For someone like Richard Nelson, who grew up in the small northeast-plains town of Peetz, Colorado, East High must have seemed a far cry from the schoolhouses of his youth. His first shock came when he walked into the mammoth school as the new English teacher in 1964 and was greeted by Pat Panek, the winningest football coach in Colorado history, who curtly informed him that at East, teachers wore suits and ties. At the end of the day, then-principal Robert Colwell told his latest hire, "Mr. Nelson, there are legends to be made at this school." Nelson quickly realized that he was now part of a longstanding tradition -- and he leapt in feet first.
In his 34-year stay at East, Nelson was impressed not only by the caliber of the teachers, principals and students who passed through the school, but by the sheer number of people who've called the place home over the years. "I was amazed by how much history was here," Nelson comments. "But nobody was doing anything to preserve it. I wanted to give something back to East for allowing me to be part of this incredible family."
So when he retired in 1995, Nelson became actively involved in the East Alumni and Friends Association, curating the East library in the belltower and helping fundraise. His latest effort, a book titled Flights of Angels: A History of East High School 1874-2004, is his greatest gift yet to what he calls "the little red schoolhouse on Colfax." In it, Nelson traces the history of East decade by decade, elucidating the history of the institution as well as the city that's housed it. He highlights East's move to its current location as part of Mayor Robert Speer's "Denver Beautiful Project," a 1924 effort to match a magnificent building to the city's prominent parks, and points out how Colfax Avenue and the school have grown up together.
"I thought about calling it Angels on Colfax," Nelson says, "but the publisher thought there might be negative connotations."
Using old yearbooks and school newspapers as references, Nelson was able to capture the spirit of each era and show how students dealt with issues from the Great Depression to the shootings at Columbine.
Nelson will be on hand to discuss Flights at an open house today at East, 1545 Detroit Street, from 1 to 4 p.m.; the afternoon will also feature music by the East Angelaires and a walking tour of the school and tower. -- Adam Cayton-Holland
Want a Revolution?
Deproduction Party Shows the Way
SAT, 12/4 Think you have the next Fahrenheit 9/11reeling around in your noggin, but don't have Michael Moore's wallet to bankroll it to an audience? Think again. At Deproduction: The [denverevolution] Production Group's Launch Party, the community is invited to see firsthand how the non-profit denverevolution group arms independent filmmakers with the tools and skills to raise a fist to the conglomerate of corporate-controlled communication. "Anyone can make mass media," says denverevolutionary Tony Shawcross. "There are no big barriers, and you don't need millions of dollars. We want people to see that anyone can do it with the resources that are available through us." The silver-screen social will shine a spotlight on denverevolution's film work tonight in a comradely klatsch that includes hors d'oeuvres prepared by students from Denver's P.S.1 charter school, live music, speakers, and beer and wine. A silent auction hosted by Sid Pink will proffer a live painting by Jay Paul Apodaca, annual passes to Cafe Nuba, and a six-pack of every beer bottled by New Belgium Brewing Company; proceeds benefit denverevolution's community connection. "We want there to be alternatives to the traditional corporate-owned and -guided media structure," says Shawcross. "We want people to have some control to make sure that the topics, interests and values that they care about are represented." Deproduction goes from 7 to 11 p.m. at P.S.1, 1062 Delaware Street; admission is free. For information, call 303-575-6690, ext.256, or visit www.denverevolution.org. -- Kity Ironton Growin' Up Right
SAT, 12/4 In my fourth-grade "When I Grow Up" essay, I wrote that I wanted to be a secretary. That's what my mom was, so that's what I thought I should be. David Hieb had the same sort of experience when he was young, and now he's trying to help children expand their horizons with regard to the future. To that end, he's throwing a formal party and fundraiser, Chillin' Black Tie 2004, to raise money for his new foundation, When I Grow Up. Hieb, a finance director by day, hopes to change children's perspectives by teaming them with different professionals. By giving kids the opportunity to spend the day with a stockbroker or a forest ranger, he hopes to help them make informed academic choices during their formative years. He also hopes that Chillin' will give local beautiful people a reason to get dressed and head out for an evening of fashion by Black + Light, featuring Skye clothing and She-She, DJ Idiom and breakdancers from Affiliated. The party starts at 8 p.m. tonight at the Luna Hotel, 1612 Wazee Street. Tickets, $25 to $40, are available at www.blacktie.chillintime.com. For information, call 303-818-7700. -- Jerri Theil Wet and Wild
Kids create an arty world
THURS, 12/2 A kid is like a piece of felt: When it's all wet and new, a dripping, stinking ball of moldable wool fiber, you can mush it this way and that. Eventually, you might even turn it into something beautiful; all it takes is a little bit of guidance. Denver artist Lauri Lynnxe Murphy discovered this when she visited Downtown Aurora Visual Arts to lead a felting workshop for DAVA Youth, the organization's arts-focused, after-school skills-training wing. Though the pupils complained about raw felt's wet-dog smell, the otherwise enthusiastic kids learned the basics; they then used their new skills to create an array of wearable artworks, including colorful felt-ball necklaces and hats. Those fanciful items, along with additional clay and beaded works, handbags, jewelry and more, will go on display when Adornments, a holiday show and sale, opens today at the DAVA Gallery, 1405 Florence Street, Aurora, with a reception from 3 to 8 p.m. A selection of Murphy's own wares -- including an unbelievable coat stitched together from rescued stuffed animals and the same Sugarpuss bags she sells at her retail boutique, Pod -- will also be featured in the exhibit, which runs through January 21. Call 303-367-5886 for details. -- Susan Froyd