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Mancos Creative District receives grant for “We All Belong” art project

Multimedia project to highlight diversity
The Western Excelsior building in Mancos after it burned down in a fire in May 2017. A new art project by the Mancos Creative District will include a sculpture made from the building’s remains.

With a recently awarded Arts in Society grant, the Mancos Creative District plans to spend this summer sparking conversation among Montezuma County’s diverse communities.

Each year, RedLine Contemporary Art Center in Denver administers a grant program designed to fund art projects that deal with social issues. On April 19, the Creative District became one of 22 organizations and artists across the state to receive the grant, which is partly funded by its governing body, Colorado Creative Industries. The grant includes $36,000 to fund a lengthy, multimedia project called “We All Belong,” which will highlight immigration issues and the diversity of life experiences in Montezuma County.

Christine Costello, the program manager for Creative Industries, said the Arts in Society grant is available to any nonprofit in the state, as well as individual artists. The panel that reviews applications for the grant looks for projects that involve partnerships with a variety of artists, and engage with issues beyond those normally associated with the arts.

“We All Belong” will include a Raven Narratives storytelling event, a documentary short and a sculpture project, Creative District board member Rena Wilson said. Each section of the project will aim to highlight the diversity of the Mancos area.

“There are all kinds of people here who we want to bring to the forefront,” Wilson said.

The Raven Narratives event, scheduled for Oct. 19 and 20, will feature stories from local immigrants, Native Americans, ranchers and others who make up the Mancos population, all on the theme of belonging. The event will close out Raven Narratives’ 2018 season with performances at the Sunflower Theatre and Durango Arts Center.

The documentary, which is being made in partnership with Durango filmmaker John Sheedy, will largely focus on immigration, Wilson said. It will feature the story of Mexican national Rosa Sabido, who is approaching her one-year anniversary of living in sanctuary at the Mancos Methodist Church after her one-year stay of removal application was denied by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

For the sculpture part of the project, Wilson said the Creative District will hold a competition for local artists who want to create something to commemorate the Western Excelsior plant fire last May, which resulted in the loss of almost 100 jobs. The sculpture will incorporate scrap metal the District saved from the destroyed building.

Along with the grant, the Creative District will gain access to meetings with a “Learning Community,” made up of other grantees and experts in various fields, throughout its first granted year.

Creative District grant writer Carol Mehesy said “We All Belong” will kick off at the first Grand Summer Nights event on May 26, but most of the big projects, like the documentary, will start in the fall.

“We’re exploring what makes Mancos a community of belonging,” she said. “It has a good history of building that kind of community.”

RedLine announced the 2018 grant recipients at its annual gala on April 19. A total of about $480,000 was awarded to the selected projects. Mancos was one of two Creative Districts to receive the award, along with Carbondale Arts, which will use the money to build a sculpture for its Latino Folk Art Garden.

This was the second grant cycle for the Arts in Society program since it started in 2016, and the first time Mancos was awarded a grant. In addition to Colorado Creative Industries, the program is funded by the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation and the Hemera Foundation.

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