Novel ideas: The last time author Lisa See came through these parts, it was to promote On Gold Mountain, a fascinating history/memoir of her multiracial Chinese-American family. With that story out of the way, See has switched over to fiction, and she should do just fine, considering the exciting twists and turns taken in her nonfictional work. See reads from The Flower Net, a suspenseful murder mystery set in Beijing, tonight at 7:30 at the Tattered Cover Book Store, 2955 E. 1st Ave.; call 322-7727 for details.
Art of the state: Eighty-one artists working in a variety of media, from colored pencil to sculpture, are showcased in this year's Colorado Art Open Exhibition, an annual Foothills Art Center affair that pays homage to the incredible scope of art created inside Colorado's borders. Juried by Bill Havu of Denver's 1/1 Gallery and University of Denver art-department director Bethany Kriegsman, the show--on view at the center through October 23--represents a fabulous mixed bag of creative genius. Not bad for a cowtown, eh? Foothills, located at 809 15th St. in Golden, is open to the public from 9 to 4 Monday through Saturday and from 1 to 4 Sunday; for information call 279-3922.
Song circle: It's no wonder songwriters are so valued in the community of musicians. A well-written song is like a special kind of poetry in motion--it's a story first, one that's then intertwined with a melody and sewn together with something from the soul. The Swallow Hill Music Association, which gives assorted songsmiths their due with its Writers in the Round series, dishes up three fine ones tonight at 8 at the Swallow Hill Music Hall, 1905 S. Pearl St. New England's Ellis Paul, a compatriot and follower of narrative songmaster Bill Morrissey who has a portrait of Woody Guthrie tattooed on his shoulder, heads up the bill, along with tunesmith/host Richard Dean and Boulder lyricist Karen Capaldi; for tickets, $12 ($10 members), call 777-1003.
A bunch of blowhards: Traditional jazz is all about blowing it--the horn, that is--and doing so to a sophisticated timekeeper's beat. So while the trumpets, saxes and trombones wail to the heavens, the drums, bass, piano and guitar keep the music down to earth. Summit Jazz, one of the area's most celebratory trad-jazz blowouts, sends a huge gust our way for the entire weekend, bringing a whole collection of musicians--the San Antonio-based Jim Cullum Jazz Band, France's Hot Antic Jazz Band, Denver's Alan Frederickson Jazz Ensemble and an international combo, the Jim Galloway Allstars--to the Hyatt Regency Tech Center, 7800 E. Tufts Ave., for a nonstop blast that starts tonight at 7 and ends Sunday evening at 6:30. Admission prices range from $25 for Saturday afternoon's concerts only to $90 for the whole shebang; call 670-8471 for information and tickets.
Bugged out: Kids can't help it--they love to mess with bugs. And few people do more to encourage that insectuous romance than Dr. Samantha Messier, a CU-Boulder entomologist who has a creepy-crawly way with kids and bugs alike. Her Dr. Sam's House of Buggin', complete with live insects to touch and edible insects to, um, eat, makes stops today at two Denver branch libraries. Catch Dr. Sam this morning at 10:30 at Field Library, 810 S. University Blvd.; this afternoon, it's bugs redux at 1:30 at the Ross-Broadway Library, 33 E. Bayaud Ave. Both events are free; call 777-2301 or 777-4845.
Keeping us posted: Through recent history, the infinitely charismatic genre of graphic poster art has often been the trendsetter for fine art, distilling tenets of art nouveau, Bauhaus, art deco and other modern movements into pure, eye-catching form. Paper Revolution: Graphics, 1890-1940, From the Norwest Collection, featuring close to fifty works and representing the first in a series of exhibits examining popular and functional artworks, gives viewers a crash course in contemporary design when it opens today at the Denver Art Museum, 100 W. 14th Ave. Pkwy. This leg of the three-part Norwest journey remains on view at the museum through next June; for more information call 640-4433.
Where there's smoke: A full spectrum of Asian cultures will shed its many colors this weekend during the fifteenth annual Passport to Asia Festival, taking place from 10 to 5 today and 10 to 4 tomorrow at Cherry Creek North's Fillmore Plaza, E. 1st Ave. and Fillmore St. And it all starts off in a cloud of good fortune this morning when an eighty-foot-long rendition of the traditional Golden Chinese Dragon Dance parades around the square. Cambodian and Hmong dancers, Japanese Samurai swordsmen, Indonesian batiks, a gamelan orchestra and miniature paintings of India are just a few of the Pan-Asian spectacles that will follow the event's opening ceremonies; in addition, restaurants including the Imperial and Sonoda's will serve up some of the best Asian food the city has to offer. Kids won't feel left out, either--the fest features a children's area just for them. Admission to the event is free; call 355-0710, ext. 20, for details.
