Denver residents rightfully complain that our city is pricing out artists. Even so, the local creative scene is thriving – for the time being. While cash-strapped Denverites have less and less disposable income to devote to leisure, adventurous and thrifty locals are in luck. With art gallery openings, stoner-friendly comedy shows and even a citywide festival going on this weekend, everyone from bookish nerds to active families have affordable entertainment options to suit their tastes.
If you're looking for ways to celebrate Memorial Day, you should also peruse these lists of places to rock out, fill your belly, and enjoy the cultural scene. Keep reading for ten more things (eight free!) to do this long and glorious weekend.
1. Ephemeral: Opening Reception
Thursday, May 25, 5-8 p.m.
Ephemeral, a new exhibit running all month long at Art Gym, is a visual, kinetic and philosophical ode to fleeting beauty and the constant flux of life. Inspired by its titular theme, Ephemeral combines live performance art with kinetic sculptures as well as paintings and photographs, each work evoking perpetual motion. Showcasing weekly performances from Evolving Doors, Akoya Dance and Phannie Haver, plus works from artists like Louis Trujillo, Corrina Espinosa and others from May 25 until June 17, Ephemeral kicks off with a free opening reception at which gallery-goers can mingle with the artists and catch a first glance at the exhibit. Visit the Art Gym's Gallery online to learn more.
2. Cartoons & Comedy
Thursday, May 25, 10 p.m.
Enjoy a spliff and a riff tonight, with Cartoons & Comedy, one of Sexpot Comedy's longest-running showcases. Produced and hosted by cherubic Denver toon-hound Chris Baker, the show invites local and touring comics to crack wise over a bowl of Lucky Charms while watching crisply edited clips from ’80s and ’90s kids shows, both fondly remembered classics like Animaniacs and justly forgotten garbage like Street Sharks. This month, Baker welcomes every member of the standup supergroup Pussy Bros. (Rachel Weeks, Janae Burris and Christie Buchele) along with headliner Geoff Tate. Tate, who's appeared on The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson and a number of Doug Benson projects, including Comedy Central's The High Court, has the sort of quick-witted goofiness that makes him a perfect fit for a Mystery Science Theater 3000-style riff-off. Fans can also catch Tate tomorrow, May 26, at Syntax Physic Opera.
3. SKINDEEP: Opening Reception
Friday, May 26, 6-9 p.m.
This summer, MCA Denver opens its galleries to solo shows from two artists with Denver ties, both of whom have a global presence. The first, painter Jenny Morgan, who’s moved to find success in New York City since her Denver days as a Plus Gallery artist, gets a first-floor retrospective, SKINDEEP, which shows the evolution of her startling portraiture, including a room of color-washed, full-frontal self-portraits. Denver-based Derrick Velasquez will present Obstructed View, an exhibit that’s part gilded architectural installation and part photography, all with intermingling themes about boundaries both physical and existential, and the push-pull of history and new development. The shows open with a reception from 6 to 9 p.m., on Friday, May 26, and run through August 27 at the MCA, 1485 Delgany Street. Admission is free for members (RSVP required) and $5 for all others; all proceeds benefit the Women’s Bean Project and the Center. Learn more at mcadenver.org.
4. Wastedland 2
Friday, May 26, 6:30 and 9 p.m.
Community Service Apparel, Englewood
Nomadic filmmaker Andrew H. Shirley will bring his immersive film installation Wastedland 2 to Englewood's Community Service Apparel, an urban clothing and graffiti store. Shirley describes his movie as "an existential fantasy about mystical individuals seeking a deeper understanding into their fate and identity in a post-apocalyptic landscape." This installation, about the spirit animals of graffiti writers, is based on Shirley's personal experiences, he says. The events are free and include popcorn and beer, courtesy of Zephyr Brewing Company. For more information, go to the event's Facebook page.
