Helen Hand knows all about life transitions.
Navigating her fifties at a time when younger people of a different mindset seem to rule the roost, she's also adjusting to a caretaking role with her aging father. And about a years ago, following the murder of her brother, Colorado Free University founder John Hand, she traded in her career as a psychologist to take up CFU's loose reins.
"It's been overwhelming," Hand says of her sudden directorship. "But it's also been inspiring and uplifting. Making such a huge change in midlife made me think about others who are going through similar changes."
In the wake of last November's polarizing elections, Hand began to wonder what had happened to the can-do spirit of the '60s counterculture; she pondered where all the positivism reflected in the original concept of the free university went. "Although its roots are in the '60s and the free speech movement, CFU has evolved and changed," she notes. "It's become more practical, more down-to-earth and less radical. But there's still the promise that communities can solve their own problems by sharing expertise and knowledge. Learning doesn't have to be intimidating, evaluating and hierarchical. It shouldn't involve jumping through hoops.
"Those two thoughts converged," Hand explains, and that led to the insight that "maybe we boomers need a little shot in the arm." With this in mind, she devised Bloomin' Boomers, today's full roster of boomer-directed seminars exploring themes such as finance, wellness, recreation and relationships, with some gardening and arts and crafts thrown in. "The festival is my little effort to try to do something that goes the other directionto bring people together and connect them with something other than controversy," she explains. And because participants could use a lift, this Woodstock of wisdom will wind up with a party.
"Baby boomers have always done things their own way. They always broke from tradition to do things differently," she says. "I think we'll also do aging differently, more creatively." That sounds like Hand's forward-looking CFU, which is still healthy after all these years. "We're dug in," Hand affirms. "We're definitely here to stay."
A recipe for American homemakers
Hidden deep in the maw of the University of Denver's Penrose Library lies the Margaret Husted Culinary Collection. One of the largest cookbook collections in the nation, it's an enormous compendium of recipe books, ladies' magazines and pamphlets published over the past 200 years or so. It's unlikely that most students at the university -- let alone the rest of the world -- even know about it. But that's not so for DU grad students Kelly Goelz and Carina Stanton, who not only know of it, but have put a portion of the collection to use for Modern Homemaker: Exploring an American Identity Through Cookbooks, a new display at the DU Museum of Anthropology, 2000 East Asbury Avenue.
"Our students took a small sliver of the collection -- forty books out of 10,000 -- and made an exhibit of it," says museum director Christina Kreps. The focus is on mid-century period pieces from the post-WWII era, when women returned from the workplace to embrace domesticity with new zeal, relying on new products -- from processed foods to Osterizers -- to make the chore of cooking quicker and easier. To illustrate, Goelz and Stanton included samplings of both classic and not-so-classic recipe books (Kreps says her favorite is Eat Meat Three Times a Day), as well as a fun display of chrome appliances, including a waffle iron, an egg poacher and fancy cocktail tools.
The exhibit continues through July 29; call 303-871-2688. -- Susan Froyd
Paint the Town
Before there was a Denver, artists were painting Colorado. And tonight from 6 to 8 p.m., you can not only enjoy a brush with history, you can buy some, too, when David Cook Fine American Art presents Colorado Historic Art. Twenty percent of all sales will go to Colorado Preservation Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to protecting and preserving Colorado's historic sites (including the mountain towns along the I-70 corridor) and structures. Some of the pieces in the show -- which include works by Charles Partridge Adams and Vance Kirkland -- are even older than this town's most historic buildings. "This is a sale of the finest in Colorado art from 1860 to 1960," says Elizabeth Schlosser, former art dealer, former mayoral candidate and the new development officer for Colorado Preservation. This fundraiser is one of her first official projects, as well as a fitting end to National Historic Preservation Month.
David Cook is located at 1637 Wazee Street in very historic LoDo. Admission is free, but reservations are encouraged; call 303-893-4260. And in case you're looking for something a little more three-dimensional, Colorado Preservation has just the thing: the Skerritt House, a formerly endangered structure that the group saved at the eleventh hour, rehabilitated and has now put up for sale. Plenty of wall space for art, too. -- Patricia Calhoun