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Best Musical Minimalists
Arkestra Pirata
Arkestra Pirata's members are performance artists, combining poetry, dance, singing and acting with acoustic and electronic instrumentation. The group, which draws heavily from the pool of local post-avant-garde experimenters, puts its own spin on everything from John Cage, Sun Ra and Stockhausen to jazz standards and romantic classical composers. You'll find pianists, French horn players, percussionists, clarinetists, flutists, steel-guitar players and a host of other soundmakers in this formation--and it's probably the only creative grouping in town that doesn't involve Fred Hess or Ron Miles.

Best Unclassifiable Recording
Aubrey Carton
The Pleasure Dance

Aubrey Carton is an entrepreneur who markets recordings designed to aid in the rehabilitation of special-needs youngsters. She's also a musical artist of rare skill, as her CD The Pleasure Dance demonstrates. The disc features some of the area's best jazz artists, including saxophonist Mark Miller and pianist Art Lande, creating brilliant soundscapes over which Carton gently delivers lyrics that are poetic without sounding pretentious. It's a disc to be treasured, not pigeonholed.

Best Van Cliburn Medalist From Colorado
Christopher Taylor
There's a true star in our midst--he's former child prodigy Christopher Taylor, born and raised in Boulder, where he started giving recitals at age ten and graduated from high school in 1988. Last year in Fort Worth, Texas, Taylor nabbed the first medal won by an American since 1981 in the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. He's also taken first prize in the William Kapell International Piano Competition, held at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and in his younger days took top honors at the Boulder Bach Festival's Young Artists Competition. Despite his many accomplishments, Taylor hasn't turned his back on the hometown scene; last August, more than 1,200 people packed the Chautauqua Auditorium to hear his benefit concert for the Boulder Bach Festival.

Best Slummin' Cellist
Jonas Tauber
Since ditching a California aerospace-engineering job and moving to Colorado more than a year ago, bow-slinger Jonas Tauber has become the Boulder Philharmonic's chief cello honcho while still finding time to moonlight with local pop and acoustic acts including Chris and Maggie and Laughing Hands. More recently, Tauber's taken to playing everything from Bach to bebop at Boulder-area java joints in an effort to bring the music of the masters to the masses.

Best Addition to the Colorado Symphony Orchestra
Marin Alsop
The first woman to conduct a major American symphony orchestra, Marin Alsop is unerringly contemporary and energetic. And unlike some previous maestros, she actually lives here. Alsop is the director of Concordia, an orchestra she founded that plays a repertoire heavy on twentieth-century music, and also is a member of String Fever, where she fiddles with jazz as a musician (her second season with the CSO will include a performance by same). Alsop may not be here forever--reports are she's considered a hot property by other major symphonies. But she's already left her mark on the CSO.

Best Live Music Venue That's Really a Gallery
Pirate: A Contemporary Art Oasis
3659 Navajo St.

Who needs chairs or a full-service bar when you have art? The Pirate doesn't procure musical acts often, so it's a rare treat to catch local acts playing against the avant-garde black-and-whiteness of this gallery. It's an intimate space, so the bands play on the same level as the audience and mere inches away. And between sets everyone can check out stark photographs of strangely pierced teens or colorful-yet-inexplicable paintings. Bring your own beverage and enjoy a true multimedia experience.

Best Commercial Gallery
1251 S. Pearl St.

Robert Mangold and his wife, Peggy, the unofficial Mom and Dad of the Denver art scene, have turned the Artyard studio/gallery/sculpture garden into a homey showplace, complete with furniture (Carolyn Braaksma's concrete "arm-chairs") and flowers (Robert's own spinning-metal sculptures that look like shiny chrysanthemums). Combined with the wide-open space of the art "yard," the couple's modest indoor gallery remains the most distinctive and tasteful exhibition area in town.

Best Noncommercial Gallery
Metropolitan State College Center for the Visual Arts
1701 Wazee St.

Metropolitan State College's out-of-the-ordinary Wazee Street gallery concentrates on expanding the horizons of Denver art by supporting experimental artists and bringing in unusual speakers and cutting-edge art from around the world. The work here is for sale, but as a government-supported academic institution, the gallery doesn't have to worry much about competitive commercial concerns--just good art.

Best Cooperative Gallery
CORE New Art Space
1412 Wazee St.

Cooperative galleries are the friendliest way to get your art seen--so congenial that new ones are opening all the time. But CORE's LoDo space is the loveliest of them all--a clean, spacious room on the far end of Gallery Row. CORE's activism and arts advocacy is unsurpassed and its members enjoy the experience and support of other co-op artists. Like many LoDo galleries, CORE will move in the next year or so because of stadium development; here's hoping its next home is as gracious as this one.

Best Coffeehouse Art
Common Grounds
3484 W. 32nd Ave.

Since coffeehouses always have been a hotbed of black berets, hanging your art on the wall at one is a great way to get it seen. Local art has been hung in local eateries since the mid-Seventies, but Common Grounds takes the obligation especially seriously, employing its own art curator and setting aside a special room for the purpose. Showing this way has some advantages (people actually go there, unlike some tomblike gallery spaces) and disadvantages (who splashed the soup on my monoprint?), but on the whole, there's no friendlier environment for the budding Toulouse-Lautrec.

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