Wednesday July 12 Designing children: The Denver Department of Parks and Recreation wants the city's junior swingers to come out and tell it how to build a new playground at Gates Crescent Park, adjacent to the Children's Museum along the Platte River Greenway. Kids ages five to twelve and their parents will be able to contribute their visionary two cents' worth to the project during a workshop from 1 to 3 at the museum, where they'll be called upon to draw, build or simply voice suggestions. And each wee architect will receive a certificate and an invitation to come down and add his or her name to a Designer's Platform when the playground makes its debut next spring. The workshop is free, but that's no reason not to take advantage of the museum; admission is $4. For details call 433-7444 or 964-2554.

Thursday July 13 Tart and tangy: The mechanics of movement get a new twist when the Ralph Lemon Company takes the stage. Lemon's multifaceted dance innovations are typified by gravity-defying acrobatics, musical accompaniment that swings from choral chants to Frank Zappa, and the surprising use of unexpected sounds from a harmonica or a microphone attached to a dancer's waist. The company appears today through Saturday for 8 p.m. performances in the Irey Theatre, CU-Boulder campus, all courtesy of this month's Colorado Dance Festival. For tickets, $16, call 442-7666.

Friday July 14 In time: The world's resident master of cosmology, Dr. Stephen W. Hawking, has managed, despite some communication disabilities brought on by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, to make his dense theories about black holes and space-time structure palatable to the common man. Hawking will discuss those ideas, some documented in his bestseller A Brief History of Time, tonight at 7:30 in the Buell Theatre, 14th and Curtis in the Plex. Call 298-1017 for ticket information and reservations; a limited number of reduced-rate student tickets are also available.

Rocks and roll: The age of innocence--not to mention cherry Cokes and carhops in short shorts--makes a brief but unusual comeback at Red Rocks tonight. There the Colorado Symphony Orchestra will join forces with oldies-meisters Flash Cadillac, a local combo dedicated to the preservation of rock-and-roll classics. Although the Cadillac boys sport '50s ducktails, their musical forays range from Buddy Holly to Bruce Springsteen--and should be punched up considerably by the CSO's orchestral accompaniment. The party begins at 7:30; tickets, available by calling 98-MUSIC, are $10 to $15 for adults ($5-$7.50 for students and kids). Be there or be square.

Saturday July 15 Peak experience: Winter Park will be dishing up two full stages of mountain music this weekend, when the American Music Festival returns to the high country for another year. The roster, designed with eclectic appeal in mind, includes Darius Rucker's high-flying Hootie & the Blowfish, slack troubadour Todd Snider and comebacker Steve Forbert, all performing today. Jam band Widespread Panic, Brian Setzer's Orchestra and folk update Ani DiFranco are slated for tomorrow. Admission prices are geared to suit your fancy--$25 daily ($28 at the gate) or $45 for the entire fest; call 830-TIXS.

Dust to dust: Art made entirely of natural materials--clay, stone, glass and fiber--is the focus of From the Earth, For the Earth, the MacLaren/Markowitz Gallery's annual fundraising exhibit, on display through July 30. And as the subject matter and title imply, 10 percent of the sales will benefit the Nature Conservancy. The gallery, located at 1011 Pearl St. in Boulder, will host a children's art class with Aleta Braun today from 11 a.m. to noon and an afternoon demonstration by ceramist Bob Smith from 1 to 3. Both are free; call 449-6807. And while you're in the area, drop by the new Artspace Gallery, opening for business today on the first floor of Boulder's Art Hardware, 1135 Broadway. You'll see paintings, ceramics, fiber pieces, sculpture and other works by Colorado artists, in exhibits that change every six weeks. For additional information call 444-3063.

Show and tell: Brock McDaniel's Eye for an I Cinema is the kind of artists' outlet that rarely crosses over from the underground. But the producer of this intermittent showcase of independent film and video is happily celebrating its second anniversary with a pair of screenings at the high-profile Tattered Cover LoDo, 1628 16th St., tonight at 5 and 7:30. Notable entries this time around include Dearfield: The Road Less Traveled, a film documenting an all-black, turn-of-the-century Colorado town that's the handiwork of Denver television anchor Reynelda Muse and director donnie l. betts; The Middle Passage, an award-winning short by Albert Farrar exploring the nature of prejudice; and Coloring Kane, Phillip Lloyd Hegel's satire on the unthinking colorization of classic black-and-white films. Admission is $5 at the door; call 436-1070.

Sunday July 16 Movin' on: A major exhibit hits town this weekend when Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series opens for viewing at the Denver Art Museum. The Harlem-born master's sixty-panel painting epic--previously divided between collections in Washington, D.C., and New York and now on tour in one magnificent piece--tells the story of the African-American flight from the rural South to the urban North during the first half of the century, using Lawrence's striking patent blocks of color and shadow. This must-see exhibition can be seen at the museum, 100 W. 14th Ave. Pkwy., through September 10; call 640-2793.

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