Fallene Wells is a hairstylist, fashion designer and fashion-show producer who was a 2010 MasterMind winner and cast-member on season nine of Project Runway.

Who is doing the most interesting work in Denver right now? I think the RiNo area is really doing great things to not only improve the area, but by being innovative with collaboration and the art medium.

Erica Baum’s “Examined,” part of Postscript, at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver.
Erica Baum’s “Examined,” part of Postscript, at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver.
The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, now showing at Curious Theatre Company.
The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, now showing at Curious Theatre Company.

When you go out, what's your favorite cultural activity? We typically will go to First Fridays on Broadway to check out new artists, new bands, etc. I think if RiNo keeps improving, there will be a much better approach to art than on Santa Fe.

What's the one thing you'd like to see happen to improve the local arts scene? I'd like to see artists and designers work more together and improve their skill. I think more collaboration with all artistic mediums would be great.


Stephen Seifert is the executive director of the Newman Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Denver.

Who is doing the most interesting work in Denver right now? We are living through a period of great ferment in the performing arts. It's hard to settle on one person or organization "doing the most interesting work," because part of the very essence of what is happening is its increasing segmentation. At one time, a city's cultural identity was tied mostly to what the major producing organizations (symphonies, operas, ballet companies, theater companies) did, and mostly they performed the canonical works of Western Europe and North America. Such organizations will always have a place in our cultural identity, but that identity is becoming much more diverse and complex. I'm sure that my own knowledge of "the most interesting work" is incomplete and shallow at best, partly because I'm so enmeshed in what we try to add to the cultural fabric, and partly just because there's so much more out there than ever before.

There are important organizations whose own identities are tied largely to specific ethnicities, such as Su Teatro. Other organizations are dedicated to finely tailored aesthetic missions, such as Luminous Thread Productions, newly arrived in Denver and intent on producing steampunk operas. Eager and enterprising individuals are experimenting in all sorts of ways. For instance, Jim Bailey and Jeff Jenkins created Zuri Music, which is a jazz band that blurs the boundaries of jazz into classical, African, Latin and experimental music and incorporates dance, photography, poetry, painting and film into its performances. Some are using the arts for specific goals beyond just arts experiences. Marda Kirn at EcoArts Connections in Boulder connects performing artists to scientists. The resulting performing arts experiences help express the urgency, the challenges and possible solutions relating to global climate change. Others use the performing arts as educational tools, teaching self-reliance, teamwork, cross-cultural and other life skills. Just look at El Sistema Colorado, modeled after the fabled program from Venezuela, and Flobots.org, each of which works for social change through the power of music. At the same time, young indie-rock musicians are as numerous as baby bunnies. With the assistance of WESTAF and Arts & Venues Denver, however, some are trying to reach beyond the usual world of clubs and connect with non-profit presenting organizations and performing arts centers.

Leaders of those kinds of traditional institutions and venues are listening, because they are desperate to find out what will lure younger audiences to their old-style theaters. None of these cultural entrepreneurs has a very large audience. I suppose that apart from commercial, pop entertainment available through touring Broadway and stadium-rock shows, the current world of the performing arts looks a lot like the sliced-and-diced world of cable TV and the Internet. We tend to live in experiential silos we can easily curate for ourselves through technology based on our own idiosyncratic tastes.

Sorry if this is a cop-out, but "the most interesting work" going on is all of that.  It's the fact that it's all happening here, now, at the same time. It's the "I have this idea and a bunch of friends from unexpected places and disciplines to help me put it on" approach. It's bottom-up, populist, and doesn't fit into neat categories.

When you go out, what's your favorite cultural activity? Having said all of that, my favorite cultural activities are sometimes a) to explore such new and unpredictable events, and at other times b) to warm myself in the comforting embrace of traditional and predictable events. Exploration and refuge.

What's the one thing you'd like to see happen to improve the local scene? I know, as Yogi Berra said, "Nostalgia ain't what it used to be," but once upon a time most people read daily newspapers, and those publications listed and recounted the activities that most people engaged with, and those connections of previews and reviews, lists and reports, helped knit together a sense of community. Life was still complex, and there were always sub-parts of communities, but it seems to me that most people felt a common sense of belonging to some kind of shared society.

I can't wish for that to return — assuming it ever really existed — but it would be nice for someone to use the wonders of technology to offer some vehicle for a broader sense of shared society and community, some kind of über-channel most people would tune to regularly. Were that possible, we'd all be more aware of the amazing creativity being expressed everywhere across our city, and we'd all be more likely to recognize our common humanity.  The arts express our humanity, and any improvement in the "arts scene" will improve our lives.

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Don't show artwork at Forest Room 5. I had pieces in there years ago for a special show and they lost half of them. There staff didn't seem to care either. Avoid St. Mark's Coffeehouse as well to hang art. Their baristas are rude basically throw your art in the trash.