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Best Of 2006

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Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment

BEST THEATER RESURRECTION -- WEST SIDE
Oriental Theatre

Taking over one of those old, defunct theaters and turning it into something grand is a common fantasy. It's much less common that people actually do it. Why? Because many of these places are decaying pieces of crap that are fraught with dangers economic, psychological and physical. The contentious neighborhood-association meetings alone have sent many a wannabe theater owner to the nuthouse. When Scott LaBarbera and other partners began throwing shows in the Oriental Theatre last fall, it seemed like another well-intentioned escapade doomed to failure. But six months and a significant renovation later, the 78-year-old former movie house has emerged as one of the best new performance spaces in town, featuring a diverse slate of comedy, live music, community meetings, films and even a gong show. The Oriental demonstrates that west Denver can not only support such a venue, but desperately needed one all along.

4335 W. 44th Ave., Denver, 80212
MAP
720-420-0030
BEST TICKET WINDOW

Kudos to the City and County of Denver for finally adding a drive-thru box office for Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Patrons no longer have to park and then hike up the hill; they can just zip up and be on their way. And considering how much walking is already required at the park, this is a much-welcomed change. All you have to do now is find your spot and get down to the music.

BEST PRE-RED ROCKS STOP
The Blue Cow

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.

316 Bear Creek Ave., Morrison, 80465
MAP
303-697-5721
BEST NEW PUBLIC ART

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.

BEST NEW ART IN THE 'BURBS

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.

BEST ART ON A PAWNSHOP

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.

9745 E. Colfax Ave., Aurora, 80010
MAP
303-364-1165
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BEST THEATER RESURRECTION -- WEST SIDE: Oriental Theatre

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