Irish ayes: A perfect evening of traditional Celtic sounds--with a bit of Scotland thrown in for good measure--is yours when Celtic Events and Entertainment presents Belfast combo Craobh Rua (it's pronounced creeve ru-ah, means "red branch" in Gaelic and refers to the Red Branch Knights of Ulster) tonight at 8 at Cameron Church, 1600 S. Pearl St. Admission to the concert, which also includes the gifted team of songwriter Andy M. Stewart and multi-instrumentalist Gerry O'Beirne, is $16.50; call 830-TIXS or 777-0502.
Bless the beasts: Man's best friends, whether they be feathered, furry, scaly or slimy, will have their day today at St. John's Cathedral's annual St. Francis Festival and Blessing of the Animals, one of the few occasions when it's considered perfectly all right to take your pet to church. Animals that participate in the short service and reception outside the church at 14th and Washington will receive special certificates; some of their homeless relatives from the Denver Dumb Friends League will also be on hand, hoping to be adopted. The event is free as a bird, but donations of pet food will be accepted; call 831-7115.
Spliced Kiwis: Filmmakers from New Zealand? You bet. Even more amazing is that so many filmmakers from the sparsely populated island nation are women. Jane Campion, director of The Piano, is at the top of the heap, but a number of other up-and-coming auteurs provide an ample supply of thought-provoking entertainment during tonight's Extraordinary Women of Film Festival at the Bluebird Theater, 3317 E. Colfax Ave. The benefit screening, a fundraiser for the Denver chapter of Women in Film, Video and Television, shows at 7 and 9 p.m.; for tickets, $7, call 322-2308.
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Days and nights of wonder: It's difficult to call Cirque du Soleil a circus, though that's precisely what it is. But the Cirque's balletic, magical unfolding of acrobatics, balancing acts, trapeze artistry and clowning around makes it such a refined version of a circus, you'd rather call it a dream. The French-Canadian troupe, in the act since the early '80s, brings its latest big-top confection, Quidam, to a tent at 16th and Delgany streets, directly behind Union Station, for a five-week run. Featuring exquisitely original costumery, a contemporary score and a set equipped with an overhead conveyor used to create special effects and deliver performers to the stage, performances take place daily except Monday through November 2, with multiple performances offered Thursday through Sunday. Admission ranges from $15.50 to $44.50 for adults and $7.75 to $31.25 for children; reserve tickets by calling 1-800-678-5440.
Can do: Very Special Arts Colorado has a noble function: The organization is dedicated to promoting the artistic contributions of people with disabilities, not only by allowing them better access to educational arts programs and organizations, but also by showcasing their work. In order to do just that, VSAC is throwing ABLExpressions, a shindig that's part art walk, part block party, part auction and part variety show, beginning tonight at 6:30 on the 1400 block of Old South Pearl. It kicks off with a reception and silent auction at Hugh's New American Bistro, 1469 S. Pearl St.; artworks will be on view at Stella's, a neighborhood coffeehouse that's a short walk across the street. Featured will be Longmont sculptor Ivan Schlutz, whose creativity blossomed following a debilitating head injury. At 8:15 the action moves inside the Vogue Theatre, next door to Hugh's, where emcee Pam Daale will preside over a live auction and performances by Geri Jewell, a comedian and actress with cerebral palsy, and local bassist Jeffrey Marshall, who, because of a birth defect, plays the instrument with his feet. Admission is $25 in advance ($35 at the door); for reservations call 904-1820.
Outer limits: Excellent chops, appreciation of roots and a couple of keen ears for the jazz of the future make up the formidable vitae of bassist Michael Formanek and reedman Tim Berne; working both together and apart, these musicians have accrued a long list of recording credits and accomplishments. The Creative Music Works and the Lamont School of Music present the cutting-edge duo tonight at 8 in the Grout Theater, Houston Fine Arts Center, 7111 Montview Blvd., as part of their joint new-music series; tickets are $8 at the door ($5 students and seniors). Call 759-1797 for additional information.