The Los Seis de Boulder sculpture installed on the CU Boulder campus last year will remain at CU as part of the permanent collection in the University Libraries’ Special Collections, Archives and Preservation department, the university announced today.
The archives’ mission is to collect, arrange, preserve and make accessible the collections of the university's history as well as rare and unique collections that support the university's teaching, research, service and administration. The department connects students, faculty and the community with significant primary sources and rare materials that document the life and cultural outcomes of the university community.
Robert McDonald, dean of University Libraries, senior vice provost of online education and professor of library administration, said campus archivists look forward to working with the Los Seis de Boulder sculpture so they can develop educational and research tools, data and information that will enable the campus to reclaim this chapter of university and state history and amplify it broadly for students, faculty, staff and other audiences.
“This acquisition is a great opportunity to examine our campus history and highlight areas for broadening our library collections in areas that have been underrepresented or purposefully silent for many of our students, faculty, staff and alumni,” McDonald said.
Los Seis de Boulder depicts the lives of six students who died after two car bombs exploded in the city of Boulder in 1974 during a three-week period in which students occupied Temporary Building No. 1 and demanded equity in education at CU Boulder.
Alumna artist Jasmine Baetz conceived of the artwork in 2017 after learning about the deaths of students Una Jaakola, Reyes Martínez and Neva Romero, who died on May 27, 1974, after a car bomb exploded, and Francisco Dougherty, Heriberto Terán and Florencio Granado, who died on May 29, 1974, after a second car bomb exploded, also injuring Antonio Alcántar.
Chancellor Phil DiStefano noted that the sculpture’s place as part of the university archives “will help to provide current and future students, faculty and staff opportunities to learn more about an important chapter of Colorado and university history. Under the terms of the acquisition, our campus will be able to develop new teaching, research and outreach programming that will help us further educate audiences about the historic Chicano rights movement.”
He said the artwork would also help to advance the campus’s ability to confront questions of race, inclusion and equity at a time when those questions are of urgent importance.
“I recognize that we must better understand how the events of 1974 connect to the events that are occurring now,” DiStefano said. “People will view the Los Seis sculpture in many different ways, and our mission calls for us to preserve the sculpture and use it as a focal point for our community to engage in difficult questions about how the Boulder campus will respond to racism and provide greater equity to students, faculty and staff of color.”
Baetz, now an assistant art professor at Coker University in Hartsville, South Carolina, said she hopes the community-created project will contribute to a climate in which the university can act with “honor, integrity and accountability toward BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) students, staff and faculty who were and are impacted by systemic racism at CU Boulder.”
“It's hard to accept that the killings of Los Seis have been silenced for so long,” said Baetz, who graduated from CU Boulder in May 2020 with a master’s degree in fine arts. “My hope is that the sculpture's preservation will weaken our institution’s historical amnesia around civil rights struggles at CU Boulder.”
Michelle Steinwand, whose sister Una Jaakola died when a bomb exploded at Chautauqua Park, said she is comforted by knowing that future generations of students, alumni and community members will be able to visit the sculpture.
As a family member, she said she was honored and grateful to participate in the creation and dedication of a work of art that chronicles the lives of Los Seis and other student activists of the 1970s, and that it gives her “comfort and joy” to visit the sculpture to “remember and honor my sister's life and all those who were a part of the struggle.”
Priscilla Falcón, coordinator of Chicana/o Latinx Studies at the University of Northern Colorado, who knew the Los Seis de Boulder students, said the sculpture’s historical significance is that it pays homage to the United Mexican American Students (UMAS) who “struggled to move away from marginalized spaces by embracing a commitment to educational empowerment, community organizing and a call to action by challenging institutional racism both on and off the CU campus.”
The sculpture “highlights the authenticity of the social justice struggles of the Chicana/o student movement that were dynamic and complex, incorporating multiple dimensions—many of which are being explored by scholars today,” Falcón said.
Chancellor DiStefano added, “CU Boulder must embrace opportunities for us to learn from the past and hear voices that challenge our conceptions of who we are and what we can become. We build our community through shared experiences, like the one that Los Seis provides for us to connect our history to our present moment.”