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"Emergence I" by Veronica Herrera and Lola Montejo. Courtesy of Veronica Herrera and Lola Montejo

Inside Pink Progression: Collaborations at the Arvada Center

Meant to inspire social change, the timely, free exhibit opening this week showcases pieces created by mostly Colorado-based artists who found ways to work together in the social distancing era.

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When local artist Anna Kaye chose the theme of collaboration for the summer 2020 show she was helping to curate at the Arvada Center, she couldn’t have known that the months leading up to its debut would be the most isolating many Coloradans had ever experienced. But the backdrop of COVID-19-induced social distancing simply adds another layer of meaning and complexity to the works of the 150-plus artists participating in Pink Progression: Collaborations (July 2 through November 8).

The theme was in part an effort to reach beyond the existing members of Pink Progression, an artist collective Kaye founded in the wake of the first Women’s March in 2017; since then, it has put on a variety of exhibitions, workshops, and other events to promote discussion about human rights and equality. In that spirit of inclusivity, Kaye asked creatives, as they signed on for the Arvada Center show, to choose other artists with whom to partner. The exercise resulted in diverse pairings of painters and poets, muralists and musicians. “I like that it’s not just me who’s selecting—that everyone who’s in the show has a say [about who’s involved],” Kaye says. “The theme of collaboration was really important because it inspires social change. Nobody can create social change unless they have support.”

Spread across three galleries, many of the mixed-media works have feminist themes, some encouraged by this year’s 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. But much like at the Women’s Marches, you’ll also find other causes represented, including issues around the way women of color were left out of the original suffrage movement and ongoing voter suppression. “It’s a critique and a celebration of that milestone,” Kaye says, adding that because she’s not preselecting pieces and artists are free to create around whatever is top of mind for them, “the works end up being very multidimensional, emphasizing collective issues that confront us and transformational ways of finding common ground” on topics as varied as gender identity, immigration, and environmental concerns.

While pieces like “The Ties That Bind”—a clay, fabric, and metal corset by Tya Alisa Anthony and Kimberly Putnam—speak to meta themes of commonality (in this case, the shared experiences of cultural and societal restrictions on women of different races), there will also be behind-the-scenes information on how the artists worked together despite required physical distancing. “Every artist has their own variation of how they were affected or weren’t, so that’s woven into statements that will accompany the artwork,” Kaye says. “During this time of isolation, any way that we can feel connected is really important, and this show provides us those connections.”

There’s even an opportunity to get involved yourself: A few Arvada Center walls are reserved for anyone who submits a design to Kaye via email (pinkprogression@gmail.com) or regular mail (Pink Progression, P.O. Box 151279, Lakewood, Colorado, 80215). She’s already received more than 500 images, which she’s transferred onto 2.25-inch circular buttons, and she’ll continue to accept submissions and add them to the collection through the end of the show (at which point creators can pick up their pins or leave them for Pink Progression’s archive). The exercise is meant to strengthen viewers’ bonds, much like the collaborative nature of the show did for the artists. “We can get through this,” Kaye says, “together.”

If you go: Pink Progression: Collaborations will be on view at the Arvada Center from July 2 through November 8. Visit the Arvada Center’s website to reserve a free ticket for an hourlong time slot with a maximum of 25 guests. Temperature checks and face masks will be required for entry.

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