Western stars: If it's January, this must be the Colorado Cowboy Poetry Gathering, celebrating its eighth year of campfire range-rhyming, beginning tonight and continuing through Sunday at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities, 6901 Wadsworth Blvd. Headlining this year's laconic long weekend are Colorado's own zen cowboy Chuck Pyle, Wrangler Award-winner Buck Ramsey of Texas, and laid-back local legend Pete Smythe, who'll be joined on stage by many of the region's best-known Western yarn-spinners and folklorists during three consecutive evenings of 7:30 p.m. performances and a 1 p.m. matinee Sunday; tickets are $13 per show. In addition, marathon daytime theme sessions, with participants that include yodelin' vaudevillian Sourdough Slim, run from 10 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday; economizers can get their fill for only five bucks each day. Capping the Arvada Center's regional mood this month is an exhibit of Western pastels by artist Jan Myers, a thirty-year veteran who depicts the subtle landscapes of Colorado and New Mexico. Her show opens with a gallery talk tonight from 5 to 6 and a reception from 7 to 9; Myers's works remain on display through March 9. For general information and advance reservations, call 431-3939.
Books of life: Any woman who's tried to combine personal projects with day-to-day responsibilities will tell you that the road to artistry can be strewn with obstacles, from cleaning the toilet to raising children. Explore the feminine side of the creative process in Composing a Life: Rocky Mountain Women's Institute 20th Anniversary Exhibition, a telling array of handmade artist's books conceived by seventy-odd past and present RMWI associates. The women's group includes scholars and performing, literary and visual artists who have all sought to find a working mean between the pragmatic and imaginative worlds. Opening tonight from 7 to 9 at the Robert E. Loup Jewish Community Center's Singer Gallery, 350 S. Dahlia St., and inspired by the book Composing a Life, by Mary Catherine Bateson, the collection of black-fabric-covered books can be viewed through February 9. Artist programs in conjunction with the exhibit are scheduled throughout January; for more information call 399-2660, ext. 176.
Powwow to the people: The big draw at the Colorado Indian Market and Western Art Showcase? Native American and Western arts and crafts--perhaps the most you've ever seen in one place. A veritable Babel tower of indigenous potters, weavers, basketmakers and other visual artists will be on hand today through Sunday at Currigan Exhibition Hall, 1327 Champa St., giving demonstrations and workshops and selling their fine wares, from totem poles to painted buffalo hides. Once you get inside, though, you'll also be treated to a nonstop entertainment slate of traditional dancers and musicians. Attend the market from 2 to 9 today, 10 to 9 tomorrow or 10 to 5 Sunday; admission is $5 to $7 (children under seven free). Call 758-1118 for information.
Victorian secrets: There's always been a Gothic tinge to the startling fiction of acclaimed Canadian author Margaret Atwood, but her latest novel, Alias Grace, provides a virtual field day of mysteriousness, sporting an old-fashioned, labyrinthine Victorian plot with as many nooks and crannies as an ancient English castle. Atwood will lead fans into its tangle tonight at 7:30 when she reads at the Tattered Cover LoDo, 1628 16th St.; as new Atwood offerings are usually cause for excitement in the literary world, numbers for a place in line will be available beginning at 6:30. Call 436-1070 for details.
Art of the state: An impenetrable skin of steel must be foremost among the lengthy requirements for people who dare to be critics. But since most of us seem to be dying to know what others think, before we'll try out the newest restaurant, movie, CD, play, book and/or artist on the block, someone else has got to do it. When just such a brave, dinosaur-hided panel of local art reviewers was asked by the Metro State Center for the Visual Arts to name Colorado's best crop of homegrown artists, members of the elite group agreed it was one of the most difficult tasks they'd ever undertaken. The resulting exhibit, Critics Choice, opens today and continues through January 31. The center is located at 1701 Wazee St.; call 294-5207.
Here's the beef: You may ask yourself: What's all this hoopla over a spit-shined herd of overfed cows? You must be new in town. If so, get in here, pronto: When the National Western Stock Show prances in to the city, it's your civic duty to find out what it's all about.
True, the two-week event centers around an endless schedule of livestock shows, sales and exhibits, but it's ever so much more than a bull market--you'll also get an eyeful of horses, goats, sheep, hogs, bunnies, llamas and even dogs as you traipse through. And every stock-show-goer's list of things to do at the National Western includes a variety of special ticketed events, including 23 PRCA rodeo performances featuring top rodeo act John Payne the One Arm Bandit, high-stepping horse shows, draft-horse exhibitions and more, beginning today and continuing through January 26. Of special note are the flashy Mexican Rodeo Extravaganza, an annual favorite headed by Tejano charro Jerry Diaz, which takes place tonight at 7:30 and tomorrow at 3 p.m., and An Evening of Dancing Horses, an equestrian spectacle with Michael Martin Murphey providing the music, scheduled for January 23.
