Can't afford a European adventure this summer? Here's how to enjoy a Roman holiday without ever leaving the comfort of your own scrappy little American city: Be transported by Sargent and Italy, a traveling exhibit from the Los Angeles County Museum and Italy's Ferrara Arte Museum that opens today at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway. A remarkable collection of 65 works, the show focuses on subjects that Gilded Age master John Singer Sargent painted for love rather than money. Instead of the formal portraits that were his bread and butter (and most recognizable claim to enduring fame), Sargent painted Italy in familiar tones, depicting friends, family and landscapes informed more by a personal sense than a tourist's awe. No wonder. Born in Florence to expatriate American parents, Sargent was no Daisy Miller: He never set foot in America until adulthood, and Italy, where he continued to summer, was home.
The paintings symbolize a kind of psychic home, as well. As DAM curator Dr. Timothy Standring points out, Sargent and Italy covers ground not traversed by previous Sargent exhibitions. Several of the pieces have never been shown before, and the exhibit as a whole represents an untouched theme, serving as a kind of back-roads Sargent travelogue that navigates the painter's work both historically and visually. Works range from images of his beloved Venice to informal portraits of compatriots to muted architectural studies of places not necessarily found in guidebooks. An additional taste of Sargent's Italian milieu will be provided by an Italian piazza area built into the exhibit space that features faux-painted walls, a fountain and benches. Visitors can thumb through books -- art catalogues, travel tomes and Henry James novels -- or create their own mail-worthy souvenir postcards.
Sargent and Italy continues through September 21; special exhibit admission ranges from $5.50 to $9.50 (DAM members and children ages five and under are admitted free). For more information, call 720-865-5000 or log on to www.denverartmuseum.org. -- By Susan Froyd
Art bikes get cool
Summertime just wouldn't be complete without flip-flops, bicycle rides and coconut-flavored drinks -- at least as far as the folks at Malibu Rum are concerned. As part of its nationwide "seriously easygoing" marketing campaign, the liquor company will bring its custom-painted art bicycles to town this weekend. Two of the bikes were designed by local artists Annette Coleman and Ismael Amador Lozano. "I went with a tropical motif," says Lozano. "Lots of high-intensity hues." Malibu reps will ride the artists' creations to several happening events. And as they pedal along, the cocktail ambassadors will also peddle tips on how to use Malibu Rum products.
Spectators can view the two-wheeled works of art today from 3:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Hot Sounds at the Pavilions concert at the Denver Pavilions and tomorrow from noon to 5 p.m. at the Denver International Buskerfest on the 16th Street Mall. -- Julie Dunn
Salida Artwalk Beckons
Salida's not your typical mountain town: Nestled on the Arkansas River in Colorado's touted fourteener country, it boasts some of the nation's most challenging whitewater. But over the years, it's also become a mecca for working artists, who are attracted by the area's affordability. And according to Salida potter/gallery owner Mary Cox, it's evolved into a true artists' community, where impromptu barbecues and music jams are common occurrences. "Everybody's starving to death here, but we're all starving to death together," Cox says. Once a year, during the Salida Art Walk, the town opens its gallery and studio doors to share that laid-back ambience. This year's event, which will feature roving poets and mud people to entertain strolling folks, starts tonight and continues through 4 p.m. Sunday. For details and directions, call 1-877-772-5432 or log on to www.salidaartwalk.org. -- Susan Froyd
Urban author draws a crowd
The Hue-Man Experience Bookstore will combine an evening of hot jazz with the cool words of author E. Lynn Harris, tonight in the Blue Light Literary Lounge at the Park Hill Golf Club, 4141 East 35th Avenue. It's a chance to take in a rich blend of African-American heritage and culture, as Harris shares a few pages from his collected works and previews his highly anticipated memoir, What Becomes of the Broken Hearted, available July 8. The Hue-Man Experience has allowed plenty of time for the popular urban chronicler to sign books and meet with his Denver fans. Following his appearance, the Coulter Wood Jazz Quartet will heat up the club as part of its Friday Night Jazz Series. "I think this will be a great ending to everyone's week," says Hue-Man owner Joi K. Afzal. "It is so soothing to hear E. Lynn read, the band is really well known, and it gives plenty of opportunity for people to mingle and meet new contacts."
According to Afzal, Harris draws a large crowd, so be sure to get there in time for happy hour, which starts at 6 p.m. (the author will read shortly thereafter). Admission is $15 to $20; tickets are available at the door or in advance at the Hue-Man Experience, 911 Park Avenue West. Call 303-293-2665 for more information. -- Kity Ironton