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The grand re-opening of the CHAC gallery pays tribute to the late Alicia Cardenas

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LAKEWOOD, Colo. Alicia Cardenas’ father describes her as a warrior who was complex, strong willed and not always agreeable. 

“She wanted to make a difference in the world, and you damn well best believe that she did. It wasn’t until after her death that we knew what a far reach she had around the world,” said Alfredo Cardenas.

Alicia Cardenas was one of five people killed during a shooting in Denver and Lakewood last December. Cardenas was the owner of Sol Tribe, a tattoo and body piercing studio, and an artist well known throughout Denver’s Chicano community. 

On June 3, the local Chicano community came together to pay her a tribute at the newly opened CHAC Gallery at the Chicano Humanities and Arts Council

Re-opening of gallery features tribute to Alicia Cardenas

A newly reopened art gallery pays tribute to Alicia Cardenas who was killed last December.

“We are trying to let people know about her,” said Rebecca Rozales, a curator at CHAC gallery. “She has a wall on the entrance here. There were a couple of paintings that she was a part of and collaborated with. We want people to know that she was a progressive artist and person, and a very strong woman.”

According to those who knew and worked with Cardenas, one of her goals as an artist was to bring together young artists and seasoned creatives. The title of the tribute exhibition, “A Journey Through Generations,” is a nod to her efforts. 

“She was really passionate about bringing elders together with new generations because there’s been discord in the past in our Latino community in general,” recalled Cal Duran, an artist with CHAC. “Alicia was really good at bringing people together and showing us that we are all one and that there are so many facets of who we are.”

Sonia Del Real, another curator at the CHAC gallery, believes bringing those generations of creatives together is what keeps the CHAC gallery operating and able to do more outreach within the community. 

“The generations show is Alicia’s vision of creating a sacred space for creatives to grow in their art. We welcome and affirm who they are,” Del Real said. 

Cal Duran feels it’s this type of art and creative expression that can help evolve where we are as a society. 

“We were born on stolen land and we are born of colonizers and we’re all in this together, and I want my art to be seen as that we are all just one and that we are all equal. There is no separation. If you are an artist, you are creating magic, you are creating a seed,” Duran explained.

In July of 2020, CHAC closed its brick-and-mortar location in the Santa Fe Arts District after 25 years as a result of the pandemic. Supporters said this tribute and exhibition is the best way to re-open the gallery in its new space in Lakewood. 

“I think she [Alicia] would be thrilled to see it. It’s a good tribute to her and it’s overwhelming. I’ve been overwhelmed since her death, but this is going to be good for us and her family to give it a little more closure,” said Alfred Cardenas.

Cardenas was an advocate who pushed for the tattooing and piercing industries to be more culturally responsive to the Black, Brown and Indigenous communities. She also fought for gender equality. 

“She was very much an unordinary person. I knew that from the time that she was very young. She shook people up and said get off your a** and do these things,” recalled her father.

The free exhibition, which runs through August 28, 2022, includes work from 28 different artists, including Cardenas.

Dana Knowles is a multimedia journalist at Rocky Mountain PBS and can be reached at

Julio Sandoval is a multimedia journalist with Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach him at

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