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Rio Grande ARTway's Latino Folk Art Garden inclusive in creative placemaking

The Rio Grande ARTway project in Carbondale has been years in the making. This fall, design on the first of three parks along the trail has begun with the Latino Folk Art Garden.


On a brisk Saturday morning in October, a diverse group has gathered to lay out the groundwork for a Latino Folk Art Garden that runs along a one-mile stretch of the Rio Grande Trail. They are preparing the walkways for what is to be: a gathering space, filled with gardens, hammocks and mosaics, all of which represent them.

“You can see people here from Mexico, Guatemala, and it’s amazing to be all together,” said Alejandra Magaña, who heads the Valley Settlement’s adult learning program for immigrant families valleywide. “It doesn’t matter where we’re from, but now we are here to work like one community for the hispanic community.”


Magaña’s brought her children to the workday because she wants them to have had a hand in the creation of this place.


“Latinos …  we are working in that sense of, to be together and to do something that made us proud here in the valley,” she said. “I think it’s important to have something that feels like you were here, even if you are not here, maybe in the future, but something that’s, ‘Oh, I did that.’”


Her son, Ricardo, was wielding a pickaxe.


“I’m digging up plants,” he said. “And if I found rocks next to them, I go and put them over by the trail.”


Kids of all ages were placing the rocks they dug up along what’s becoming the garden’s path.


“It’s so fun because it looks like a little trail, like a little line, and it’s so fun because you get to pick every rock and you get to put them back, and I like that part,” said another boy, Maxe, who was aiding in the heavy lifting.


Along this new path will be art that pays homage to past and present members of the Latino community. Carlos Ulloa said he was honored when he heard about the Latino Folk Art Garden’s mission.


“What we’re really looking to do for the community is have a spot where the community can just come and relax and get together,” said Ulloa. “Doesn’t matter what race, what language or anything, just come here and be part of the community.”  


Amy Kimberly is the executive director of Carbondale Arts. Part of the organization’s mission is to support the community through artistic projects that reflect its values.


“We are making our statement here along the Rio Grande Trail and it’s a lovely statement,” said Kimberly. “It gives me hope in the world.”


She said these new parks are turning a daily commute down the bike path into a historical appreciation for who we are as a valley.


“Immigrant stories like Moose Martinez, who in the 50s and 60s, organized the coal miners here in the valley,” Kimberly said. “He was from Mexico. Or the present day stories of the journeys people have taken to be here and what they do.”


Carbondale Arts is partnering with Roaring Fork Transportation Authority and Carbondale Creative District to create The Rio Grande ARTway.


There are two additional parks slated for completion in the next few years that will run linear to the trail. DeRail Park at Highway 133, where it meets the Rio Grande Trail, is in the weeding, clearing and planting phase. Kimberly said this spot is meant to be interactive.


“It will also hold the history of a lot of old railway parts that RAFTA has been holding in their yard,” she said. “Now kids will get to learn about the railroad.”


There’s also the Youth Art Park at 4th Street, where it meets the Rio Grande Trail, which Kimberly said will be designed by kids in schools. The project a couple Saturdays ago readied the Latino Folk Art Garden’s walkways for spring. Towards midday, Magaña helped pack up tools with her son.


“I think this is so important to make us say ‘Hey, this is our community too,’ and I wanted the people when people walk through this, [they] can see all of the amazing color… and everything that we have in our countries,” she said.


Over the winter, the creativity will move indoors as the community is invited to participate in ceramics and other design work that will be incorporated into the garden when the snow melts.


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