Q&A: A Closer Look at PlatteForum’s New Summer Exhibits

courtesy-of-platteforum/facebook

Photo courtesy PlatteForum/Facebook

Since 2002, PlatteForum, an innovative arts education and youth development organization, has been serving close to 4,000 inner-city, underserved youth, their families and the public by providing in-depth, curriculum-based arts education and mentoring relationships between youth and professional artists who work in residency at PlatteForum.

The award-winning nonprofit is showcasing two new exhibitions this summer: “The Big Game,” an event created by resident artist Kyle Peets and PlatteForum’s ArtLab interns, and the Temple Artists Group Exhibition, presented in partnership with Black Cube, opening Aug. 3 at PlatteForum, 2400 Curtis St.

We caught up with Peets and Ariana Romero, of the Temple exhibit to learn more.

THE BIG GAME

From Peets, a performance and conceptual installation artist from Ashland, Ore., “The Big Game” is a performance piece on activist athletes and how much they’ve had to sacrifice throughout history. Set in 2117, this is a post-apocalyptic version of the world left in ruins by capitalist-fed greed and violence, where athletes have acquired a sense of duty to invent a new sport in order to bring new life and light and to restore what has been lost.

What was the inspiration?

“It came from the things I was reading and thinking about, broadly speaking, sports and art. I always felt that my love for sports was my dirty little secret as an artist, like it was fundamentally opposed to my identity as an artist. I like sports but I want them to be better. For example, I would love it if we could do away with the toxic masculinity, homophobia, sexism or racism. I wanted to use sports to explore art and art to explore sports. This project presented itself as a chance explore the intersection of sports, politics and community-engaged art.”

Why is the story/message important to you?

“This project’s message is to be critical of what appears normalized … to fight against inequality and oppression. In 100 years from now, the only athletes to matter enough to be included in the history books will be the activist athletes. The activist athletes who take tremendous risks to their personal health and their careers to take stands against inequality and oppression are not as well known as they should be. One of the project’s aims is to use those activist athletes as remote mentors to help us be better but to also honor their work and lives.”

Why “capitalist-fed greed & violence”?

“If you look at the history of violence: racism, nationalism, colonialism, the exploitation of the natural world, the girth of terrible human behavior can be traced to the accumulation of capital and the desire for ownership. That kind of greed warps our sense of humanity and turns against humanity itself. It turns us against each other by justifying division and oppression. So when I was imagining scenarios that could actually destroy the world 100 years from now, I just carried that logic forward and it was either that or climate change.”

Who are some of your favorite un-sung activist athletes/heroes?

“Here are two amazing people: Ibtihaj Muhammed and Mahmoud Abdul Rauf. Ibtihaj Muhammed who was the first Muslim American woman to medal in the Olympics (2016 Rio Summer Games) and the first American woman to compete while wearing a hijab.”

TEMPLE ARTISTS GROUP EXHIBITION

PlatteForum teamed with the nomadic art museum Black Cube to feature the work of Temple building studio artists Drew Austin, Taylor Balkissoon, Carol Browning, Kahlil Cezanne, Christopher Perez, Thomas Evans (DETOUR), Sandra Fettingis, Jason Lee Gimbel, Xavian Lahey, Viviane Le Courtois, Katie Martineau-Caron, Suchitra Mattai, Lewis Neeff, Lori Owicz, George P Perez, Karen Roehl, Regan Rosburg, Dylan Scholinsk and Frankie Toan, among others.

The exhibit, fully curated by PlatteForum’s ArtLab interns, many of whom have recently graduated from high school, opens Aug. 3 with a free, public reception from 6-8 p.m. at PlatteForum, and runs through Sept. 1.

courtesy-of-platteforum-artlab

Courtesy PlatteForum/ArtLab

Ariana Romero, who graduated in 2017 from Denver’s East High School, gave us an inside look at the exhibit.

How were the three different zones of the exhibit created?

“We all had different social issues we wanted to address and breaking into groups helped us address more issues. My group, in particular, wanted to address race and identity and when we selected the artists we looked at it from the view of how the art represented the issue instead of our personal preference for the work.”

What have you learned?

“I learned how to put my personal bias aside when working with artists—you won’t like every artist’s work so you have to focus on how it fits in with the overall show and message you want to convey. I also learned that every artist has their own way of working with curators so you have to adjust to different styles.”

What do you hope to do after high school? 

“I’m starting at Metro State in the fall and will be majoring in marketing. During my senior year of high school, I started my own apparel, art and accessories online store and will continue working on that. Eventually, I’d like to design a clothing line for people with normal-size bodies without the stigma of the “plus-size” label. Women with curves should appreciate their beauty and practice self-love.”

Why is art important to you?

“In my culture, you can be labeled as a cry-baby or being over dramatic when you talk about things like depression and anxiety. Art makes it easier to embrace emotion and talk about serious issues.”

For more information on PlatteForum and these exhibits, visit the organization’s website.

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