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June 26 4-8pm
Bliss: Art Workshops, showcase, and mindfulness

Manitou Arts Center: 513 Manitou Ave, Manitou Springs, CO 80829

Gaia 2021 flyer.png

About Gaia

We are all Gaia's Children

To everyone who calls, or has once called, Colorado Springs** home.

**Land of the Ute and Apache, Shoshone, Cheyenne, Pueblo, Arapahoe people**

We are the Children of Gaia CO, a collective of community members, children, parents, grandparents and neighbors rising up against racial, social and environmental injustice through artistic expression and community action. In partnership with Art By Rizzo, Jibwa, and Poetry 719, our ever-expanding group is working to honor the movement for Black Lives through “Gaia,” a 12-foot-tall Black Mother Earth and symbol of justice, creativity, and loss. 

Face painted by Tina Riesterer. Base puppet design by Patti Smithsonian and Sophie T. Hands by K8e Orr, featuring graphics from Art by Rizzo


Everyone is someone's child. Gaia -- a visual, animated representation of the everyday generational trauma--is here to protect, defend, and uplift her children. This is the great reckoning of environmental, racial, and social justice.  Gaia, portrayed as a Black woman, mourns her lost children and invokes beauty, power, and poetry in her robes from local artists. 


Gaia - a cry for MAMA - has been released. Our Mother is mourning. She is weeping and bleeding from the holes we've dug in her. The "Pull yourself up by your bootstraps" mentality is killing us. Enough is enough. We are here to respond to the call of MAMA. 


We are looking for a group of 5-10 committed individuals to join our Children of Gaia Squad, and help to bring Gaia to life on May 25th, 2021 in mourning of the murder of George Floyd. Preference will be given to leaders who identify as Black or part of the BIPOC community as well as young BIPOC artists looking for an opportunity to collaborate and take a leadership role in a community art project. An arts fund will be set up in order to compensate BIPOC leaders for their time. Other non-Black artists are also welcome and encouraged to participate; they will be participating as unpaid volunteers.

Who is Gaia?

Community Gaia Build at Concrete Couch


Community Gaia Build at Concrete Couch


06.27.20 and 07.03.20 crew (photos by Cat Banks)


Poetry719 Poetry Workshop July 2020


06.27.20 and 07.03.20 crew (photos by Cat Banks)


Fist and train design by Miss Amanda


06.27.20 and 07.03.20 crew (photos by Cat Banks)


06.27.20 and 07.03.20 crew (photos by Cat Banks)

How to get Involved! 

Call for Build Materials:

  • things for drumming! (empty kitty litter buckets, coffee cans, chopsticks, etc)

  • yard sticks, wooden dowels, rods, old broomsticks, reeds, and paper lanterns

  • fabric and materials for Gaia's robes, hair, and decoration

Call for Children Of Gaia CO Protest Procession Participants:

Calling all BIPOC trans and cis women to join the core Children of Gaia CO Squad. On the weekend proceeding the anniversary of George Floyd's murder ( May 25) we will present the 12ft tall puppet Black Mother Goddes (x) Gaia in the parking lot of the MAC with performers from local artists.  With a plan to later march as a characterized entourage through historically anti-Black neighborhoods of COS to help animate Gaia and great local politicians. The ensemble includes, but is not limited to:

  • protest captains / drummers / musicians / brass and marching band

  • singers / choir / chorus / art teachers / K-12 educators

  • dancers / vogue / ballroom / breakdance / costume and hair braiding designers

  • street performers / stilts / jugglers / production managers


text "gaia" to 31996

for community puppet build text updates


I'm interested. What are the next steps?

  • Contact Ashley Cornelius or Sophie T. to get involved in the Gaia Squad monthly virtual meetings or for any questions at

  • Fill out the survey online and share with friends!

  • Keep May 2021 open for community build days in your calendar

  • Follow and submit your own artwork and stories for the Instagram page

  • Look out for future ZOOM art building n' making workshops this winter 2020 and spring 2021! Including poetry writing workshops, paper lantern workshops, painting workshops, and more!


