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Longmont Museum highlights lowrider art and culture

 

September 23, 2016

Photo by Aurelia Pollard This 1964 Chevrolet Impala Super Sport convertible, a custom lowrider owned and built by Jesse Rodriguez, will be on display for the museum’s Lowrider: Cars and Culture exhibit.

The Longmont Museum is debuting a new exhibition on Sept.17 featuring classic, lowrider cars and their lengthy history in Colorado. The exhibit runs to May 14, 2017.

The exhibit has been nearly two years in the making and will give visitors a look into how the vehicles were made, including the upholstery, hydraulics, paint and wheels.

“There’s a really strong lowrider scene in Colorado and Longmont,” Exhibit Curator Jared Thompson said. “Longmont alone has over 200 lowriders in itself. We just want to recognize these guys and just show their art.”

One car demonstrates the progression of how the cars were made, from their junkyard state to the finished product. A total of five show-winning cars are exhibited, including a 1964 Chevrolet Impala Super Sport, a 1980 Chevrolet Monte Carlo and a 1948 Suburban.

“We’ve worked with a group of lowriders—guys that are into the culture, some club members,” Thompson said. “We met with those guys over the course of the last year-and-a-half once a month, and just kind of brainstormed what we wanted the exhibit to be.”

Lowrider bikes are also on display. “These are truly art pieces,” Thompson said of the bikes. “You can’t actually ride them because the pedals are so low they won’t turn… A lot of times the fathers will be in the lowriders [clubs] and they’ll get their kids into the bikes. It’s just an example of a father handing it down to his son and teaching him the skills needed to do this kind of work.”

There’s a space showing interior upholstery, as well as fashion, such as zoot suits and traditional lowrider gear.

And a lowrider wouldn’t exist without a hydraulics system.

“Originally, back in the 40s and 50s, they were mechanics in the Air Force, so they worked on hydraulics in aircrafts,” Thompson explained. “Then they took that knowledge and installed it in cars, and that’s how they started with hydraulics.”

Speaking of the new and unique exhibit, Thompson said, “I just hope that people realize these guys are artists and what they do is a form of art. And just recognize the culture and give awareness that the scene is still vibrant today. It’s gotten to a point where you can’t even drive the [cars] anymore.”

Many months of research went into the exhibit by Curator of Research Erik Mason who, along with Thompson, put together the text displayed throughout the exhibit. “We worked with a committee of four guys, and they’re deep into the scene so they were a great resource,” Thompson said.

Joan Harrold, marketing and development director for the museum, said members from the lowrider community played a big part in putting the show together. “One of the priorities of the museum is to kind of tell the stories of the community,” Harrold said, “and this is something that I think we’re really doing here.

“[The community members] have been instrumental in helping curate the show,” she added. “It lets us bring that story to everyone else who might not know that this is such a central part of the community.”

Along with the exhibit, the museum has additional related programming. There will be curator conversations on Tuesdays at noon from Sept. 20-Oct. 11 and Nov. 8-Dec. 20, free with admission, where Thompson will give guided tours.

There will also be a car builder talk and screening of the movie Boulevard Nights on Sept. 22 from 7-10 p.m., for $5 for members and $8 for nonmembers.

“We’re trying to integrate into the [other] programming things that relate to what’s going on in here,” Harrold explained. “And let people hear from the folks who really make up the culture.”

“It’s the first one we’re aware of in Colorado and there’s been very few nationwide,” Thompson said. “They’re just proud of what they’ve done and want to show it off.

Lowriders: Cars and Culture will run from Sept. 17-May 14, 2017 with admission of $8 for adults, $5 for students and seniors, and free for children three and under and museum members. For more information visit Longmontmuseum.org.

 

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