Casa Bonita is one of a kind and so is the Casa Bonita Art Show. Many were devastated to hear about the 2020 closure of the pink palace with its infamous cliff divers, puppet shows, gorilla that resides inside, and the sopapillas that are a customer favorite. And they are salivating for the reopening in May thanks to Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of “South Park”, who leapt at the opportunity to save and renovate the 40 year old icon.
But before you start lining up for the experience and the much improved food of Chef Dana Rodriguez, how about a walk down memory lane? Next Gallery, also located in the Lamar Station Plaza in Lakewood is hosting it’s 6thannual exhibit in honor of Casa Bonita. There were over 100 submissions from oil and acrylic paintings illustrating the past and future of Casa Bonita, to statues saluting the craved sopapillas, to a towering pinata of the pink castle.
“Everybody’s got their little story. The memories are so distinct, things I’d forgotten about were in the art people submitted and it pieces the exhibit to become something we can all share through art and memories.”
Betsy “Dolla B” Rudolph and her fellow artists at Next Gallery were astonished by the turnout. The space was filled with a flood of laughs, discussions of “remember when” and of course the fair share of selfies.
“It was insane. When we started this six years ago I couldn’t imagine there would ever be over 800 people coming through. It was packed and it was so fun because everyone in this space felt extremely connected for those few hours. I was in shock, like wow, who would have foreseen that this little event would become something so impactful for everyone in the community.”
As folks entered the gallery, eyes were unable to stay focused on one piece. Rudolph best explains the effect of this art, as a piece of happiness.
“People just need a laugh and a smile sometimes. And it’s so refreshing, not to be inundated. You know, there’s a lot of art where you sit and you have to think ‘wow, what are they saying with this? But this is a sort of innocent fun.”
Cheryl Kirksey and Michelle Wilson were among the crowd. The Colorado natives searched for their cousin Diane Debris’ contribution to the exhibit.
“The fact that the community is supporting the arts and culture that Casa Bonita has formed is nice to see. I didn’t know this, the show, was going to happen until Diane had her picture accepted to the exhibit.”
Kirksey expressed the relief the community felt when Casa Bonita was saved.
“When we drove up here I was just very thankful that the guys got it, I mean it’d be just one more thing we wouldn’t have anymore. They’re not stripping too much of what it was but more refurbishing it. We’re even more proud to see those details in our cousin’s work.”
Artist Terra Marks conceptualized the idea of Casa Bonita’s resurrection in her piece, “Casa Bonita Revived” that sold immediately on opening night. It’s a vibrant and contemporary piece that pays tribute to Dia De Los Muertos and the theme of celebrating the ambience and spirit of Casa Bonita.
“A big point of my work is that I like to make people feel happy, so I like my work to be whimsical. I had so many conversations with people who said this is just so vibrant and made them feel happy. I just love this show and am so glad to be a part of it.”
Whether you are a native to Colorado or a newcomer to the state, the Casa Bonita Art Exhibit is an excellent first look and introduction to the community Casa Bonita has created. Dorothy Lessem, president of the Lakewood Arts Council urges all to swing by the exhibit to get amped for the reopening.
“Definitely check out Casa Bonita and when you’re here come over to the 40 West Art Hub and see all the galleries such as this. This is an excellent show, a lot of interesting and fun pieces here.”
The Casa Bonita exhibit runs at the Next Gallery until March 5th and is open Fridays from 5 to 10 PM and Saturdays and Sundays from 12 PM to 5 PM. Take an absurd walk down memory lane before lining up for the opening of Casa Bonita in May 2023.