Lisa Villanueva has been turned away from many Colorado galleries for being “too different,” a phrase she believes is used to camouflage the real criticism: too Afrocentric.

A few years ago, the artist/activist/community advocate found her home at Cottonwood Center for the Arts. This month, she collaborated with Brandon Bornes, co-founder of My Black Colorado, and Jess Preble, director of curation at Cottonwood, to put on a Juneteenth-inspired exhibit that celebrates community and freedom.

Twelve artists with an ethnic connection to the Black experience are featured in the Cottonwood Community Juneteenth Celebration. “When I was talking to artists, they were inspired by seeing other Black artists and creatives, and it inspired them to want to do more and create more,” says Bornes. (Borne’s magazine, My Black Colorado, features a directory of Black creatives, leaders, owners and businesses in the area.)

Annie Pieper, the director of education at Cottonwood, says the art ranges in both medium and theme: “Some of the pieces are thematically connected to the struggles of the African American community. Some are not. Some are about just peace.”

The team behind the exhibit hopes it will be an opportunity to reflect on history and an opportunity to shape the present and future, a way to welcome people of color and artists of color into studios. “What better a way [than] to invite them on Juneteenth, a day, or a month, that we really celebrate our freedom,” says Villanueva.

Like all artists, Villanueva’s experiences inform her art. But her identity as an artist is multifaceted, extending beyond the singular label of “Black”: “[T]hey look at me, and they say, ‘Oh, you’re a Black artist?’ And I say, “No, yeah, I’m Black. But I’m an artist. [And they’ll say], ‘But you do Black art?’ And I’m like: No, you shouldn’t put that label on it.”

“[T]he Black and brown community is more than just Black Lives Matter,” she says. “We’re about diversity, proud heritage, cultural connection and just a sense of pride that should be celebrated always.”

Fostering diversity and inclusion in the arts community is about collaboration. “It’s about partnering with those people that know how to reach that community,” says Villanueva. “And you have to be willing to do that. You have to be willing to support that.”

A closing reception will be held on June 25 from 3-5 p.m.

Colorado Springs Juneteenth Festival 


Three days filled with entertainment, reflection and community will honor and celebrate Juneteenth — June 19, 1865, the end of slavery in the United States.

It starts at 1 p.m. Friday, June 18, and closes out the weekend Sunday with a 6 p.m. show — Tony Exum Jr.’s Rhythm N Smooth Experience with R&B group Surface and ’90s hit-makers SHAI.

It’s free, and it all happens at America the Beautiful Park, 126 Cimino Drive.

See csjuneteenthfestival.com/lineup for a full schedule.

Fatherhood Up Close


Arriving Just in time for Father’s Day on Sunday, Springs Ensemble Theatre is streaming  Fatherhood Up Close, a collection of monologues, short scenes, poems and music that explores the father/child relationship and is “at turns hilarious, gut-wrenching, and heartwarming.”

They are all original works by local writers brought to life by SET co-directors with performances by SET members and guest artists. You can watch Fatherhood Up Close from June 17 through July 4.

Tickets are $5-$20 at springsensembletheatre.org. Watch it with your Pop.

The Screaming Skull


This is the second of four outdoor evenings of vintage terror brought to you by the Heller Center for Arts & Humanities at UCCS.

Alex Nichol’s 1958 horror fest The Screaming Skull is about a just-married couple who come home from their honeymoon to a houseful of weird noises.

Is it just new-marriage jitters or the ghost of the groom’s first wife?

The free screening is tonight (June 16) at 8 p.m. at 1250 North Campus Heights. Snacks are provided, but wear a mask, stay socially distant, and bring lawn chairs and blankets. See heller.uccs.edu/cinema-series for more.