You can break the rules.

You can try to introduce an entirely new audience to classical music. "When you get your master's, the dialogue is all about the audience for classical music dying," Dorris says. "I'm so sick of hearing about it. I wanted to try to get young people to come. So I thought about combining my disciplines."

About combining life-inspired, David Sedaris-style essays with classically trained musicians — in a coffee shop. "To see if you can take the whole experience and make it a little less stuffy," she explains. "We don't kick you out if you cough. The mission just reaches people who want an easier in with classical music, and with literature, too."

Guerilla Garden/Jolt
Guerilla Garden/Jolt
Eric Matelski
Aaron Thackery
Eric Matelski

Telling Stories got its start in Boulder, then moved to Denver, where Dorris has booked events at the Mercury Cafe, 910 Gallery, and now at the D Note. "We have to breathe life into our field," she explains. "We're charged with being entrepreneurs, too." Entrepreneurs who found beer sponsors early on. "I'd show up with drums in my car, and some ice and the keg," she remembers. "The joy of being a director."

But there are other joys, including creating new fans. "Our audience is young, and that's amazing," she says. "They don't know Bartók from Beethoven. I host the shows, so I'm kind of the Ira Glass of the operation; I give them the context." Each concert is arranged around a theme (the last was "culture shock"). At the start of the season — this is the fourth — Dorris e-mails the themes to "a huge rotating cast" of writers and classical musicians, "and it all just comes together," she says.

She makes it sound easy, but it isn't — and the music isn't easy, either. "We do really hard-ass repertoire," Dorris admits. "Doctorate-level work we did in our recitals. We strip away everything that makes you uncomfortable but challenge your ears." That's the opposite of the approach that many professional symphonies take, dumbing down the music: "If you give people Star Wars, they're not as invested."

And Dorris and her colleagues are definitely invested. Telling Stories is a "work in progress," Dorris explains, with much of the work moving to the web via podcast so that people can enjoy art at home. "The recession sucks, but it demands certain moves," she says. "As musicians and authors, we have to change our tune."

You have to break the rules.

— Patricia Calhoun

Guerilla Garden/Jolt

"I was at the bar drinking with this old lady," Silas Ulibarri recalls. "She said she knew Andy Warhol; she was really cool. She started telling me about these guerilla gardens she used to plant in New York in the '70s. It sounded like the approach I take when doing my graffiti."

And it inspired him to name his studio at 3826 Steele Street, with all its spin-off projects, Guerilla Garden.

Working as Jolt, Ulibarri has been doing graffiti for thirteen years, since before he was at North High School. "I just got into art," he recalls. "It's kind of weird how things worked out. After high school, I started traveling to different cities, doing graffiti."

But his heart belongs to community work in his home town — with CHAC, Sisters of Color, the I Have a Dream Foundation. "I really want to just be a part of the communities of Denver," he says. "I've been doing a lot of stuff with kids for the last five or six years now. The Boys and Girls Club in north Denver; I grew up in the housing project across the street. The Bridge project in the South Lincoln projects."

And more often than not, what he's working on are murals. "I've done tons of murals with kids," he continues. "The one I'm most proud of right now is at the Rude Rec Center. It's so different to work with kids who were incarcerated, like the healthiest thing I've been a part of. It was so good for them."

Ulibarri recognizes that "illegal street graffiti is not for everybody, that people don't like it — that's not going to change." But he can use graffiti to change the community. "I'm just trying to work with the environment, to add to the deteriorating landscape," he explains. So when he heard about the guerilla gardens, he recognized that he was gardening, too — adding color to a gray world. "I took the concept, and that's what I've applied to everything we do. I've created a kind of tagline: 'Naturalizing the urban environment.' It has lots of different meanings. My past works have been guided by an underlying aesthetic philosophy that attempts to 'naturalize the urban landscape.' Softening the hard steel and institutional walls of industry is a social imperative. For the health of social consciousness, artists must inject an element of abstracted ecology into industrial structures. I put it on everything: clothing, murals. It's really just the lifestyle that I live. And when I go back into the neighborhoods where I work with kids, they see that I can do that naturally."

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