We are looking for a group of 5-10 committed individuals to join our Gaia Squad, and help to bring Gaia to life on May 25th, 2021 in mourning of the murder of George Floyd. Preference will be given to leaders who identify as Black or part of the BIPOC community as well as young BIPOC artists looking for an opportunity to collaborate and take a leadership role in a community art project. An arts fund will be set up in order to compensate BIPOC leaders for their time. Other non-Black artists are also welcome and encouraged to participate; they will be participating as unpaid volunteers.


Contact Ashley Cornelius or Sophie T at


Gaia PoemWe are collecting poems about gaia for this project!

Thanks for submitting!

Background on the Concept for “Children of Gaia CO” Community Poetry and Puppet Project


1) Why combine writing and puppet building? Where did the idea come from? Why call it "Gaia"?

Giant puppets have a long history in protests, as made famous by the “Bread and Puppet” troop in the 60’s and 70’s.  The base of the puppet design is largely inspired by "In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre"  in Minneapolis, who holds an annual May Day parade with different themes of social justice. See video here. Local artists and puppeteers (including Sophie Thunberg, Sam Bishop, Noa Fodrie, K8e Orr, Cyndi Parr, Karlie Valer, and Patti Smithsonian) developed the structural design and concept, and locally renowned artist Tina Riesterer painted her face.

The Divine Mother goes by many names in different cultures  Mother Mary, Lady Guadeloupe, Hera, Vishnu, The Moon, Hera, Yang, The Pull. Gaia is the divine mother, weeping for her lost children. Her mourning robe bears the names of those lost to police violence, of artwork and poetry, carrying the words and pictures of those grieving this loss and calling for protection and change. Different conversations online point to George Floyd invoking the Gaia within us all--a great awakening. From Mary Helen Kennerly, "Want to know why Minneapolis is burning? Mama. He called Mama. At least that's why I feel like I could scream until flames rip out of my throat...white mamas, mamas with privilege, you have been summoned. And any of us have ever cried out Mama, we hear it too, down in our bones. It's a cry that can't go unanswered anymore." Gaia seems to encapulate the divine FEMME and maternal superpowers, like lifting cars or seeming to have eyes in the back of their head or supersonic hearing when their children are hurt. 


It all began as a discussion between friends on "What if there were puppets in the protests? To include more ART and theatre in the marches?"  As Toni Cade Bambara says, "The role of the artist is to make the revolution irresistible." This conversation led us to Concrete Couch where we were given access to the giant Gaia puppet head created by Nanette Phillips for the local Womxn’s March back in 2016. Poetry felt like the natural next step. The project continued to grow with many, "What if's..." What if we added pieces of paper and fabric and patchwork quilt the pieces of art and poetry together into Gaia's robes? What if Poetry719 could host some poetry writing workshops? What if we were able to commission someone to get local Black poets' writing into ASL and use that for the procession parade choreography? And people kept saying, Yes!  


Who Gives a Scrap donated a ton of fabric, Old Town Bike Shoppe gave us bike innertubes, and Concrete Couch has provided a space and a lot of building tools and materials as well.


In the tradition of "Bread and Puppet" in Vermont we use inexpensive and thrifted materials (cardboard, tape, staples, and fabric) so that anyone can feel empowered to create--it’s art for and by the people. Founder Pete Schumann says, "It's the freedom that you get when you can do things because of America's garbage and the freedom of doing gigantic things for almost nothing, with just collaboration, with just people power." 


2. What's the value of getting the community together to participate in these creative exercises and collaborative projects?


The value of getting community together (even remotely for now) is for people to express the emotions, energy, art and words of the Black Lives Matter movement. This will create a valuable opportunity for COS to feel ownership by seeing their pieces of fabric, stories, and poetry on Gaia. It also offers a moment of catharsis, of voice, and of a marker in history, as poetry does, to display and convey the feelings of our community, of this specific period in time in COS. Folks can also participate remotely by submitting poetry on the theme of Gaia; sharing stories of discrimination, police brutality, and racism; and making things at home. For example, we are in need of dozens of paper and fabric flowers for the train of Gaia's robe; paper maché fists or traceable fists (example pictured below); holsters for rod puppets or signs; and drum cans and holsters for the procession. Some people have also started creating  individual puppet heads of local politicians; puppet heads of the people who were slain by white supremacy and police brutality in order to memorialize them; etc. 


