Denver Black Arts Festival

Denver Black Arts Festival

Date Observed: Five days in mid-July
Location: Denver, Colorado

The Denver Black Arts Festival, held for five days in July each year, is designed to raise public awareness and appreciation for black arts and their beneficial impact on the Denver community. The festival provides opportunities for African Americans in the visual and performing arts to showcase their talents.

Historical Background

In the past, like many other cities and communities across the United States, there have been limited resources and opportunities in Denver for African Americans to exhibit their art and present musical, dance, and other performances. But with the combined efforts of volunteers, local businesses, cultural institutions, and the media, plus grants from foundations, the city's first African-American arts festival took place in 1987.

Creation of the Festival

In 1986 Perry Ayers, his brother Oye Oginga, and a group of artists and art lovers formed a committee to launch an arts festival the next year. The first festival took place during two days of rain, so the committee decided to plan subsequent festivals in July to avoid what are called the August monsoons in Colorado. Attendance has grown with each succeeding festival, from more than 30,000 in 1989 to double that number the following year. Today the festival attracts more than 100,000 attendees.


Over a long weekend in mid-July, the venues for the Denver Black Arts Festival have included a comedy showcase; exhibits of artwork and crafts by local artists and vendors; American and African dance companies; marching bands; drill, step, and drum teams; historical exhibits at various institutions; a people's marketplace offering AfricanAmerican, African, and Caribbean merchandise; performance stages that feature dance troupes, poetry readings, and gospel singers; a children's pavilion with such activities as dance and storytelling; community mural painting; a sculpture garden; and an African compound, a living exhibit called Joda Village.

The festival also celebrates top African-American achievements in performing and visual arts by presenting an annual award for excellence. On Saturday of the weekend event, there is a Boogaloo Celebration Parade that includes floats, bands, step and drill teams, and school and church groups.

Along with all the celebratory events, there are health and civic pavilions. Businesses or organizations may offer health screening, volunteer opportunities, and distribute promotional materials.

Contact and Web Site

2721 Welton St. P.O. Box 300577 Denver, CO 80203 303-860-0040; fax: 303-377-4631
African-American Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations, 1st ed. © Omnigraphics, Inc. 2007

Denver Black Arts Festival

Weekend in mid-July
The Denver Black Arts festival, inaugurated in 1987, is an annual cultural exhibition and celebration held each July in Denver City Park West. With more than 100,000 visitors annually, it is one of the largest African-American cultural events in the western United States.
The festival features events from a wide array of art forms. From the performing arts, music shows are featured on four different stages and include African, blues, gospel, hip hop, jazz, reggae, soul, and world beat acts. In addition, dancers perform in a variety of genres, including African, modern, and tap, sharing their talents through dance workshops. A theater emphasizes the strong oral traditions in African and African-American society through presentations of drama, storytelling, and poetry. A musical competition, the "Mile High Challenge," features drum and drill teams from throughout the region. Friday's special events include a program of youth activities designed for those under age 18. On Saturday the "Carnivale du Promenade," also known as the "Boogaloo Celebration Parade," starts at the intersection of Colorado Boulevard and 22nd Avenue and travels through the park to 17th Avenue and Esplanade.
An art fair features visual arts such as carving, drawing, glass works, painting, photography, and textiles as well as a sculpture garden. A number of exhibits allow participants to try techniques and crafts for themselves, including making herd sticks and Kente cloth and adding their work to a mural that is painted throughout the festival. Children may participate in a historical scavenger hunt that invites them to visit various locales within the park to gather information and win prizes.
African goods, including carvings, clothing, and jewelry, are available from vendors in an area known as "Watu Sokoni" ("People's Marketplace"). In addition, a community outreach fair features exhibit booths by clubs, agencies, and other organizations providing health and housing services, as well as employment and education assistance. In a food court area, vendors offer African, Caribbean, and Southern cuisine.
Denver Black Arts Festival
2721 Welton St.
P.O. Box 300577
Denver, CO 80203
720-309-2302; fax: 303-377-4631
AAH-2007, p. 122
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.
References in periodicals archive ?
The Denver Black Arts Festival (303-293-2559), a free three-day music and art event held in City Park, July 12-14, draws over 200,000 visitors annually.
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