In a usual year, arts organizations are well into their new season by mid-September. But 2020 is not a usual year, of course, with the coronavirus pandemic shutting venues and making many gatherings impossible. Still, arts organizations are nothing if not creative, and they've come up with many ways to keep you entertained — and enlightened — through the rest of the year.
Here are twenty of our favorite things on the fall calendar; keep reading, and then mark your calendar:
American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith
Through January 3
With the election coming in November, History Colorado is reflecting on electoral participation in the United States, looking back to help us move forward. To do so, various History Colorado museums will be hosting shows reflecting on democracy. In the mix is the Smithsonian’s traveling exhibition, American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith, billed as a look into the history of citizen participation, debate and compromise. Also, artists David Ocelotl Garcia, Rochelle Johnson, Cori Redford and Carmen Richards reflected on core American values for art they created for The New Four Freedoms. Tickets are $14 for the exhibit and available at historycolorado.org.
Breckenridge Film Festival
September 17 through October 4
As film festivals figure out how to continue amid a global pandemic, the Breckenridge Film Festival is taking a unique approach. Instead of migrating entirely online, the festival is running a drive-in option September 17 through September 20, and an online option September 17 through October 4. Supplementing the festival’s usual slate of world-class films, programmers have started the Black Lives Matter Initiative to celebrate movies by Black directors and to host conversations about race and cinema. Prices for tickets and festival passes vary and can be purchased at breckfilmfest.org.
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Citizenship: A Practice of Society
October 2 through February 14, 2021
In a nod to the times in a divisive election year, the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver casts its eye on politically engaged art made since the 2016 election. The work of more than thirty artists and organizations will tell it like it is in America now, showing how making art itself can be a political act, raising awareness of issues ranging from climate change to immigration — and whatever else is on our collective civic mind at this moment. Admission to Citizenship: A Practice of Society will range from free (for MCA members) to $10; learn more and purchase timed tickets before your visit at mcadenver.org. (Mondays are reserved for members only.)
Collective Misnomer’s Friends of Friends Community Series
September 25 through December 18
As Collective Misnomer celebrates its fourth birthday, the experimental media series is happy to announce that “We’re not dead yet.” For the rest of 2020, the group will be exhibiting works entirely online, handing over programming duties to people outside the organization in order to showcase other curatorial voices from around the country. The programs’ curators are Jared Steffensen on September 25, Nika Kaiser on October 9, Raven Chacon on November 20, and Lydia Moyer on December 18. For more information, go to collectivemisnomer.com.
Denver Arts & Venues Virtual Experiences
Denver Arts & Venues, the city’s cultural agency, is going through a tough time, with staff furloughed and venues closed. But even so, the show will go on...online. At mcnicholsbuilding.com/exhibitions, you can catch two free virtual experiences: Listen is an online archive of stories from men who spent more than twenty years in prison, and Women of Color on the Front Lines is a virtual exhibition showcasing portraits of women in health care and their personal protective equipment. At artsandvenues.com, you can also enjoy Kintsugi: The Art of Healing, Finding Beauty in Repair, an online series of free artist workshops, hosted in collaboration with the Japanese Arts Network and covering movement, karate, matcha and dumpling making.
Denver Arts Week(end)
November 6 through November 8
Denver Arts Week will return in 2020, though the annual event has been cut back (it's hard to do something like the popular Night at the Museums when social distancing is key). This year's edition will be three days long, but still packed with a mix of in-person, virtual and hybrid events from Visit Denver's cultural partners, many of which are offering discounted or free admission. Watch for details on denver.org/denver-arts/week.
Denver Botanic Gardens Freyer-Newman Center
Opening September 26
The Freyer-Newman Center is the newest building at the Denver Botanic Gardens — and the final link in a major development plan there. It's a beauty, adding an auditorium, four art galleries, a new library, six classrooms and a coffee shop for public use, as well as new research facilities for staff. See for yourself on or after September 26, when the doors will open to reveal not just the building, but four new art exhibitions: Wonders and Oddities from the Gardens’ collections, Garden & Haven: Botanical Art and Illustration, and solo shows by Melanie Walker and Koko Bayer. Gate admission ranges from free to $15; for now, timed tickets can only be bought online in advance. Reserve tickets and find more information at botanicgardens.org.
Denver Film Festival
October 22 through November 8
Don’t expect red carpets and face-to-face shmoozing at the 43rd edition of the Denver Film Festival: The in-person fun is canceled. But if your idea of a good time is watching movies from the comfort of your couch, you might prefer this year’s COVID-19-friendly, virtual-cinema edition of the region's premier film festival over the pre-pandemic version. Along with eighteen days of films from all over the world, film lovers can enjoy panels, discussions with directors, awards ceremonies and more online. For more information and to get tickets or passes (prices vary), go to denverfilm.org/dff43.
Denver Film’s Virtual Cinema
One of the best things to come out of this godawful pandemic is Denver Film’s Virtual Cinema. Through the nonprofit’s own online platform, the Sie FilmCenter programmers have been able to continue to bring audiences fresh independent cinema from around the world, with special series devoted to Black Lives Matter, Women + Film, Latinx cinema, queer cinema and more. If it’s not the movies for you without that smell of popcorn and some blood-sugar-spiking treats, you can pick up a snack pack straight from the Sie. Tickets are $13 and available at denverfilm.org, where you can also find a complete schedule.
