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Creative Corner: Longmont artist expresses Mexican identity through sculpture and paint

Grace Gutierrez finds inspiration from the world around her.

Grace Gutierrez, a Longmont native, has taken her passion for painting and ceramics to diversify the local art scene.  

Gutierrez was born and raised in Longmont, graduating from Longmont High School in 2008.

Before graduating,  she found her passion for art, with encouragement from her teachers.

"I've loved art for pretty much my whole life," Gutierrez said, "in high school, it became pretty clear that it was what I wanted to do. High school is when you start feeling pressure to plan your future. My teachers were really good at opening up new ideas and making it clear that I really could make a career. It doesn't have to be a hobby."

Gutierrez graduated from Metro State University in Denver in 2020 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting and ceramics. 

She has always loved painting, even as a young kid. Her favorite medium is acrylic paint due to its good saturated color. The program she was in required her to choose a 3D emphasis to complement her 2D choice of painting.

"I chose ceramics because I feel a connection to clay. I feel like it's in my blood and ancestry. I am of Mexican descent. It's also of the earth, and I find it therapeutic to play with clay," Gutierrez said.

Last summer, Gutierrez painted two murals. One for Street Wise Boulder and one for the F.C. Mural Project in Boulder. Her work also is featured in the Viral Influence: Art in the Time of Coronavirus exhibit at the Arvada Center for the Arts, which runs through August 22.

As for her style, it's ever-evolving.

 "I'm always thinking about art. I'm always collecting imagery and inspiration. I'm always reading," Gutierrez said. "Everything I do day-to-day influences my practice. I try to have art reflect on what's going on in my life (the things I love and do). As well as reflecting what's going on with the world."

She has her artist's studio at the Boulder Creative Collective, where she is an artist-in-residence. She's working on a series of paintings and sculptures that have to do with her Mexican cultural identity and background. 

"I'm playing with weird/tacky materials. I'm using them to play with the idea of what/who belongs in a gallery. I'm also playing with what/who belongs where/in what places in the world," Gutierrez said.

Though the series doesn't have a name yet, she will show it in a March 2022 exhibit at the Boulder Creative Collective. Gutierrez said, "The artist-in-residence program is structured like the end of college or graduate studies. Each artist is working on a body of work to share then."

In addition to sharing her work, she's sharing her skills at the Firehouse Art Center, where she works. She was an intern there in 2015 while studying at Front Range Community College. Gutierrez was able to return after finishing her Bachelors of Fine Arts degree. She now works as a curatorial assistant, as well as teaching its new ceramics classes. 

The Firehouse began offering ceramics classes in March, when an artist — who was renting the upstairs studio — decided to return the space to the Firehouse artists. 

"During the isolation phases of COVID, we had a studio upstairs in the Firehouse occupied by an artist. But, she didn't use that space all that often, so we were able to talk her into letting us turn it into a community studio," Gutierrez explained.

Marie McCreery, a local ceramicist who teaches ceramics classes at the Firehouse, donated a wheel, a kiln and tons of supplies. 

"The studio really wouldn't have happened without her (McCreery’s) generous donations. It's amazing," Gutierrez said. 

Due to COVID protocols, classes initially began as a few students taking private lessons. Though they still must keep classes small (no more than six students) due to COVID safety and protocol, the ceramics offerings have grown. They now include small classes and a membership program.

"We have a membership program for open studio time. People can use the wheel, do their own thing, which is very nice," Gutierrez shared.