Raven Chacon Brings Intercultural Interactions as Artist-in-Residence

by Leah Veldhuisen ’19

Interdisciplinary artist Raven Chacon is the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College’s first Mellon Grant Artist-in-Residence, and is an internationally known performer, composer, educator, and artist. He currently has an exhibit, “Lightning Speak”, at the FAC and worked with professors Carrie Ruiz, Spanish and Portuguese; and Vicki Levine, Music; to teach the Block 2 course Song, Poetry, and Performance in the Southwest.

The interdisciplinary course was bilingual, and cross-listed between the Departments of Music, Spanish and Portuguese, and Race, Ethnicity, and Migration Studies. This is the first time CC has offered the course and Levine says she would absolutely teach it again. Intercultural performance and collaboration were essential themes to the course. Students worked together on group projects, presented on the final Monday of the block. The assignment was to collaborate across disciplines, as some students in the class spoke Spanish and others were music students who did not speak the language. Projects ranged from multi-media videos to original songs to installation art, and incorporated both Hispanic and indigenous cultures. Levine says the course encourages students to think about intercultural interactions and understanding, and exposed them to music and Hispanic and indigenous cultures of northern New Mexico. One big takeaway Levine hopes students have is the value of creative collaboration across disciplines.

Chacon is participating in many other events around campus in addition to the course with Ruiz and Levine. A member of the Navajo Nation, he is part of an art collective called Postcommodity; the artists’ work is activist in nature and challenges expectations of “native art” in dynamic and engaging ways. The collective’s work has been exhibited internationally, and has recently been featured in many popular and critical press articles.

All members of Postcommodity will be on campus Friday, Oct. 27, for a performance titled “We Lost Half the Forest and The Rest Will Burn This Summer” that will take place at 6 p.m. in the Cornerstone Art Center Celeste Theatre. The performance will include song variations from their latest album, which features eclectic sounds such as hacked electronics, voices, rattles, animal calls, and Mexican whistles.

Additionally, Indigenous musicians from Taiwan, Norway, and North America will be featured Wednesday, Oct. 25, in the event “Sound Alliances: A Celebration of Indigenous Music and Culture” in Mohrman Theatre.

Chacon’s “Lightning Speak” is on display at the FAC until Jan. 7, 2018. The exhibit features individual and collaborative group projects that combine music composition, sound art, visual art, and activism. Colorado College is hosting events throughout the month of October to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day, officially commemorated Oct. 9.

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