Allyson Burbeck
Engaged Arts and Humanities Scholar 2019–20
Art and Art History

Allyson Burbeck is an art historian and MA student in the Department of Art and Art History at CU Boulder. She received her BA in Art History and her BS in Strategic Communication from Texas Christian University. Burbeck studies contemporary graffiti and street art with a focus on bringing women graffiti artists into the scholarly discourse. She is also interested in the Chicanx mural movement and the community mural movement. The healing and community-building power of murals as well as their ability to empower local communities is a focus of her interests in this area. Burbeck aims to work with Colorado communities to document Chicanx murals and their history throughout the state.

Students in the Engaged Arts and Humanities Graduate Student Scholars program participate in the development of a community-engaged scholarship "partner" project. Below, please read about  Burbeck's project and her approach to this work. 

I am working with the Chicano Murals of Colorado Project (CMCP) to document and research Chicana/o murals in the Denver area. Together, we are also working with Colorado’s Chicana/o muralists to re-establish a sense of community, to facilitate collaborative projects and exhibitions, and to work together to preserve and promote existing Chicana/o murals. 

As an art historian, I specialize in various types of public art (street art, graffiti, murals). I am using this knowledge and my research and writing skills to help bring attention to an under-research area of study. Chicana/o muralism in Denver has been left out of the art historical discourse. Additionally, I am bringing my knowledge of various theoretical lenses, such as public sphere theory, critical race theory, and decolonial theory, as it and applying them to this project. How does the community of Chicana/o artists form a counterpublic in conflict with a larger art public in Denver, which is very much focused on white artists and the standard art historical canon that has excluded Chicano artists? How do we bridge this gap?

Chicana/o muralism in Colorado has been understudied, with most of the scholarship focusing on mural production in California. My master’s thesis will help to fill this gap in the research. I am investigating Chicana/o murals in public spaces and their ability to engender a sense of belonging for the Chicana/o community in Denver. Additionally, I am interested in the tensions between community-based muralism and street art culture. My partnership with Chicano Murals of Colorado Project (CMCP) will enable me to understand how the community as a whole feels about these issues and how they affect the community.

I am also passionate about grounding my scholarship in issues that originate in the “real world”, and want my scholarship to have a positive effect on the life beyond the academy. My thesis will help the CMCP to bring further attention to Chicana/o muralism in the state.

During my time in graduate school, I became a bit disillusioned with academia because it can often be disconnected with the real world. This experience has fueled a desire to find ways to impact communities outside academia. Upon graduation, I would love to work in public art and to facilitate community art projects, helping communities express their history, values, and aspirations. This experience working with CMCP and learning new skills in the EAH program has given me an understanding of what this type of work entails and a skill set I can take with me in my career.