The History of the Colorado Black Arts Festival

The Denver Black Arts Festival (DBAF) had its humble beginnings in 1986 when a small contingent of artists and art lovers recognized the lack of opportunities for Black visual and performing artists in the Denver Metro area. Prevailing inequities at the time threatened the survival of these artists, who were compelled to share their art with the community. Limited opportunities and recognition prompted the artists to act, believing that the cultural beauty inherent in their ideas, movements, words, voices, and creative expressions deserved to be openly celebrated with pride.

The first festival took place in August 1986 when a small audience of determinedly fixed believers refused to go home regardless of the monsoon weather. In 1987, the second annual festival drew an audience of well over 30,000 and by 1990 the attendance reached 60,000. In 2009, DBAF changed its name to Colorado Celebration of African American Arts and Culture, but fondly known as the Colorado Black Arts Festival, an appropriate name in light of the state-wide reach of the event. In 2024, CBAF will celebrate its 38 years of black artistic excellence.