Firehouse, visitors were invited to view our Catrina Painting Auction, which consisted of over 35 Catrina Paintings created by local artists and sold to support the Firehouse Art Centers programming. Also on display was Día de los Muertos 2020-Our Past and Present, an exhibition consisting of three ofrendas of remembrance for local Latinx individuals we have lost. 

The exhibition, which included the work of four Colorado based Latinx artists, Cal Duran, Javier Flores, Adrian Raya, and Ramon Trujillo, was a response to local historical events that directly relate to social and political events of 2020. Altar installations celebrated the lives and legacies of Longmont locals Jeffrey “Beaver” Cordova and Juan Luis Garcia, who were killed by Longmont police in 1980, Los Seis de Boulder, 6 activists of the Chicano movement killed in a series of car bombings in Boulder, CO in 1974, and Jose Hilario Cortez, a Longmont native that faced off with Longmont’s KKK in the 1920’s. By revisiting these events, we were reminded to learn from our history and reflect on how we can communally grow. 

The event was small compared to previous years Longmont has celebrated Dia de los Muertos. However, the turnout, community response, and respect of Covid-19 regulations proved the strength of our community. With so much conversation around social injustices in 2020, we felt it was important to create a space of communal gathering for the tough conversations and mourning we needed to come out stronger in 2021.Guest Curator Grace Gutierrez and artist Ramon Trujillo installing work for Día de los Muertos 2020-Our Past and Present. Photo by Adrian Raya.

 

Art Adventures-Joyanna Gittings’ Bilingual Art show

October 2020

In collaboration with local artist Joyanna Gittings of Obra Arts and Longmont Public Media, (as well as additional support from the Longmont Rotary, Colorado Humanities and the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District), The Firehouse began recording a bilingual children’s art show called “Art Adventures” to air on Longmont’s public access channel 8.

Firehouse executive director Elaine Waterman states, “As I was developing our Zoom curriculum, I realized that students who were English-language learners, and students without reliable access to the internet, were disproportionately affected by school moving online.” Waterman and Gittings began recording the show at Longmont Public Media, where Gittings makes kid’s art projects, instructing in both English and Spanish. This offers children the opportunity to experience immersion in bilingual classes, normalizing the incorporation of foreign languages to foster a spirit of inclusivity and diversity. The first episode aired Saturday, October 3, at 9 a.m. Many of the projects feature found or recycled materials, emphasizing the accessibility of the classes and art in general.Joyanna Gittings recording “Art Adventures” at Longmont Public Media. Photo by Elaine Waterman.

 

 

 

 

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