Renowned Frida Kahlo exhibit will come to Steamboat

Opera Steamboat will bring the exhibit Frida Kahlo's Garden to Steamboat Springs from June 18 through Aug. 11. In collaboration with several local organizations, the exhibit will be on display at both the Depot Art Center and Yampa River Botanic Park. (Courtesy photo)

In 2018, the year before Opera Steamboat presented its opera “Frida,” which was based on the life of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, Andres Cladera, the organization’s general and artistic director, applied to have the traveling exhibition, “Frida Kahlo: Art, Garden, Life” come to Steamboat Springs.

He was originally turned down, but a few years later, he received a phone call from the National Endowment for the Humanities, saying there had been a cancellation for this summer, and the exhibit could, after all, come to Steamboat.

“Having the exhibit come here is a process that would normally take months, if not years, to bring to town, but our board supported the initiative right away, no questions asked,” Cladera said. “Opera Steamboat felt this was extremely important and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

The traveling exhibit features art and items from Frida Kahlo’s life, which will be on display in the Depot Art Center, hosted by Steamboat Creates, for the duration of the exhibit from June 18 through Aug. 11.

“The traveling exhibit allows visitors to be immersed in the world (Kahlo) created at her home in Coyoacán, Mexico City,” said Kim Keith, executive director of Steamboat Creates. “Visitors will be able to explore her life, her home and her garden through colorful, personal, often intricate installations of her work.”

In addition to the exhibit hosted by Steamboat Creates, a garden installation will be on display at the Yampa River Botanic Park, featuring plants Kahlo cultivated in her own garden in Mexico. Plants and flowers such as yucca, cactus, sunflowers and marigolds will be planted in traditional terracotta pots, displayed in what was previously the fairy garden at the park.

“Many of the plants are not typical of what we cultivate in Steamboat, but they are plants that would have been on Frida’s patio in Mexico,” said Jennifer MacNeil, executive director of the Yampa River Botanic Park.

Park staff grew some of the plants, such as the sunflowers, from seeds but had to source others from elsewhere. Signage around the garden installation will encourage visitors to stop by the Depot Art Center to view the art exhibit as well and vice versa.

The exhibition brings a host of collaborations within the community. Integrated Community helped with translations to reach a broader audience, and the Bud Werner Memorial Library will offer viewings of two films, “Frida Kahlo” from June 18 to 28 and “Diego Rivera: I Paint What I See” from July 5 to 15.

Additionally, there will be a series of talks throughout the duration of the exhibit from June 18 to Aug. 11 at various locations. These talks include one with Adriana Zavala from the New York Botanical Garden via Zoom and another on the art of plant-based cocktails with Scott Yeates of Mythology.

“Working together was essential to our success in bringing this experience to Routt County,” Keith said. “This is a huge endeavor for a small, rural community like Steamboat Springs. Being a partner with Steamboat Opera and co-host with Yampa River Botanic Park illustrates the power and influence of collaboration to expand our rural community’s cultural exposure to a world-renowned artist.”

While both the art and garden exhibits are free to the public, tickets are currently being sold to an event called “Un Trago con Frida” — a drink with Frida — to celebrate the opening of the exhibit with cocktails, chocolate desserts and a mariachi band. Guests will receive a tour of the art exhibit before it is opened to the public the following day.

Tickets to the event, which will take place from 5 to 10 p.m. June 17, are available on Opera Steamboat’s website.

“The whole exhibit and all of its components are a really fantastic experience and a great way to be able to dive into the artist’s world,” Cladera said. “It’s a very well-rounded and circular approach of experiencing the artist.”

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