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Manitou Art Center

(719) 685-1861

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K8e Orr  |  Hiraeth

A Longing For Home That Never Was  |  Stories of being raised by an untreated schizophrenic mother

Hagnauer Gallery    |    June 2 to July 1    |    Opening Reception June 2, 5-8pm

Artist Statement

“Hiraeth; a longing for home that never was,” explores the complex emotions and experiences of growing up with an untreated schizophrenic parent. The bizarre, repetitive images and behaviors, and surreal experiences I was exposed to are used to create a visual collection of memories and true-life events that capture the fear, vulnerability, and authenticity of childhood trauma. People who suffer from complex PTSD sometimes yearn to return to the home where trauma took place. The chaos, confusion, and an unyielding sense of isolation I faced as a child has become an integral part of my identity. I have been walking the halls of my trauma for years, but each time I return, I learn more, go deeper, and make friends with the ghosts that haunt me. Hiraeth is my manifestation of healing artistic expression, used as a platform to raise awareness about mental illness and the impact of growing up in the space between reality and disillusion. By becoming intimately acquainted with the unpredictability of mental illness and navigating a world filled with fragmented perceptions and constant uncertainty, Hiraeth is my search for solace, understanding, and ultimately healing. It is a visual testimony of the resiliency of the human spirit and the power of art as a catalyst for self-discovery. Art transforms pain into beauty, confusion into clarity, and vulnerability into strength. Storytelling has kept me going through impossible circumstances, serving as a guiding light, illuminating the path forward towards understanding, acceptance, and growth that transcends the boundaries of personal struggle. Hiraeth is an invitation to witness the profound healing that can arise from the darkness of mental illness. It cultivates empathy, challenges stigmas, and provides a gateway for meaningful conversations about the importance of mental health awareness and support. I am returning home to the memories that first formed myself and I have stacked the broken pieces in a way that makes me look whole again.

Artist Biography

K8e Orr was born in Colorado Springs in 1983. Growing up had more than its fair share of ups and downs, but her aptitude for creativity and problem solving led her to seek solace in art. In her youth she was a skilled improviser and explorer, as well as her brother’s comic book inker. He called her Jibwa. In her earliest years, her mother was supporting her father’s creation of “Spirit People” - handmade, indigenous, thoughtful art based on storytelling. She attended her first powwow at three days old and travelled all over the USA with her parents and older brother.  Her parents ran a gallery in Cresta Butte, but eventually decided to build the house they designed on the edge of a quiet mountain town they loved, Manitou Springs, CO.  Her parents passed their skills and knowledge onto her, and regularly participated in creating art and sharing stories with her. At the age of four her story changed - when her parents divorced and her mother developed Schizophrenia. Her mother and primary caregiver remained untreated for over 20 years, making childhood anything but ordinary. Existence itself was a struggle. She faced too many of the harms created by the myriad of systems and institutions, and constantly fell through the cracks. Only by pursuing her own art and healing, was she able to stop herself from falling, expressing the emotions and experiences that were often too difficult to put into words. Many of her youngest years were spent just trying to survive, but through it all she was always making something. Art was an escape form reality, and it allowed her to continue.  In a world of chaos, she was able to control her artistic pursuits.   K8e Orr is a self-made artist, whose artwork is born from survival. She has spent countless hours drawing, painting, sculpting, building, problem solving and honing her craft. It wasn't until recently that she began to turn her attention to the subject matter closest to her heart - her childhood and the unique challenges she faced growing up. Drawing on her own experiences and her experiences with her mother she has created a powerful body of work that explores themes of mental illness, poverty, and the resilience of the human spirit. She is an advocate for mental health awareness and uses her art to spark important conversations about the challenges faced by those living with mental illness, and the loved ones that are impacted by it. Through her work she hopes to inspire others to find their own voices and use the power of art to create positive change in the world.

In 2022 she completed her bachelors of Arts, graduating summa cum laude. Much of her education was devoted to studying art therapy, social justice, and myth. As an artist she works in many different modalities, stitching together vivid imagery with her personal iconography, she is a storyteller at heart. She has been working as a full time artist and educator for over 15 years. She has opened multiple galleries and storefronts in the (TAVA) region. She is an educator, activist, artist, and an active community member who is leading the way through artistic vision to spread awareness about the stories that affect our society, encouraging and teaching others to do the same. As a community artist she has completed over 100 projects working with different nonprofits and community members. She welcomes everybody with her smile and inclusiveness. She had numerous solo expositions, murals, community events and projects and has continued to work to use her voice as a storyteller to spread advocacy  and uplift others. In 2019 she opened her own gallery Jibwa inside of the Manitou Art Center. Jibwa inspires and teaches others about the powerful act of storytelling. It’s a place of creation built on principles of community, inclusivity and expression.

The cycle of storytelling is the foundation to the most remarkable things in this life. We can develop resiliency and reclaim our power and strength. Our stories let others know what we have been through, what we have overcome, and where we hope to go. Storytelling increases happiness, empathy, discovery, healing, and community. Stories have the power to influence change as a fundamental aspect of human consciousness. When we share our stories, we leave the door open for others to share their experiences as well. This allows us to process trauma, heal, and see the beauty in the world that surrounds us. Storytelling is inclusive, not only in the way each individual has a story, regardless of class, race, gender, ability, but also in the way we express them. Storytelling is accessible to all.  When we hear other stories, we're able to make connections to ourselves. Everyone is looking for somebody to relate to and sometimes those relationships can be hard to find because everyone’s story is unique. We may each assume we are the only ones experiencing harm, but if we share that story, we can find others who have experienced it too. Stories help us process and to not feel alone. They are full of deep lessons and wisdom. My stories have taught me the need for empathy, the importance of justice, and the necessity of equality/equity needed in the world. As a storyteller sharing these values is an important part of my being, healing, and relation to the world. Stories are remembered longer than just facts because stories engage more of the brain. A good story captures our attention, holds on to us with emotion, and transports us into another’s world. Storytelling is about relationships and connection. We listen deeper with hopes that the story we hear will help us develop our own resolve and understanding in our own lives. Storytelling is a catalyst for unity.

Your Neighborhood Art Center for 35 Years

Music, theatre, pottery, printmaking, and other loud, slightly dangerous, and intensely messy events happen here daily. Locals and tourists alike flock to our galleries, studios, exhibition space, and classrooms.  Our spacious facilities can also accommodate events, conferences and offices. experiences are unlimited - how will you enjoy the MAC?


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Tuesday to Thursday 10am to 6pm

Friday and Saturday 10am to 5pm

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513/515 Manitou Ave, Manitou Springs, CO 80829 

(719) 685-1861 

513/515 Manitou Avenue, Manitou Springs, CO 80829  (719) 685-1861 Manitou Art Center is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

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