In humanity’s never ending march of progress, one wonders what would have happened if we had taken a turn ever so slightly. If the Norman Conquest was thwarted. If the Roman Empire never fell. If the enlightenment of the Victorian World was never obliterated by industrialization.
In these alternative futures past sits Steampunk, the genre of a very Victorian Jules Verne combined with the late 19th century spirit of the wild west.
Steampunk’s look and appeal are undeniable, “It’s what the future would look like if electricity wasn’t invented” as Alyssa Parga, marketing coordinator for the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center, puts it.
To the Sangre this show is not just another show. “A Steampunk exhibit like this hasn’t been anywhere else in Colorado, maybe even in the country,” says Liz Szabo, curator for the Sangre.
The exhibit has consumed the entire Sangre and the Buell’s Children’s Museum. Four galleries and seven floors if you include all of the Children’s museum. The show is total dedication to the genre.
The genesis for the show began with Liz connecting and finding the right people to collect the work such as Jeff VanderMeer, author of the “Steampunk Bible” and whose eye juried the Steel City Steampunk show.
“I just called up Jeff [to jury the Steel City Steampunk] and he was excited to be a part of it,” Szabo said.
After a call for participants both locally and around the globe and with a spacious “Dropbox” account of images of potential entrants, the exhibition turned into a worldwide affair with artists as near as Pueblo and as far as Japan showing their work.
“The entrants exceeded our expectation both in variety, quality and diversity,” Parga said. “It’s unusual for an art center to dedicate so many square-feet to Steampunk.”
Each floor is a mix of Steampunk but with a different taste. The Steel City Steampunk, juried by VanderMeer is the biggest surprise at the museum. Both Szabo and Parga were pleased by the quality of art they received.
In the hallways and galleries of the Sangre, you will see photos, artifacts and heritage from the Bessemer Historical Society and CF&I Archives and Rosemount Museum.
Up a floor in the King Gallery, the Wild Wild West exhibit displays the Sangre’s collection of western art that serves as the inspiration for the western aspect of Steampunk but also Sangre’s continued dedication to proudly exhibit Southwest art.
Part Jules Verne, part Wild West, part Victorian–on floor three is the treasure of the exhibit, the collection of world renown steampunk artists.
The total Steampunk experience is available for families at the Buell side of the Sangre with a FullSteam exhibition for children. Children can dress up Steampunkian, explore the world of SteamPunk, pet instruments and explore Tesla style experiments.
In the complaint of the past, that the Sangre is too focused on cowboy art and too stuffy for outsider art, Liz Szabo, in one show, obliterated that preconception.
“You won’t find a show like this in Colorado.” Parga said. Maybe you won’t see a show like this in the world or even in an alternate future of history.
For more details, times and cost, visit the website at www.sdc-arts.org.
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