Thrills for the week

December 4
'Tis the season to be shopping: Art, which allows you to act the part of a cultural dilettante and still be a blatant consumer, makes the chore of holiday shopping more palatable--so put on your stuffed shirts, look down your noses and hit the shows.

Openings tonight include Nuestras Artistas, a group show of works by nineteen local Latino artists at Museo de las Americas, 861 Santa Fe Dr. The varied exhibit hangs through January 10; call 571-4401. The Museum of Outdoor Arts, 7600 E. Orchard Rd., celebrates the works of its accomplished art-faculty members with a reception and sale from 4 to 7. The show continues through December 31; call 741-3609. Art goes animalistic at Cosmo's Dog Biscuit Bakery, 1224 E. 6th Ave., where works by Sherrie Ingle and Roger Beltrami go on sale to benefit the American Humane Association's Second Chance Fund. Attend the reception tonight from 5 to 8; while you're there, you can pick up some munchable stocking-stuffers for Fido. Call 777-6500. And one of the biggest and best holiday art markets around opens for business tonight from 7 to 9 at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities, 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., featuring an expanded selection of ceramics, jewelry, artwear and fine art through December 23. Another show, The Surreal West, also opens tonight at the center; for information call 431-3939.

The artful fun continues tomorrow from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Boulder with the annual Souper Bowlder event at First Congregational Church, Broadway and Pine. The hearty benefit soup lunch is served in unique ceramic bowls handmade by local artists; for twelve bucks, you fill your stomach and take home a work of art. Call 444-0558. And if the dabblings of local celebrities are on your holiday plate, A Stroke of Genius, a new paint-your-own pottery shop at 9623-D E. County Line Rd., is hosting an ongoing pre-Christmas Celebrity Pottery Auction. Plates decorated by assorted sports and media figures will be on display and open to bids today through December 20; for details call 792-0672. CORE New Art Space, 1412 Wazee St., offers yet another bidding opportunity when the local artists' co-op throws its yearly benefit silent auction. Affordable artwork, gift certificates and white-elephant novelties will be on the block from 6 to 10 (preview items from noon to 5); call 571-4831.

And that's just the tip of the paintbrush, folks: For more creative shopping ideas, turn the page and check the Events and Galleries sections of the Thrills listings.

String 'em along: Everybody's got his shtick these days, and folk/pop singer-songwriter Dee Carstensen may be no different. But what a shtick she's got: While singing self-penned works about contemporary concerns (or even Jimi Hendrix covers) in a fine, Shawn Colvinesque style, Carstensen accompanies herself on the harp, an instrument she's been learning to handle since she was eight years old. A total pro, the modern-day angel plinks and sings tonight at 8 at the Boulder Theater, 2030 14th St., Boulder; for tickets, $12, call 786-7030.

December 5
Light up your life: This year the Grinch won't steal Christmas, but he just might steal the show: The Dr. Seuss-style Scrooge is one of four new giant balloons in this year's Parade of Lights. The Cat in the Hat, a 75-foot-long crocodile and a gigantic gingerbread man will also debut, interspersed among the floats, marching bands and other attractions scheduled to stretch out tonight through the streets of downtown Denver. The annual holiday procession, which sets off from Civic Center at 8 p.m. and follows a route along Tremont, 17th, Arapahoe and 15th streets before making its way back to 14th and Glenarm, is free (to reserve limited grandstand seating, available at the City and County Building for $8 to $12, call 830-TIXS), and it all repeats again tomorrow at 6 p.m. For details, call the Downtown Denver Events Hotline, 478-7878; for information regarding RTD's ParadeRide bus service from seventeen metro-area park-and-ride locations, call 299-6000.

Salon 'do: Local photographer Mark Sink, who likens the independently developing Denver art scene to that of the city of Prague, took a big step toward putting our town on the arts map when he formed The Denver Salon in 1993. The fine-art photographers in this group not only congregate over fine food and drink to share ideas and techniques, but they also band together to stage noteworthy exhibitions. Their latest show opens tonight from 6 to 9 at Rule Modern and Contemporary, 111 Broadway, in conjunction with the monthly Broadway Corridor First Friday event. The salon exhibit continues through January 25; call 777-9473 for gallery hours.

Your Condo guy: Vintage rockabilly and Western swing form the rockin' domain of Ray Condo and His Ricochets, a hardworking, no-frills retro band dedicated to cranking it out on stage like a runaway locomotive. So put on your dancing shoes: Condo and cohorts rip it up tonight at 9th Avenue West, 99 W. 9th Ave. For ticket information call 572-8006.

December 6
Green lanterns: Even in the dead of almost winter, the Denver Botanic Gardens has found a way to enchant the crowds. Well after most local flower blossoms have turned in for the season, Blossoms of Light turns the pastoral plots at 1005 York St. into a whole different kind of wonderland. This year's seasonal premiere of the gardens' annual glow in the dark actually begins during daylight hours at a Tree-mendous Kick-off, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the DBG-run Chatfield Arboretum, 8500 Deer Creek Canyon Road, Littleton, where Santa himself will be hanging out and Christmas trees, wreaths and greens will be for sale alongside handmade beeswax candles and other old-fashioned delights. Admission is free; call 973-3705. Then it's on to the main attraction at York Street--animated light displays outdoors and poinsettia plants, gingerbread houses, entertainment, special concerts, kid's craft activities and goodies inside--which will stay ablaze nightly from 6 to 9 through January 4. Admission to Blossoms of Light is $3 to $5 (children five and younger get in free); call 370-8187 for additional information.

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