Slap on your saddle shoes, pile on the pomade, and head directly to LoDo where the sparks are flying at today's Built for Speed: The Art of Kustom Kulture. The hep cats on 15th and Wazee streets are hooding the meters today and jamming the block with hot rods and motorcycles from local customizers and clubs. Among the creative crew are Midtown Autos, Creative Custom, Mile High Choppers, Suicide Machines and the Black Top Drifters Auto Club. The show will feature enough hopped up, hammered down and sawed-lead sleds to satisfy any gearhead's appetite -- but that's just the first course. The blast from the past continues over at Built for Speed host Th'ink Tank Tattoo Studio and Gallery, 1518 Wazee Street, with music from 18 Wheeler and Hotrod Hillbillies, as well as burlesque by Ooh La La -- all surrounded by an exhibition of local and national roadster culture artists. Robert Williams, The Pizz, Kirsten Easthope, Anthony Ausgang and Charlie "Stone" Larkin are just a few of the high-velocity icons hanging on the reputable gallery's walls.
Illegal Pete's, 1530 Wazee, jumps into the hootenanny by serving drink specials and retro rockers Paul Galaxy and the Galactix from 2 to 4 p.m.; the Tiki Bar at Gumbos, 1530 16th Street, swizzles exotic frou-frou drinks with DJ Hi-Tone swinging the beats; for dessert, the Wazee Supper Club, 1600 15th Street, dishes Denver honky-tonk favorites, the Dalhart Imperials.
"Customizing bikes and hot rods is a true American pastime," says gallery director Dina Castillo. "These guys are artists...they take raw auto bodies and change them from stock into beautiful works of art."
Castillo explains that while most custom car shows are planted in the middle of fields with no chance to beat the heat, Built for Speed was deliberately located downtown with plenty of oases for street-beast enthusiasts. "This event is full of art, music and visiting with friends," says Castillo. "It's going to be a really fun, casual celebration of custom culture."
The free Built for Speed revs up on Wazee between 15th and 16th streets from noon to 8 p.m.
For more information call Th'ink Tank Gallery at 720-932-0124 or visit www.thinktanktattoo.com.
Go Kat Go! -- Kity Ironton
With this summer's SLIDEjam series, the Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver has exploded conventional modes of viewing art and keeping up with happenings in the Colorado art community. Guest curators shape the content of the Thursday-night happenings, where as many as seven regional artists have exactly six minutes to display -- and explain -- slides of their recent works. It's a rapid-fire tour through some of the area's more inspired offerings, like slam-poetry for the paint-and-sculpture set. Curator Kwabena P. Slaughter, a videographer, dancer and designer of sets and costumes for theatrical productions, expands SLIDEjam's scope this week to include video works (including scenes from "The Poetry of Facts," his 2001 projection project) and movement. Dancer Sara Barrab will join artists Kim Olson and Jin-hee Chung in the presentation. The jam begins at 7 p.m., and you'd better not be late: The quickie art-a-thon will be over before you know it. Slide on over to the Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver, 1275 19th Street, 303-298-7554; admission is $3-$5. Laura Bond
Spark Consumes Everything
When longtime Denver cooperative Spark Gallery debuts this year's Spark Annual Open Show: Anything Goes!, they won't be kidding. "Whatever shows up gets hung," says Spark member and spokeswoman Annalee Schorr. "And it can be absolutely crazy. There have been times when we had to hang works almost up to the ceiling."
And the opening receptions?
"Total chaos," she admits. "But they're also really fun. People are so proud and excited to have their works hanging on the wall in a real gallery." Entrants, she adds, range in age from teens to octogenarians; all are looking for a place to start. This year's reception takes place today from 1 to 5 p.m.; the show continues at Spark, 1535 Platte Street, through August 17. Call 303-455-4435 or log on to www.sparkgallery.org. Susan Froyd
Summertime Blues and Greens
Art galleries turn up the heat
Summers are slow in the gallery world: It's almost as if the public's critical eye melts like a Popsicle in the August sun, turning art lovers everywhere into quivering heaps of jelly. Ho-hum. Some galleries react by doing nothing -- hanging whatever is tried and true -- or worse, shuttering their doors until the temperatures dip below 80 again. They're entitled, but members of the Denver Art Dealer's Association are fighting back this afternoon by hosting a series of DADA "Introductions" Open Houses, showcasing artists who are new to the local scene. So gird yourself for a summer art-viewing challenge: As participating gallery owners Jim Robischon of Robischon Gallery and Ivar Zeile of Cordell Taylor Gallery both agree, the "Introductions" shows offer curators a chance to stretch out in the heat of the moment rather than play it safe. "August is usually considered a down month for galleries, so we just decided that if that's how it is, let's really play on the idea of introductions, but let's also have a really strong show," Zeile says. He thinks Cordell Taylor's introductions show could be one of the gallery's best.
Take off your shades and venture out into the midday sun: For participating galleries and events, log on to www.denverart.org. -- Susan Froyd
Working women are honored for their mettle
Ambitious females will be honored today at the fifth annual celebration of Working Women of the West. Presented by Four Mile Historic Park, 715 South Forest Street, the event focuses on nine fearless women -- including educator Emily Griffith, actress Hattie McDaniel and suffrage activist Jeannette Rankin -- with living history vignettes. "Things that we take for granted today were fought for by the women of yesteryear," says Four Mile spokeswoman Mary Jane Duran. "Our focus is to show people what a big part women played in the rich history of the west."
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The celebration, held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., will feature craft demonstrations, a photograph exhibit and tours of the 1859-vintage Four Mile House, Denver's oldest domicile.
Admission is $3 for adults, $1 for seniors and kids ages six to fifteen. Horse-drawn stagecoach rides will also be available for $1. For further information, check out www.fourmilepark.org or call 303-399-1859.
"There were thousands of women out here who worked really hard," says Duran. -- Julie Dunn