For the past three months, Metropolitan State College's Social Action Through Art class has been studying urban arts, including graffiti and hip-hop culture. "We even had some breakdance instructors come in," remembers student Nicole Aragon. "It was quite the experience. It was a lot of fun, but I don't have rhythm to save my life."
Still, the exercise hasn't been all academic. This weekend, as part of the class mission to "encourage mutual understanding between communities that might not normally interrelate with each other," students will take what they've learned off the streets and share it with a wider audience. And there's a lot to say about hip-hop, the topic that teacher Linda Airsman chose for this year's study.
"We're trying to bring it more to the forefront, to open people's eyes," Aragon says. "We have gone through the history of graffiti and the history of hip-hop, how it came out of jazz and how it's evolved from the '70s in the Bronx. Now there are all different kinds of hip-hop, including funny and gangster."
The students have organized two events to celebrate not just hip-hop, but youth culture in general. Today from 5:30 to 10 p.m., the class is inviting the entire city to Get Moved by the Experience, a community showcase and dialogue on urban arts at the Art Students League of Denver (200 Grant Street). Admission is free, and classmates hope the discussion will be equally free-ranging.
Tomorrow, Experience the Movement when the urban-arts lineup gets more expansive -- and slightly more expensive, with a $10 suggested donation going to Denver youth organizations. The evening, which gets under way at 6 p.m. at 2162 Market Street, includes both an exhibit and performances of urban art forms.
Finding the artists and performers provided another lesson in alternative forms of communication. "A lot of people in the class have friends and got the word out," Aragon explains. "We passed out fliers and went on the Internet, just trying to get people to be excited about it and come together."
It all comes together now, with a message that society overlooks at its own peril. "To ignore the expression of our young people is to ignore them," the students warn. For more information or to RSVP, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. -- Patricia Calhoun
If your Christmas tree leans a little to the left, Breakdown Book Collective's Holiday Bazaar has enough guerrilla goods and clever contraband to stuff your stockings full. "This isn't your Midwestern grandma's holiday craft bazaar -- even if she is cool," notes Breakdown's Courtney Kallas. "This is the perfect spot to pick up some revolutionary, anti-capitalist gifts."
Although the two-year-old community-supported collective will be packed with radical reads, Zapatista- grown coffee, handcrafted clothing and homebrew, Kallas says the anti-establishment expo is not just another moneymaking market. "When you buy something at the Holiday Bazaar, it will be much more than an economic exchange; it will be an opportunity to build community and educate yourself in the endless possibilities of doing things yourself."
CHAC Mercado Shines
The Chicano Humanities and Arts Council's acronym is CHAC, the name of the Mayan rain god, which, explains the co-op's Jerry Vigil, reflects the council's aim to "bring new, fresh life to the Chicano and Denver communities through the arts." That's part of the inspiration behind this year's Luminarias de la Guadalupe & Christmas Mercado(Lights of Guadalupe & Christmas Store), a holiday market of artwork and gifts created by CHAC artists. The sale begins tonight and runs through December 18 at CHAC, 772 Santa Fe Drive.
Also on the roster are book readings and signings by local authors and artists Tony Ortega and George Rivera (2 p.m. December 4); Ruben Archuleta (6 p.m. December 10); and Geraldina Lawson and Lucy Tellez (2 p.m. December 11). The majority of the Mercado's proceeds will be used to fund CHAC's community education and outreach projects. For information, go to www.chacweb.org. -- Caroline Bankoff
Thirteenth Avenue Action Squad is stylin'
The Thirteenth Avenue Action Squad is giving Denver a style makeover. Starting at 11 a.m. today, the Moxie Hair Company (200 East 13th Avenue) will snip, shear and chop for charity. Shaggy patrons can drop by any time before 6 p.m. for a complimentary haircut -- whether it's a trim or a full-on transformation -- in exchange for donating cash, clothes, toys or books to Cerebral Palsy of Colorado's children's programs.
"The owner, Felipe Perez, wanted the junior stylists and apprentice stylists to do something for the community," explains apprentice Aja Edelstein, who organized the event. "We wanted to do something for children, and we thought about Children's Hospital. But so many people do Children's Hospital that they are very well funded. A lot of the families Cerebral Palsy of Colorado works with are destitute financially, and so for the holidays, they ask for things like laundry detergent and shampoo. I thought that was so sad: They live in America and can't afford laundry soap."