During the Holocaust, Oskar Schindler wasn't the only guy with a list. Varian Fry, an American, helped a select group of thinkers, scientists and artists escape Nazi Germany's death-hold on Europe during World War II; among them were such cultural luminaries as Marc Chagall and Marcel Duchamp. Assignment: Rescue, The Story of Varian Fry, a film by Academy Award-winning director Richard Kaplan that documents Fry's efforts, will be shown tonight at 7:30 at the Shwayder Theatre, Robert E. Loup Jewish Community Center, 350 S. Dahlia, where works by several of the rescued artists are currently on display as part of the center art exhibit Left/Right: The Nazi Attack on Modern Art and Its Aftermath. Claire Ehrman, a Boulderite whom Fry assisted, will speak at the screening; for information or tickets, $5, call 321-8297.
Other towns may have cherry blossoms or clouds of swooping swallows, but the surest sign of spring in Denver is the annual advent of Cinco de Mayo, a celebration that spotlights the region's resplendent Hispanic culture. The city usually offers numerous fiestas, but what's indisputably the largest unfurls over the weekend at Civic Center Park, at Broadway and Colfax. This year's Celebrate Cultures Festival kicks off in the park tonight from 6 to 10 with a free concert before settling in for two days of major revelry for all ages. From 10 to 7 Saturday and Sunday, Civic Center will come alive with activities and attractions, from the crowd-pleasing lowrider car and bike show to a sparkly carnival midway. Also on tap, along with the usual food and crafts vendors, are a fine-art Galeria de Artistas, live entertainment on five stages, and storytelling, a petting zoo and pony rides for the kids. In addition, a beautiful parade starts the day tomorrow, and a rousing mariachi Mass blares at 10 a.m. on Sunday; grounds admission is free.
On a smaller scale suited perfectly to smaller people, Grupo Folklorico performs tonight at 6:30 as part of the Children's Museum of Denver's ongoing Twilight Theatre. The vividly costumed troupe performs traditional dances of Mexico; see them free with your paid museum admission, which ranges from $2 to $5. The museum, located at I-25 and 23rd Ave., will also feature Cinco de Mayo crafts and games for children on May 5; for details call 433-7444.
You can have your art and eat it, too, when the enigmatically titled They artists' cooperative presents Feast of Fools, billed as a food-related art statement that includes fine art, performance and installations, some of which will be edible. A reception/feast takes place tonight from 7 to 11 at the gallery, located upstairs at 1280 Sherman St.; co-op members request that those attending bring either canned-food donations for charity or a potluck dish to share at the opening. Inedible works will remain on view by appointment through May 24; call 202-6811.
The birds are chirping and the little green leaves are popping out; it's time for Ready, Set...Garden!, a gardener's extravaganza scheduled today from 9 to 5 at Hudson Gardens, 6115 S. Santa Fe Dr. You can stroll the impeccably planted and maintained gardens looking for ideas, but you'll get the real dirt during the outdoor affair's gardening demonstrations, book signings and plant and craft sales. Food, entertainment and kids' activities, including a hands-on twig-sculpture booth and a creepy-crawly display from the Butterfly Pavilion, round out the day's bill of fare. Gate admission, which includes today's gardening fair, ranges from $2 to $4; call 797-8565.
Once that inspires you to get your hands --and knees--dirty, consider the plight of the Denver Department of Parks and Recreation, which is experiencing a serious shortage of seasonal gardeners this season. "Spring is upon us," says spokeswoman Judy Montero, who adds that green-thumbed folks are desperately needed to help maintain flower beds, mow and water grass and remove trash in Denver parks. The job pays $7.76 an hour in addition to providing lots of time in the sun; interested parties can call 964-2590 to apply.
Then again, if you're inspired to gardenly things but don't need a summer job, you can still go shopping. Artful garden gewgaws are in abundance at Wild Flowers, 1201 Madison St., and the Perfect Petal, 3621 W. 32nd Ave., and several galleries have functional, garden-themed shows opening this weekend. Signs of Spring features sunny garden art, birdhouses, arbors and other lovely things at Me L Yu Gallery, 107 Broadway (733-0344), and the Roundtree Clay Studio, 2942 Welton St. (294-9985), hosts not just garden, not just clay, a spring show and sale open today from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and tomorrow from noon to 4 p.m. This is also the weekend to hit the Boulder Arts & Crafts Cooperative, 1421 Pearl St., Boulder, where Vases in Vogue is on display through May 11. Buy any vase on weekends throughout the run and you can have it filled on the spot with fresh-cut flowers; proceeds will benefit Boulder County Safehouse. Call 443-3683.
When the people at E-Town chose someone to represent them at their 7th Anniversary B'Earthday Bash, they made a righteous choice: They asked folk-music legend Joan Baez, a testament to creative longevity, to grace the stage during the party. So when the environmental news-and-music radio show celebrates before a live audience tonight at 7 in CU-Boulder's Macky Auditorium, it will be Baez's crystalline voice, however weathered by time, that holds spectators speechless. Enough said. Laura Love and her band will also perform; for tickets, $15 to $60, call 786-7030.