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Santa Fe Art District's oldest Chicano gallery gets a new home

The Chicano Humanities and Arts Council returns thanks to a generous donation
Posted at 6:48 AM, Sep 12, 2023

DENVER — Denver’s Santa Fe Art District comes alive every first Friday of the month. Soon, the bustling art walk will have another stop: A new home for one of the district’s oldest galleries.

“CHAC was the first gallery down here, as far as I know,” said Rebecca Rozales, an artist who grew up in the neighborhood and serves on the board for CHAC, the Chicano Humanities and Arts Council.

CHAC started out in 1978 to support Denver's Chicano artists and had a gallery space on Santa Fe for more than two decades. But gentrification, rising rent and the COVID-19 pandemic made it impossible for the gallery to stay open.

“We were without a brick and mortar for about two and a half years,” Rozales said.

Even still, through partnerships with other galleries, and a new spot in the 40 West Arts District in Lakewood, CHAC continued exhibiting and teaching Latinx arts.

"We weren't going to let it go,” Rozales said.

Then, in March, CHAC learned they’d soon be the owners of a gallery space at 834 Santa Fe. Kyle Schneider, the son of the late Denver artist Katherine Payge, donated the space to CHAC completely free of cost.

"For [CHAC] being able to come back here because of kind-hearted people in this world, it makes me believe in humanity a little bit more,” said Erika Lara, a student at the Metropolitan State University of Denver who volunteers with CHAC through a Chicano and Chicana studies program called Journey Through our Heritage.

Lara said that growing up, she didn’t see her Salvadoran or Mexican heritage celebrated through art.

“Being able to come here and have the opportunity to see people who represent me is really helpful within my journey of learning about who I am within my culture,” she said.

Isaiah Flores, who also volunteers with CHAC, said it’s important for the gallery to return to Santa Fe, not just for Chicanos .

"You can get together, have community, collaborate and be present with people who are like-minded and really care about the community,” Flores said. “To have that third space, between work and home, that doesn't really exist in our society anymore.”

CHAC will open its first exhibit at the Santa Fe location for Day of the Dead on Oct. 6, and the group will keep its space in Lakewood's 40 West Art District and continue partnerships with other galleries.

CHAC is asking for community support to fund renovations of its new gallery, through donations and new memberships.

Rozales invites the community to stop by the new space.

“We always open our doors to everyone, and that's what we love about CHAC,” she said.