Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment
That St. Mark's Coffeehouse is a great place to stop for a cup of joe should not come as a surprise to anyone. This offshoot of the original LoDo spot has drawn the hiptelligentsia since first opening its enormous sliding garage door in 1997. They come for the coffee, bagels, panini and sweets, but stay for the company: cool teachers grading papers, the students who wrote them, artists and journalers, businessmen and housewives, and, of course, those insufferable coffee-shop rats, smoking hand-rolled cigarettes and reveling in their own asinine chatter. St. Mark's has always been a good coffeehouse, but it's gotten even better over the past year. It ditched the fee for wireless and opened up the Ubisububi Room, a performance area that shares basement space with the Thin Man next door and offers everything from free movies to standup comedy to live acoustic music. The Thin Man and St. Mark's share ownership as well, and a swinging-door relationship allows 21-and-up patrons to enjoy a cocktail on either side of the common wall. So grab a mocha or a mojito, and settle in to enjoy the Paris of the Plains version of cafe culture.
When concert season opens at Red Rocks, the crowds run rampant throughout the tiny burb of Morrison. It's enough to make anyone long for a stiff drink and a classic Americana meal, which is exactly what the Blue Cow provides. Whether you prefer a Bloody Mary, a margarita or a mimosa, the staff can hook it up; they serve everything from Budweiser and Corona to microbrews and Mike's Cranberry Lemonade -- even a martini in a pinch. They also brew the strongest espresso in town, and the soft-serve ice cream and shakes are ideal on a hot summer day. It's the perfect place to nurse away a hangover before the big show -- or to kick-start the next drinking marathon.
The title of Lawrence Argent's sculpture isn't very catchy, and most people will draw a blank when hearing "I See What You Mean," but if we say "The Big Blue Bear" at the Colorado Convention Center, you see what we mean. The piece was an instant hit with the public, and it has become a nationally known icon for Denver. Even the normally artless business boosters hijacked it, sending out a guy in a cheesy blue bear suit to promote the hotel tax during last year's election. For all the love, however, it's the fact that the sculpture is sophisticated, contemporary and by a hometown artist that makes it one of the best things downtown.
In 2003, Carol Dickinson was facing retirement from directing the Foothills Art Center in Golden, and she decided she wanted to leave a lasting monument. A take-charge sort of gal, Dickinson went to the Foothills board and suggested having Texas artist Jesus Moroles create a sculpture garden in his signature minimalist style. (Truth be told, it was more than a suggestion; she presented the idea as a fait accompli.) The board agreed, and Moroles teamed up with architect Ted Shultz and landscape designer Susan Saarinen while Dickinson began cajoling donors for funds. Typically, projects such as this take five years to finish, but Dickinson got it done in just two and half, bringing Golden into the 21st century in the process.
Aurora's partly seedy, partly rebirthed main drag gets extra marks for effort in 2005. Last fall, Longmont artist Mario Miguel Echevarria put up his "Aurora Eterna: A Public Spectacle" mural atop Pasternack's Pawn Shop, shedding brilliant neon lights on a series of stylized symbols of Aurora history. "Aurora Eterna" is the perfect companion to the stretch's other murals (by Jason Needham and Susan Cooper), and it adds a touch of class to the tawdry.