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Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment

Best Celebration of the Rational

Although the Museum of Outdoor Arts is mostly about sculpture in public spots around metro Denver, it also maintains a set of indoor galleries at its headquarters in Englewood. This past winter, Joel Swanson: Polysemic was installed in these inside spaces, along with one additional outside piece: a billboard titled "Respectfully" that was erected in the MOA's Sculpture Alley, next to the building. "Respectfully" referred to the common closing salutation, which Swanson freed from its context and meaning — and that's what he did with everything inside, as well. The show opened with three installations presented as one; in each, Swanson had taken a source — product packaging in the first, Zapf Dingbat symbols in the second and envelopes in the third — and then stripped it down to its basic form, in the process changing its meaning. He's particularly fascinated with language, and a wallpaper installation and a suspension piece were both based on palindromes, words spelled the same way forward and backward. Don't be fooled by all this heady content, though: Swanson always ensures not only that his work is about ideas, but that it's beautiful, too, so you can just look at it without worrying about what it means.

Best Free Entertainment

Yes, First Friday is often more about socializing than seeing art — but these free events are an undeniably good time, packed with artists and non-artists alike. In fact, First Friday has become one of the greatest date-night activities not just in Denver, but all along the Front Range. For a rowdy time, hit the Art District on Santa Fe; for more intimate explorations, try Navajo Street or one of the lesser-known arts districts. At any one of them, you're bound to be impressed by the level of talent in this town and inspired to attend other art-related offerings — or maybe even buy some art. As Colorado Creative Sarah Wallace Scott notes: "Being smart is sexy, and if you're already attending the First Friday openings with your date, then you should do yourself a favor and attend other art programs, too. Just think of how sexy you will be!"

Readers' choice: City Park Jazz
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Best New Festival

Last September's first Denver Small Press Festival hit the ground running, spring-loaded by Dan Landes and his Suspect Press in collaboration with such groups as Leon Gallery, SpringGun Press, and Gregory Ferrari and Kaela Martin of Walled In Magazines. Indeed small but mighty, the fest showcased everything from zines to formal literary magazines with panel discussions, live interviews and vendor tables. Missed it the first time around? Look for a second fest to pop up again later in 2016 — dates and place to be announced.

denversmallpressfest.com
Readers' choice: Larimer Block Party
See what our readers picked as the winners in all categories!
Best Annual Festival

With so many newcomers in Denver, it never hurts to have a side of history with your fun. The People's Fair dates back to the early '70s, when it grew out of a movement to protect the interests of Capitol Hill; by 1976, it had taken over the grounds of East High School, where tens of thousands of people browsed among vendors selling macrame and patchouli, and booths handed out information about gay rights and the nuclear freeze. In 1987, with interest and attendance exploding, the fair moved to Civic Center Park, where every June it celebrates an incredible array of local artists (the musical tryouts alone are great entertainment), local businesses and local causes. While many festivals these days are crass commercial ventures, the People's Fair continues to be organized by Capitol Hill United Neighborhoods and still focuses on the community — a community that now includes all of Denver, past, present and future.

peoplesfair.com
Readers' choice: Great American Beer Festival
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Best Zine Festival
Denver Zine Festival

When zine enthusiast Melissa Black moved to Denver, it didn't take her long to hook up with the Denver Zine Library, and not much longer after that, she discovered that the library's once-vibrant Denver Zine Fest had fallen through the cracks several years before. To the delight of DZL's Kelly Shortandqueer and the rest of the city's zine community, Black took steps to bring the fest back last summer with a big expo and trading floor, along with a couple of parties to kick it off and put it to bed. Does two years in a row make it a tradition? Find out when the fest returns on June 25, and keep up with news and developments on the Denver Zine Festival Facebook event page.

2400 Curtis St., Denver, 80205
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Best Free Comedy Show

Every Wednesday, local comedy fans flock to the Deer Pile — a cozy arts space above City, O' City, a vegetarian restaurant and hub for artsy Capitol Hill residents — to watch some combination of Bobby Crane, Nathan Lund and Sam Tallent boogie into the room to the squeals of Mountain's "Mississippi Queen." The PBR-quaffing regulars, who deliberately arrive late to the frequently delayed showcase, recognize the ritual as the commencement of Too Much Fun!, a defiantly anarchic comedy experience unlike any in the city. While the show initially suffered a bit from the departure of founding gent Chris Charpentier, the remaining three members have bounded back by experimenting with something new on the stage each week.

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Best Celebration of the Rational: Joel Swanson: Polysemic

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