All stock show events are at the National Western Complex, I-70 and Brighton Blvd.; general admission to the show grounds ranges from $1 to $7 daily. For information and special-event ticket forms, call 295-1660.
Mama Cash: The daughter of country star Johnny Cash, Roseanne Cash started out a country singer herself. But like the firebrand chip off the old block she is, Cash continues to diverge further from the norm with every new album. Lately she's taken a literary turn, with the publication of a short-story collection, Bodies of Water, and the release of a thematically similar CD, 10 Song Demo, both highly introspective works. Cash provides intimate entertainment for the alterna-country crowd tonight during a pair of shows at 8 and 10:30 at Cafe Communique, 99 W. 9th Ave. Tickets to either concert are $20; call 534-1199 or 830-TIXS to reserve yours.
Kansas City, here we come: You're yee-hawed to the gills, you despise Garth Brooks and his ilk, and you're doggone tired of all the b.s.? What you need is a healthy shot of jazz music. Cowboys, be gone: CU-Boulder's time-honored International Film Series opens its winter schedule with a screening of Robert Altman's mood piece, Kansas City, a smoky re-creation of that city's jazz heyday intertwined with a typically Altmanesque plot held together by eccentric characters and loose dialogue. See the tuneful flick, featuring contemporary young guns such as Joshua Redman and David Murray in the roles of their K.C. jazz precursors of the '30s, at 7 or 9:15 today or tomorrow. IFS offerings, a deal at $3.50 a seat ($3 students), are shown on campus in Muenzinger Auditorium. Call 492-1531.
Gorgeous gorges: You can't ever really absorb the true meaning of the term "earth tones" until you stand at the edge of the world and take a gander at the granddaddy of natural wonders, the Grand Canyon. Or, to be perfectly fair, any of the national landmark's lesser cousins will do. The Foothills Art Center salutes those stark colors and forms of Southwestern canyons with a brand-new, full-scale art exhibit, Canyon Walls!, that combines a magisterial selection of paintings, photographs and sculpture dedicated to nature's own glorious work. We'd guess it's the next best thing to being there, so get ready to commune--a public reception takes place today from 2 to 4; the show runs through March 2. Foothills is located at 809 15th St., Golden; call 279-3922.
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Out of the brown bag: It's damned convenient, the way St. John's Cathedral scheduled this month's free Music With Lunch concert on a Monday. What better day to chill while you swill? Take a long lunch: Upsidasium--a mixed trio featuring folk guitarist Scott Bennett, bluegrass fiddler Gordon Burt and classical pianist Deborah Schmitt-Lobis--performs today at just past noon. And if you happened to leave the house this morning without a lunch in hand, a simple repast is available for $4 at the church, beginning at 11:30. St. John's is located at 1313 Clarkson St.; call 831-7115, ext. 17.
Rugged individualist: If tall tales are to be believed, folks are simply raised up more ornery in Wyoming. Case in point: feisty Wyoming senator Alan Simpson, who sticks it to the media in plain language with his new book, Right in the Old Gazoo: Observations on a Lifetime of Scrapping With the Press. Simpson holds court at the Tattered Cover LoDo, 1628 16th St., tonight at 7:30; for details call 436-1070.
Boot up: Folks seem to sprout ten-gallon hats, pressed blue jeans and pointy snakeskin boots this time of year, so if you can't beat 'em, why not join 'em? As a civic nod to the stock show, hizzoner Mayor Webb has decreed today Dress Western Day in Denver for downtown and city workers. And the reason for gussying up? Today at noon, the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo Opening Day Parade, an extravaganza with rodeo stars, high-stepping hosses, clowns and marching bands, trots through downtown, up 17th St. from Union Station to Tremont Pl. A $6, public-friendly 4H Barbecue with all the fixin's will be served up from noon to 1:30 at the Norwest Bank Atrium, 1740 Broadway, along with a costume contest for the most bodaciously dressed 'pokes and gals attending. One word to the wise: You'd better watch your step while strutting through town in those fancy boots.
Two easy steps: Wherever there's a stock show, there's sure to be a barn-full--no, a whole durn town-full--of hot-to-trot cowpokes looking for a dance. So where do the denim-decked masses hang after the rodeo? We're betting they'll be at the Grizzly Rose, 5450 N. Valley Hwy., where January promises an all-star lineup of top-notch country-Western entertainment. True to form, the massive dance hall dishes up hat-of-the-month Chris Ledoux tonight and tomorrow at 10; also scheduled for later January dates are the Bellamy Brothers, Billy Dean, Wade Hayes and others. Saddle up, two-steppers; for tickets and information call 295-2353 or 830-