By Eric Heinz
Before a corner unit of the Holiday Theater is leased, it will continue to house an exhibit showcasing Northside Denver artists.
The exhibition, titled “Northside Pride,” was installed in April and is expected to last until September, or until the theater’s owners find a tenant, according to members of the Northside Arts Collective, which put on the display at the corner of 32nd Avenue and Clay Street.
Florence “Flo” Hernandez-Ramos, the humble and not-so-willing-to-be-called “main organizer” of the project, said her role was just “a part of” the Northside Arts Collective. Her colleagues gave her more credit than that, however, with one collective member saying her idea to host the exhibition was a “stroke of genius.”
“We’re kind of a nomadic exhibition in the sense that we don’t know how long it lasts,” said Hernandez-Ramos, who is one of the co-founders and 23-year president of KUVO 89.3 FM radio station, which primarily features jazz and Latino music.
She also participated in the Chicano student movement at the University of Colorado in Boulder, according to her radio station bio.
Sylvia Montero, one of the artists featured in the display, said some of the artwork may be for sale or featured in a museum, or the works could be performative pieces. The display is essentially meant to celebrate the creative minds from the Northside.
“They could be anywhere in the country,” Montero said. “All of these are Northside artists who have lived in the Northside forever and whose families have lived on the Northside.”
Artwork featured in this particular display will not be changed throughout its stay, although the collective is looking for other businesses who might want to feature the artists in their windows, Montero said.
What happens after the Northside Arts Collective leaves remains to be seen, but she said she has some ideas that could benefit its neighboring high school.
“We’re just filling the windows until they can get someone who can afford the rent to open up a shop,” she said. “We’re hoping that it’s a coffee shop, somewhere that the students and the children of North High School can come to sit together to have coffee, to have a place of gathering, but, you know, that’s not up to us.”
The empty storefront has been a quinceñera store and was most recently a frozen yogurt shop. Collective member Maruca Salazar hopes it becomes a permanent art gallery.
The Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) is under a long-term lease for the building, which is owned by the Denver Cultural Property Trust.
“It is so important to not just allow for a company like MCA to come into the neighborhood, but to also have MCA recognize the talent and the value of the Chicano and Latino people in this area,” Salazar said. “For that to happen, we need to promote the idea that art is intrinsically to our community.”
The banners that have Northside Pride labeled on them were created by Mercedes Hernandez, who said the theater’s history provides a deeper meaning for preserving the Northside’s history. “
Part of the influence and inspiration for the Northside pride was the Holiday Theater … it’s a Latino theater,” Hernandez said. “It was Mexican movies, Mexican artists, a big gathering for the Mexican population that used to be dominant here. We thought that it’s important to emphasize the fact that it was a Latino-influenced theater.”
Some of the artists featured in the display include Colorado Poet Laureate Bobby LeFebre, Holiday Theater and Beall Family historian Carmen Deina Beall, the Latinx Leadership Class of North High School’s photographers and poets, and more.