After a mostly dormant 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, the latest exhibit at Casa de Rosado is a touching tribute to a woman who helped build what started as a humble house venue into an impressive independent art gallery and cultural center. “¡Siempre Aquí!” remembers the late Rosa Lopez Killips, who died last year, with artwork produced by Killips herself and creations by seven other Michigan-based Chicano, Latino and Indigenous artists.
The idea for the exhibit first came about when Theresa Rosado, founder and head of Casa de Rosado, was asked by Lansing Community College if the gallery would have an exhibit that could become a stop on an artist scavenger hunt the college’s Cesar Chavez Learning Center organized in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, now through Oct. 15.
“A lot of people don’t realize that she was an artist as well. We decided to pay tribute to her and show a few of her pieces,” Rosado said.
Painting was just another of Killips’ many talents. She was a renaissance woman who worked tirelessly with several Latino nonprofit organizations and the Lansing School District as a community outreach program director and was well known for her achievements as a Mexican folk dancer, educator and activist. There are many communities in Lansing who fondly remember Killips for her lifelong dedication to empowering women and propping up marginalized groups — including the LGBTQ+ community and impoverished families.
“Rosa was instrumental in sharing her time, patience and love with students in the Lansing School District and encouraging them to pursue a higher degree and the arts. This is an exhibit in her spirit,” Rosado said.
The main wall of the exhibit features Killips’ own original work. These pieces were picked out of storage by her husband, Robert, and her brother-in-law and fellow dancer, Lorenzo Lopez.
“She was particularly a graphic designer, but she loved to layer images that reflected her Chicana heritage,” Rosado said.
Rosado enlisted seven other artists, including herself, to round out the rest of “¡Siempre Aquí!” Featured artists Esmeralda Perez Gonzalez and Nora Chapa Mendoza are familiar faces at Casa de Rosado, having had past exhibits of their own at the gallery. “This is really all from decades of working together,” Rosado said.
Other contributing artists include Elton Monroy Duran, Ana Holguin, Diego de Leon and Kimberly Lavon. Holguin crafts vibrant tableaus of celebrities like Freddy Mercury and Dolly Parton, Leon sketches characters with a punk rock edge inspired by the likes of Robert Crumb, Lavon makes linocuts with a hardboiled pop art flavor and Duran is a talented muralist scheduled to lead a Casa de Rosado exhibit of his own in the future. Rosado’s own contributions include her original paintings and miniature coffin sculptures.
“¡Siempre Aquí!” is the first exhibit since Casa de Rosado was closed to the public throughout the coronavirus pandemic. The home was used during this period as a space to tend to Rosado’s late father-in-law, who required at-home care before his death.
“This has been a real transition,” Rosado said.
With October on the horizon, Rosado is preparing for a large Día de Los Muertos event featuring live entertainment at the One Love Global community center on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Through the remainder of September, Casa de Rosado is hosting sugar skull making classes each Saturday and Sunday. After the holiday, Casa de Rosado will keep the momentum going with even more exhibits.
“After Día de Los Muertos, we have other exhibits slated that we’re working on,” Rosado said. “You’ll see us become a 501c3 next year and get the proper funding for live music and performances and we’ll start to have a budget for a full COVID safety plan, which will allow us to do even more.”