Now that the clouds are lifting and the mercury's rising, Denverites can look forward to a fun-filled and sun-dappled weekend. The warmer climes are a boon for outdoor parties like the Cinco de Mayo Festival or TheBigWonderful, but the city is blooming with art exhibits, film screenings and lively children's theater, too. With adventurous bargain-hunting opportunities and good times galore, we are spoiled by choices – and we don't even need a lot of money. Admission to the following ten events is available for $10 and under, including seven free options.
Despite its outlaw origins, traced back to New York and Philadelphia as long ago as 1967, graffiti has blossomed into a commodified high-art movement that's influenced music and fashion while becoming an integral part of the cityscape. MCA Denver's Wall Writers: Graffiti in Its Innocence celebrates the form's early pioneers with an extensive exhibit of murals and photographs curated by Roger Gastman, who directed a documentary and compiled a book with the same name. Artsy types who've slept on this fascinating exhibit until now have one final chance this weekend, when Wall Writers concludes its run with a celebratory send-off reception. Join Gastman along with Mike Giant, a fixture of skateboarding and graffiti's early years, for an exhibition talk on Thursday, May 4, at 7 p.m. The festivities continue all weekend long, but tickets for a Friday night Egyptian Lover Dance Party and a Saturday screening of Wall Writers at the Sie FilmCenter will each cost more than $10 for non-MCA or Denver Film Society members. Visit mcadenver.org to learn more and buy tickets.
Friday, May 5, 7 p.m.
"Unrequited," a new exhibit from Denver-based artist Joseph Findeiss, showcases his eye-catching and brain-melting visual compositions. Findeiss has more on his mind than striking images, however. Sourcing collage materials from vintage publications, including everything from old Playboys to Audubon prints, "Unrequited" examines the stormy randomness of the adolescent mind through the wiser eyes of a self-aware adult. Nosh, sip and mingle with Sputnik's well-dressed locals while pondering the art. Admission is free, and 50 percent of all sales will be donated to SafeHouse Denver.
3. The Silent Princess: A Turkish Tale
Friday, May 5, 7:30 p.m.
Adapted from a Turkish folk tale — collected by Andrew Lang in The Olive Fairy Book, an international compendium of stories similar to The Arabian Nights — The Silent Princess tells the tale of a rowdy young prince cursed to seek the love of a princess who refuses to speak. Enlisting the help of a talking nightingale, the prince endures a series of challenges to win her hand, ultimately learning an important lesson about self-love and responsibility by the time the curtain falls. Continuing the Bitsy Stage tradition of fine children's theater, The Silent Princess contextualizes this story from the cradle of civilization. The play premieres on Friday, May 5, at 7:30 p.m., and continues through June 11 with the kid-friendly showtimes of 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Admission is free, but registration is required. Visit bitsystage.com to learn more, reserve tickets and make a donation.
4. Lafayette Electronic Arts Festival
Center for Musical Arts
If you're looking for a dip into DIY culture and miss venues like Rhinoceropolis and Glob, which the City of Denver shut down late last year, head to Lafayette for the Lafayette Electronic Arts Festival for a weekend of experimental, electronic music and media sure to blow your mind. This free event showcases Bios+a+ic, Page 27, Sister Grotto, Antenes and Ariadne, and includes workshops on how to make audio equipment out of telephones. Go to the festival Facebook page for more information.
4400 Fox Street
Spring is here, and that means TheBigWonderful is back and spilling over with its trademark something-for-everyone trifecta, including a huge shopping bazaar and food-truck congregation, a big beer-and-spirits fest and lots of live music, all at one large, open location at 4400 Fox Street. It kicks off with a Cinco de Mayo happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m. on Friday, May 5, with music on the main stage at night; cruise the bazaar and enjoy more beer and music from noon to 10 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, May 6 and 7. Tickets run from $5 to $59, with various packages offered. Learn more at thebigwonderful.com.
Read on for more cheap things to do in Denver this weekend.
