ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Best Local Art Gallery Exhibit
Louise Bourgeois
Ginny Williams Family Foundation
299 Fillmore St.

The decision to use work by an internationally renowned artist to inaugurate the long-awaited reopening of the Ginny Williams Gallery (as a nonprofit foundation in the style of Germany's Kunsthalle) was natural and brilliant. And the art, a haunting and powerful selection of Bourgeois's sculpture, from recent works to pieces dating from the Fifties, was unforgettable, a delicious highlight in a year that needed some serious perking up. Bourgeois's importance and influence have skyrocketed in the last decade, and this show displayed the mischievous genius at her best.

Readers' choice: Pirate Gallery

Best Local Museum
Museo de las Americas
861 Santa Fe Dr.

The Museo, which made its debut with a fascinating exhibit of photographs of Frida Kahlo and her circle, is situated in a newly awakening neighborhood (the handsome Denver Civic Theatre renovation is just a block away). It promises to become an important resource for the whole region and a showplace for the rich heritage of Latin American traditions.

Readers' choice: Denver Museum of Natural History

Best Local Museum Exhibit
"Colorado Sculpture: The Object" Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities
6901 Wadsworth Blvd., Arvada

Filling almost two floors of the extravagant, almost-new Arvada Center, "The Object" was the ultimate Always Buy Colorado toy store. The original art from Front Range sculptors, all high quality, showed astounding strength and promise. Among the notables: Brian Dreith's brooding eighty-foot-long "artificial arms" made from roughly jointed logs and Linda Herritt's curtain-based meditations on feminism and artifice. Whoever thinks Colorado sculpture begins and ends with George Lundeen's baseball players never saw this fabulous--and Lundeen-less--show.

Readers' choice: Star Trek: Federation Science, at the Denver Museum of Natural History

Best New Arts Venue
The Bug
3654 Navajo St.

Once a neighborhood movie theater, this renovated space reopened recently as The Bug, a concert venue for the alternative scene. Performance art and theater, music, poetry and multimedia projects call it home, and the fact that The Bug shares the same block with gonzo galleries Pirate and Edge makes an already lively weekend spot even more entertaining. Kudos to all the artists involved in the renovation, an asset to a less-than-prosperous neighborhood that needs more of this kind of caring commitment.

Best Factory Tour
Celestial Seasonings
4600 Sleepytime Dr., Boulder

The highlight of the free 45-minute tour at Celestial Seasonings is the "mint room," where the company stores its ultrapotent peppermint leaves. The room's overpowering odors are such a popular attraction that plans now call for a stereo to blast Joey Dee's "Peppermint Twist" every time somebody opens the door. Visitors also get to see the formal herb garden--featuring real-life samples of such mysterious ingredients as hibiscus flowers and rose hips--as well as the art department, where all those heartwarming package covers are cooked up, and the factory where the milling, mixing and packaging takes place. Top it off with as many free cups of tea as you want, and grab a bite at a cafe modeled after the turn-of-the-century scene on the company's Harvest Spice box.

Best Pop Art
Coca-Cola Museum
Heritage Square, Golden

Coke is it for Bob Schneider. The former marine biologist first became soft on the drink back in the Fifties, when he worked as a vendor at the 1952 Illinois State Fair, and then in the Sixties, when he was looking for rec-room decor. But he didn't really develop a case for Coke until he needed relief from the high-stress job of investigating polluters for the feds. "Collecting Coca-Cola memorabilia was such a diversion from my work," he says. And since he retired seven years ago, it is his work. President of the Coca-Cola Collectors Club of Colorado and Wyoming, he curates the Coca-Cola Museum in Golden in his spare time. "It brings back periods of time in your life," he says. "It brings back good memories."

Best Monument to Living History
Littleton Historical Museum and Living History Farm
6028 S. Gallup St., Littleton

While so many suburbs make a hash of what little history they have, the past is alive and well in Littleton. That's where Bob McQuarie, former director of education at the Colorado History Museum, has not only been cultivating the Littleton Historial Museum and Living History Farm for the past 25 years but reaching out to protect other historic structures in the town, including its two train depots. Recent additions to the museum include a blacksmith shop, the Isaac McBroom Cabin and a family burial plot to make young visitors think about their ancestors. "We don't lie to these kids," he says. "We let their imagination think up who might be in that fresh-turned earth."

Best Old Toys
Museum of Miniatures, Dolls and Toys
Pierce-McAllister Cottage
1880 Gaylord St.

Before there were Barbie dolls and Hot Wheels cars, before you needed twelve batteries to make any toy work, before teddies were all designer teddies--there were more unique and ingenious toys that managed to please their tiny owners in spite of their simplicity. Housed in the historic Pierce-McAllister Cottage, a charming old home with a country feel uncharacteristic to most Denver architecture, this fine little museum is a valentine to those more innocent amusements that will appeal to children and inner children alike.

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