Throughout the summer, award-winning local talent and business owners, Ashley Cornelius @accpoetrynow (Poetry Director of @ Children of Gaia CO) and Jeresneyka Rose @ArtByRizzo developed outreach and digital strategy for the project to ensure more voices are included and given a place to express themselves. The Empowerment Solidarity Network has also offered support for engaging the local activist community in this multi-media political art project. 


Everything in large scale (to be seen from far away) is welcome as a contribution to the future planned procession for 2021. 


3. What do you hope will be the end result of these workshops? Will the puppets be used in protests going forward? How about any writing that

may result from the workshops?


Additional puppets and lanterns to be built in the Spring will display local artwork and poetry. The base puppet Gaia (12ft project) will be largely poetry and words and we need the words of the community, especially Black women and femme voices!  


The hope is that these community puppet build will not only create a mobile art piece or "a statue we get behind" honoring and embodying Black trans and cis gender women, but also provide a sort of pop-up community space that could eventually provide free child care, free swap of clothes and things, and free art educational opportunities for all ages and abilities. But for now, we must take into consideration concerns around the continued spread of COVID before this can be actualized as a gathering space; however, the interest and enthusiasm around the project is promising. The way Gaia has also been designed will allow for the giant puppet to be able to “come to life” anywhere at any time, as Gaia can be easily stored in the back of a hatchback car. This mobility and flexibility will give Gaia and the community many opportunities to be used for messaging, art shows, events and protests. 

4. How are you maintaining social distancing, and what other COVID precautions are you taking?


We also are taking COVID concerns seriously and have decided to wait until next spring 2021 before gathering in groups larger than 20 at a time. People are already participating remotely by filling out the survey with stories, poetry, and artwork AND dropping off puppets made at home, materials, and tools on the weekends at Manitou Art Center (513 Manitou Ave). We hope folks continue to participate in ways we all feel more comfortable and safe.  Everyone who attends the community builds will be required to wear a mask and asked to frequently wash their hands. There will be no more than 10 people on-site at any given time until the CDC says it’s otherwise safe to have more people together. We are providing virtual workshops for poetry creation and puppet art-making at home to reach those who are unable to support physically. See @Children_Of_Gaia_CO for details. 


5. What did the community build days look like this past summer? 


There was great energy around the first build in June 2020. Several children dropped in with their families. We had folks with some disabilities working on cutting out cardboard and decorating signs. And another team working on the base of the puppet--lots of troubleshooting, sweat, and creativity. Local activists, Shequan and Ben came up with some really brilliant ideas around the arms for Gaia and got 300 plastic bags donated within a span of 2hrs to fill her arms. Pink cellophane donated by the Millibo Art Theatre was also a lot of fun to play with in thinking up new design ideas. The collaborative process is incredible to watch, to witness and to be a part of. The first poetry workshop was also amazing.  Co-director of Poetry 719, therapist, and community mover and shaker Ashley Cornelius @accpoetrynow hosted a small group writing workshop in July 2020. Ashley focused on writing prompts that helped  participants visualize Gaia, honor the ways she shows up for the Black Lives Matter movement, and think of her responses to current events. From each poem, she gathered words and phrases to begin crafting the poetry that will accompany the build. It’s incredible to see how much beauty and power can come from the creative energy of the community! 

Learn More about Gaia


What does Gaia Believe?

  • Black Lives Matter

  • Black Trans Lives Matter 

  • Trans Rights are Human Rights 

  • No one is Illegal 

  • Intersectional Feminism

  • LGBTQIA+ Rights 

  • Reparations 

  • Indigeous Lives Matter  

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