Exploring Mexican culture

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Mexican art and culture is taking center stage in Steamboat Springs this fall.

The Northwest Colorado Mexican Cultural Festival starts next week with the installation of Mexican sculptor Yvonne Domenge's large-scale, contemporary steel and wood sculpture collection called "Forgotten Cosmos" in the courtyard in front of Centennial Hall. The public art exhibit is a collaborative effort among the Steamboat Springs Arts Council, the city of Steamboat Springs and the Mexican Consulate in Denver. It will be the centerpiece of an ongoing Mexican heritage celebration on the Western Slope.

"This is a great way to honor the Mexican nationals who are living here -- a way to express their culture and heritage," said Steamboat Springs Director of Intergovernmental Services Linda Kakela.

In a cultural outreach effort, the Mexican government leases collections of Mexican art from artists such as Domenge, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera to communities around the world for temporary exhibitions. This is the first show on Colorado's Western Slope, and it is just the beginning of an ongoing focus on Mexican arts in Steamboat that will include films, music, opera and a visit Aug. 19 from the Mexican Consul General Juan Marcos Gutierrez to introduce him to the region.

"This is a high caliber cultural exchange. It was a huge opportunity," said Steamboat Springs Arts Council Executive Director Nancy Kramer. Kramer confessed that public art is one of her favorite programs, and she said she was bowled over by Domenge's fluid sculptures when she first saw them. She particularly was drawn in by Domenge's mandalas and the artist's bright red, woven structure called "Flor de Tabach-n."

Domenge creates abstract sculptures in wood, iron and bronze, sometimes allowing her metal pieces to oxidize and other times coating them with vibrant enamel colors. She plans her complex shapes and patterns in technical, geometric drawings, but her end result is sculptures that constantly chabge as the viewer moves around them.

For the Aug. 19 reception with Gutierrez, a trio of traditional mariachis playing guitar, guitarron and bass will perform. A screening of "Puro Mariachi," a 10-minute short film that premiered at the New York International Latino Film Festival, also is planned.

The arts council also will incorporate Mexican films into the Friday film series this fall.

The infusion of Mexican cultural treasures continues Dec. 11, when Emerald City Opera brings Mexican opera singer Oziel Garza-Ornelas to Steamboat for a guest performance at St. Paul's Episcopal Church.

The ongoing Northwest Colorado Mexican Cultural Festival is intended to raise awareness of Mexico's deep intellectual and artistic traditions. Domenge's sculpture exhibit is set to remain at Centennial Hall at least through Mexican Independence Day, Sept.16.

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