5. Star Wars Fortieth Anniversary Special Event
May 26-28, hours vary
The Incredible Art Gallery
The Force is strong with Denver this weekend as Christopher Clark, an internationally licensed artist for Star Wars, Disney and Marvel, invites viewers into his process at the Incredible Art Gallery. Fanboys and girls can watch as Clark conducts a live painting, inspired by the film series, as it celebrates its fortieth anniversary. Not only is admission free, but guests can enjoy complimentary wine, beer and hot sandwiches from South Philly CheeseSteak in Golden. Attendees will also receive a free 9" x 11" print of Clark's artwork. Call 800-771-9501 or visit Incredible Gallery's events page to learn more.
6. Denver Arts Festival
Saturday, May 27, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
In a buying mood? The Denver Arts Festival will return for two days, starting Saturday, May 27, offering attendees the opportunity to buy artwork and listen to live music from Dotsero and Wendy Woo, all while enjoying the (fingers crossed) nice weather. The festival has even added a “make-and-take” painting station for children, who can paint canvas tiles to bring home as souvenirs. The arty party runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday at the Conservatory Green, 8304 East 49th Place, in Stapleton. For more information, visit denverartsfestival.com.
Read on for more free and cheap things to do this weekend.
7. Thirtieth Annual Boulder Creek Festival
May 27-29, Hours Vary
Boulder Central Park
Widely considered Boulder's favorite annual event, locals have been jump starting their summers with the Boulder Creek festival for over a quarter century. Taking over Downtown Boulder for a weekend, the free Creek Festival offers nine different event areas packed with over 500 vendors. A carnival atmosphere rules the weekend, whether you're shopping for arts and crafts or reliving your youth on amusement park rides. Guests can also enjoy live performances from musical acts such as the Dead Phish Orchestra, Space Orphan and Hazel Miller. The fun continues throughout the day and all weekend long. Visit the Boulder Creek Events page to learn more.
8. BookBar Birthday Party
Saturday, May 27, 6 p.m.
In Denver's cutthroat real-estate market and business climate, four years of operation is truly something to celebrate, particularly when the establishment in question enriches Denver's cultural community like the BookBar does. A gem of the Tennyson Arts District, the BookBar team have a fun-filled celebration planned on Saturday. Revelers at this free event can begin the evening with a splash as they try their luck at a local author dunk tank before testing their mettle in a literary trivia contest and an adult spelling bee. Sample noshes from the new Spring menu as well as cake and champagne will also be available. Visit BookBar's events page to learn more.
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9. Sexpot Comedy Presents Ramon Rivas II
Saturday, May 27, 7 p.m.
Syntax Physic Opera
Although his laid-back stoner vibe is a perfect fit for our perpetually chill city, Ramon Rivas II is a defiantly proud Clevelander. While he's worked constantly in other cities, including Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, Rivas has always repped Believeland, where his Accidental Comedy showcases are a bedrock of the local scene. His low-profile is due to change however, as Rivas was one of only seventeen comics selected to record a Comedy Central Half Hour special without the assistance of a manager or agent. Rivas's self-starting work ethic and love of ganja make him an ideally simpatico comic for Denver's Sexpot Comedy, which has come roaring back this month with a series of showcases at the uber-hip Syntax Physic Opera. Tickets, $7, are available from Nightout.
10. Shakesbeer's A Midsummer Night's Dram
Sunday, May 28, 7:30 p.m.
Revel in the mortal foolishness of the Wit's Shakesbeer, a beery troupe of players presenting original adaptations of William Shakespeare's classic plays. A Midsummer Night's Dram adapts one of the Bard's goofiest plays into a fleet and funny hour-long show. Furthermore, in grand Elizabethan fashion, the Shakesbeer players will be quaffing brews right alongside the groundlings in the audience throughout the performance. Premiering at 7:30 p.m. on May 28 and continuing every Sunday until June 12 at Ratio Beerworks (2920 Larimer Street), Shakesbeer's A Midsummer Night's Dram will be popping up at different venues across town throughout the summer. While "the course of true love may never run smooth," the same can't be said of Ratio's fine craft beers. Free admission.
For more events, check the Westword calendar.