Local exhibit features weird and wonderful Casa Bonita-themed artwork

“See: Gorilla Escape” by Liz Cooper. Photo courtesy of Liz Cooper


Next Gallery’s fifth annual Casa Bonita art exhibition pays tribute to the beloved local restaurant ahead of its long-awaited reopening this year.

It is difficult to capture the essence of Casa Bonita. But the artist’s participation in Next Gallery’s annual Casa Bonita art exhibition managed to show what makes the pink palace special in an inspiring and surprising way.

“It’s exactly what we needed,” says Next Gallery artist Betsy $B Rudolph, who founded the show in the spring of 2018, after Next moved from the Navajo Street Arts District to its current location on West Colfax Avenue, one block from Casa Bonita. . Rudolph thought it would only be a one-time exhibit. But after she made an open call for Coloradans of all ages to submit their odes to the iconic Lakewood restaurant, she garnered more interest than expected. “We had people who had never been to an art show before. It was, I think, accessible,” Rudolph says. “And people loved it.”

Now in its fifth year, the showcase, which opens February 18 and will run until March 6, has become a tradition in its own right, even though Casa Bonita has faced two tumultuous years, including the restaurant’s former owners. Mexican closing space indefinitely earlier. in the pandemic. The iconic location was later purchased by Colorado-born South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. With the restaurant to temporarily reopen this summer, the anticipation is high.

Rudolph says she could feel it in this year’s submissions, as artists produced whimsical pieces that capture fond memories of the place. (The theme is Mi Casa and Su Casa.) “You can’t believe it. Like, honestly, you can’t,” Rudolph says. “Just when you think there are no more ideas, you say to yourself, What?!” Over the years, she remembers hundreds of artists of all ages who submitted everything from Cheese Whiz fountains to Lego replicas of that famous fuschia facade.

To get a sense of what makes the show so fun, we asked some artists to explain their work – which is also available for purchase during the show – and the Casa Bonita-related memorabilia that inspired it.

(Read more: Casa Bonita appoints Dana Rodiriguez as Executive Chef)

“See: Gorilla Escape” by Liz Cooper, 54

(picture above)
Location of the artist: Thousand Oaks, California

Artist’s job: stay home mom

About Casa Bonita: “Denver is my home in my heart. So I remember when Costa Bonita opened, and I remember going there when I was a kid with my parents and I have very fond memories of it. The line went all the way to the end of the door and we waited what felt like a long time to get in. And whenever someone came from out of town, it was kind of a fun trip or an icebreaker.

On art: “I liked the seriousness of such a silly subject – you know, the guy in the gorilla suit. I like how the shadows made it really dramatic and sort of…I don’t mean menacing Not threatening, but a little more thrilling and more dangerous than he really is.When you’re a little kid and you see the shootout on the waterfall or the gorilla capture (he bumps his chest and all) , it’s exciting in a dangerous way.

“Casa Bonita After Hours: In Search of Leftovers” by Laura Kedro, 43

Location of the artist: Northglenn, Colorado

Artist’s job: Animation

Photo courtesy of Laura Kedro

About Casa Bonita: “I spent a lot of time going to birthday parties and other celebrations at Casa Bonita because when I was a kid there weren’t many places [for that] that I remember in the area. It was definitely a unique place. If you go back, all the memories come back. It still smells of chlorine.

On art: “Do you remember Black Bart’s cave? There is this kind of horrifying dragon there, and you have to enter its mouth. I love this dragon, because when I was, I don’t know, about four or five years old, my father dragged me into this cave, and I didn’t want to go. It’s a good memory now, but I think it really affected a lot of my art. I think a lot of that comes from the influence of Casa Bonita and the aesthetics of this restaurant. He has a little more humor and youth [aspect], but it also has this really terrifying horror aspect to it. The restaurant being closed, I thought, Wouldn’t it be interesting if there were some ghost stories or haunting stories about things that happen there when there’s not too much noise and when there’s not all that energy present ? So I wanted to show that this dragon is actually alive and comes to life when no one is around.

“The Grotto Desktop Fountain and Zen Garden” by Ekaterina Jorgensen, 51

Photo courtesy of Ekaterina Jorgensen

Location of the artist: Edgewater, Colorado

Artist’s job: Montessori elementary teacher

About Casa Bonita: “Being a Casa Bonita cave diver is, like, the badass thing you could do or be. I just remember being little, thinking it was the coolest thing in the world. world. Even now, I mean, are there any restaurants that have diver? Maybe in Vegas. But in our little cow town here? It’s so amazing to have something like that, and I’m so glad it’s preserved because it’s truly one of a kind.

On art: “I decided to pay homage to the cave, which is the cliff diving area. Which most people do, but I was like, How can people take home a little piece of Casa Bonita that’s more than just a t-shirt or a margarita glass? So I created a desktop cave fountain, with a pink sand zen garden on the side.

“A New Dawn” by Jeff Lee, 42

Photo courtesy of Jeff Lee

Location of the artist: Long Beach, California

Artist’s job: Stage performer at Knott’s Berry Farm amusement park

About Casa Bonita: “When my friend and I moved from Los Angeles to New York, we stopped in Denver, and a friend who lives there said, ‘Oh, you have to go to Casa Bonita, it’s just for you. “We did, and that was all I love about this stuff. I’ve only been there twice – went back later when I came to visit our friends There are cliff divers and a running gorilla.I love themed restaurants and themed spaces, especially when there are things to explore, like nooks and crannies and caves.

On art: “In the theme park shows that I’ve done, you have, for example, an architectural feature with some sort of fun sky and clouds behind it. That’s kind of what I did for that [painting]. The sunrise painting somehow represents the new dawn of restaurants coming out of the pandemic, and people see it as, like, a fresh start for life in general. I wanted to point out the things that come to mind as being the typical characteristics of Casa Bonita.

Madi Skahill

Madi Skahill

Madi oversees social media strategy for the 5280 and 5280 Home accounts, as well as writing and editing stories for 5280.com.


Comments are closed.