Behind the Scenes at the DAM

DAM’s Latino Programs Celebrate Journeys & Being Home

November is proving to be a full month for art and activities that focus on our Latino community. Through art installations, brand new activity spaces, and live programs we are exploring where we came from, and where we are going.

To kick it all off, the DAM welcomed hundreds of students and parents from Valdez Elementary to spend the morning exploring the museums during the Mañanitas bilingual school program. This month, Mañanitas focused on the Mexican holiday of Día de los Muertos, which happens at the beginning of November. Students had the opportunity to explore our collections that connect to the roots of this holiday, engage in a dance performance that made the holiday come alive, and create art to remember loved ones. Día de los Muertos, ultimately is a mezcla, a blending of indigenous and European beliefs and traditions that have come together over time and space. This cultural blending has characterized Latin American culture, across the Americas, for generations.

Two new activities in the New World collection that are open to DAM visitors—the Creative Crossroads create corner, and the Cups and Crowns Create-n-Take—highlight just such cultural crossroads in South America. Colonial-era Peru was the home of some of the most advanced indigenous cultures in the world and rich in natural resources. With a thriving trade in silver, gems, textiles, and agriculture and convenient ports on the Pacific, colonial Peru welcomed goods and settlers from across Europe, Africa, and Asia. Artists there were from diverse cultural backgrounds and found inspiration from travels around the world.

In the Creative Crossroads create corner, you can mix different images on objects and be inspired to see what becomes when many different things come together in one. This activity space allows you to experiment with diverse inspirations any time you visit the museum. If you find yourself in the space on a weekend, mix motifs to create adornments based on our silver collections in the Cups and Crowns Create-n-Take. The Spanish became a wealthy empire because of the silver found in the mountains of Peru. The artists that worked the silver were usually local, and were inspired by their indigenous arts as well as the styles imported from Europe. As you work, you can use designs that came from inspiration found along these colonial connections, or come up with new ones based on your own experiences. 

As is said, all roads lead to home. With that in mind, the DAM has reinstalled ¿Being Home?  The artist, Rupprecht Matthies asked community participants to create a word that means “home” for them. You may note several words in the installation are in a variety of languages, including Spanish. In a video you can watch in the space shows that many of the participants who created words for this piece were refugees and immigrants. Some participated in the programs of Centro San Juan Diego, a resource and community center for Denver’s Latino immigrants. Most of the words come from individuals who themselves had completed long journeys from their homes to build new homes in our community.

Whether we live in the same place where we were born or travelled leagues for a new experience, we can all relate to themes of travelling caminos or being home. At the DAM, we invite you to use your imagination to explore where you are or where you came from whether literally or simply as a state of mind.

Madalena Salazar is the Latino cultural programs coordinator in the education department at the Denver Art Museum. Madalena has been at the DAM since 2011 and her favorite artwork that has been on view here is Mud Woman Rolls On. This piece reminds her of home, family, and community and serves as inspiration for her practice as a museum educator at the DAM.