For artsy Denverites in the know, the arrival of a new month also means another Free First Saturday at the Denver Art Museum. Admission to all of the museum's non-ticketed exhibitions is free and open to the public, so you can enjoy exciting new exhibits nearly every month, as well as the DAM's world-class permanent collection, which features everything from Pre-Columbian artifacts to paintings by Claude Monet and Winslow Homer. Even the museum itself is a work of art: Just walking through the Gio Ponti or Daniel Libeskind-designed buildings is worth braving the increased crowds. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visit denverartmuseum.org to learn more.
Denver composer Nathan Hall is no stranger to residencies, but the yearlong one he’s now serving at the Boulder Public Library as part of its Meet Your Maker series comes with extra programming challenges. Still, Hall’s imagination is up to the task: He’s already hosted a musical-jewelry workshop, for instance, and hopes to lead some unusual walking tours later this year. The residency’s crown jewel might just be The Unfurling, a music-inspired participatory art installation opening in the central BPL’s Canyon Gallery, 1001 Arapahoe Avenue in Boulder, on Saturday, May 6. Along with a display of graphic scores, the centerpiece of the exhibit is a “giant paper scroll, six feet wide and eighty feet long or so,” Hall says. “The community will draw on it over the time of the exhibition, and the scroll will continually be rolled up from one end to refresh the surface.” As the public comes and goes, concerts by the experimental Playground Ensemble on May 11 and 17 will interpret the markings on the scroll with music. All events are free; for more information and a complete schedule of events led by Hall at the BPL, visit nathan-hall.net.
8. Continuum Opening Reception
Saturday, May 6, 6-8 p.m.
Curtis Arts and Humanities Center
Continuum is a group exhibition of new works featuring thirteen local artists. Years of gathering for bi-weekly salons where they could critique each other's work, collaborate on ideas and debate the future of art itself have culminated in this eye-popping exhibit, where viewers can ascertain how such a communal influence has shaped their artwork. Showcasing the works of Michael Gadlin, Ann Gargotto, Dustin Hardgrove, Stephanie Hartshorn, Ron Hicks, Andrea Kemp, Dan Oakleaf, Richard Rodriguez, Clyde Steadman, J. Thomas Svinarich, Kevin Weckbach, Tiffany Wine and Kate Woestemeyer, Continuum runs through June 10. Don't miss the free opening reception with the artists on May 6, from 6 to 8 p.m.
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9. Cinco de Mayo Festival
May 6-7, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.
Civic Center Park
On May 5, 1862, in the town of Puebla, the outnumbered Mexican army defeated French forces in one of the major battles in the long fight for independence. That's reason alone to mark Cinco de Mayo, but there's special reason to celebrate here: This year's Cinco de Mayo Festival is the thirtieth annual iteration of the event in Denver. NEWSED, the nonprofit that supports economic opportunities for west Denver residents, got its start in 1973, and quickly gained recognition for its efforts with a Cinco de Mayo celebration that started on Santa Fe Drive, then moved to Civic Center Park. From 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday, May 6, and Sunday, May 7, the park will be filled with music, performances and general merriment – and it's all free. (Food and drink are extra.) Additional activities include Zumba classes, a taco-eating contest, a fashion show and a parade that starts at the City & County Building at 11 a.m. on May 6. Party! Find the complete schedule at cincodemayodenver.com.
10. May Monster Film Madness: Tremors
Sunday, May 7, 1:30 p.m.
Denver Central Library
While libraries are typically regarded as bastions of studious quietude, May Monster Film Madness aims to change all that with weekly screenings of staples from the fright-flick canon. Kicking things off with the fondly remembered cult classic Tremors, the midday film series continues all month long. Although its reputation has been somewhat diminished by an excess of inferior sequels, Ron Underwood's 1990 creature feature endures for its outstanding cast, which includes Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward and Reba McEntire, the creepy character design of the "Graboid" monsters, and a sense of humor.