Meet the MasterMinds

Art From Ashes has even expanded to include some programs for adults. "It was a demand issue," Thorn explains. At first, she was resistant to the idea, since adults can have a more difficult time with the vulnerability that's inherent to the healing process. But then she discovered that many adults were in the same boat as the teenagers that Art From Ashes has been helping. "They're trying to get over an identity based in past circumstances or current circumstances," she says.

And for helping lead the way to those life changes, Art From Ashes has shown itself deserving of a MasterMind award. But Thorn insists that the real brains are the people her organization serves. "We know that arts are intrinsically healing, but Art From Ashes goes one step beyond that," she says. "There is a cathartic process, where kids use poetry to talk about their pain and their rage. They listen to each other's poems and find out that they're not as isolated as they thought. We facilitate their own healing. We believe in the power of words, because words create and because these kids are creative geniuses. We lead them to a place where they start to create a different reality for themselves."

Word up. — Amber Taufen

Jason Bosch, the visionary behind ArgusFest.
Mark Manger
Jason Bosch, the visionary behind ArgusFest.

Performing Arts
Creative Music Works
2007: Jessica Robblee
2006: Dragon Daud
2005: Buntport Theater

Fred Frith. John Zorn. Mike Patton. Nels Cline. The Cuong Vu Trio. Elliot Sharp. Those are just a handful of the hundreds of groundbreaking artists that Creative Music Works has brought to Denver over the years. Founded by Alex Lemski in 1989, the nonprofit has worked tirelessly to broaden the cultural landscape of the Mile High City for nearly two decades. That's quite a feat, especially for an organization that deals primarily with fringe artists, caters to a mostly niche audience and does it all on a shoestring budget.

And despite two shifts in leadership since Lemski handed over the reins in 2001, Creative Music Works continues to thrive. The current volunteer leadership — president Andrew Starr, vice president Matthew Garrington and program director/treasurer Paul Riola — is doing its best to preserve the original vision but also expand it, assembling intriguing bills featuring unlikely collaborators: say, inviting a world-renowned DJ to improv with lauded jazz and indie-rock players, as CMA did this past summer at the Oriental. The idea behind the unique, unexpected pairings is to create entry points for casual music fans, who may then develop an awareness and appreciation for the jazz and improv scene, both here and abroad. That's how Starr and company were first drawn in.

"I saw Hamster Theatre play, and it completely changed my entire world," Starr recalled in a recent interview. "I just had no idea why I didn't know this existed. I said, 'If this is here, there's gotta be a ton more buried under the surface — not only in Denver, but around the world.' From that very first show, I got a sense from Creative Music Works that I've never sensed anywhere else. I began to go to the shows not because I wanted to see this band or that band. I went because I had faith that it was going to be great. I could go without any knowledge of who was playing, what style of music it might be, but I knew if Creative Music Works was part of it, then it was worth my time."

"I think that's why it's so important that we pay a lot of attention and administer to our generation — to bring them into the fray," Riola added. "Our aesthetic is so broad, and we all know people who really, really dig music of all sorts of different types. I think that CMW largely extends in a field of awareness of an older set of people, and it's time for our generation to be like, 'What are these people doing?'"

With that in mind, Creative Music Works is about to launch its own label, CMW Records. The imprint's first release — from Riola's Bottesini Project, the aforementioned set recorded this past August at the Oriental, featuring DJ Olive with Jeff Parker from Tortoise, Ron Miles, Glenn Taylor, Scott Amendola and Doug Anderson — should be issued at the end of March.

"The vision is to extend exactly what CMW already does for the community to the world of releasing records," Starr explains. "We're doing performance and education work already and trying to provide a stage for musicians to perform with no limitations on their art form, and the record label's going to do the exact same thing. We want to be able to provide Colorado musicians, as well as people around the world, with a place to bring projects that may not have a home anywhere else."

Spoken like a true MasterMind. — Dave Herrera

Jason Bosch

2007: Tony Shawcross, Deproduction/Denver Open Media
2006: Johnny Morehouse
2005: Emerging Filmmakers Project at the Bug Theatre

Argus, the giant, hundred-eyed guardian of Greek mythology, could only close a few eyes at a time, and his name's become synonymous with the idea of vigilant watchfulness. For Jason Bosch, founder and sole moving force behind ArgusFest, the local human-rights awareness organization, that's a metaphor to live by.

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