Doors Open Denver
September 28 through October 15
Building off the success of past events, the annual Doors Open Denver has also gone virtual in 2020. While the timing, duration and scope of this institution has changed (there will even be a photo contest), what hasn’t changed is its focus on offering insider tours that provide exclusive access to — and unique information about — historic buildings, new buildings and everything in between. This year's tours highlight a dozen spaces ranging from cultural to commercial to civic structures; one tour a day will be offered four days a week, each with a question-and-answer period with experts. Tours are $7 for Denver Architecture Foundation members and $9 for non-members; find all the details at denverarchitecture.org.
Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Mexican Modernism From the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection October 25 through January 24
Few artists have captured the public’s imagination like Mexican painter Frida Kahlo and her husband, muralist Diego Rivera. This year’s blockbuster show at the Denver Art Museum includes work by both artists, and it’s sure to sell out quickly — particularly with social distancing in place. The display is a way of commemorating the centennial anniversary of the end of the Mexican Revolution, and will include more than twenty paintings and drawings by Kahlo and thirteen by Rivera. But the lens on Mexican Modernism will widen beyond these two iconic figures to also include works by María Izquierdo, Carlos Mérida and other painters of the time. Ticket prices are TBA; go to denverartmuseum.org for more information.
September 18 through September 20
Never has the decision to shop at your independent businesses been so important to their survival as in the wake of COVID-19 closures. So when the Colfax Avenue Business Improvement District celebrates its first Independents Day (that's not a Fourth of July typo), all of the entrepreneurs, moms-and-pops and other shop, restaurant and bar owners hope you make it out to Colfax Avenue to enjoy food, drink and shopping deals, participate in a scavenger hunt and support boutiques, fitness centers and more. Admission is free, but you'll want to spend what you can. For more details, go to colfaxave.com/independents-day.
September 23 through October 4
Denver's Harvest Week is a beloved tradition, one that benefited both EatDenver and the GrowHaus, the nonprofit organization providing food and food education to residents of Denver's Globeville and Elyria-Swansea neighborhoods. This year, the setup is different, both because of COVID-19 and because the GrowHaus building was shuttered as a result of severe structural issues. The upside? Harvest Week is being revamped as a citywide celebration of Colorado food and drink. More than thirty Denver and Boulder eateries (including Cart-Driver, Ace Eat Serve, Ultreia, Santo, Jax, Blackbelly and Tap & Burger) will be using local ingredients to create uniquely Colorado dishes and cocktails that you'll be able to enjoy at the restaurant or your own home. Find out more at harvestweek.com.
Historic Denver 50th Anniversary Retrospective Celebration
Historic Denver got its start back in 1970, when it saved the Victorian mansion where Margaret Brown had lived, today the home of the Molly Brown House Museum. Over the past five decades, the organization has saved many, many more historic buildings around this city, ensuring that the past is part of Denver's present...and future. On September 23, Historic Denver will celebrate its fiftieth anniversary with a series of small "watch parties" at historic sites and homes around the city, with a full virtual program that includes entertainment by Wesley Schultz of the Lumineers and Cleo Parker Robinson Dance (also celebrating its fiftieth anniversary). Ticket prices vary; find out more at historicdenver.org.
October 23 through October 25
Denver’s geek culture has taken a hit with the cancellations of conventions. Thankfully, the 52nd edition of MileHiCon is going online with more than 75 authors, artists and speakers, who will be talking about publishing, reading from their works and sharing their art. There will be online gaming, a sci-fi/fantasy-themed art show, and big-name speakers like Cory Doctorow, Rebecca Roanhorse, Mur Lafferty, Alan Pollack and Steve Rasnic Tem. Weekend passes are $35 for individuals and $85 for households; other ticket prices vary. For more information, go to milehicon.org.
Peter Yumi, The Real Autonation
October 16 through November 1
For his 2020 slot at Pirate: Contemporary Art, co-op member Peter Yumi continues his fables of capitalist regimes and the art of selling fantasies that started a year ago with his show Fruitland Contemporary Art During the Autonation Dictatorship. Now, The Real Autonation unpacks the nitty-gritty of his theories in panels splashed with color and stolen imagery. The exhibition and October 16 opening reception are free; visit Pirate on Fridays from 6 to 9 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. Learn more at pirateartonline.org.
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October 1 to through October 14
Theater 29 and the Lulubird Project have set up a novel theatrical experience for these stay-at-home, virus-plagued times: The event comes to you in a box, and you get to interact with three local playwrights: Lisa Wagner Erickson, Ellen K. Graham and Tami Canaday. Here’s how it works: You register and receive artwork and instructions in your mailbox; an email containing audio and/or video files follows. Graham’s Against Sand provides an animated story enhanced by the cut-out renderings of the characters you received by mail. For A Shiny Quest, Wagner Erickson has created a fantasy game: Set up the pieces at home, turn on her audio, and let the challenge begin. Printed art for backdrops and character renderings come with Canaday’s Art of a Guest. The project is not only DIY and immersive, it’s a testament to the creative ways that theater artists are finding to connect with the community. Tickets are $12 and available at theater29denver.com.
Stories on Stage: Simple Pleasures
Stories on Stage is opening its twentieth season with Simple Pleasures, a collection of stories described by artistic director Anthony Powell as “tales of gratitude for the simple things in life that are coming to the fore right now, things like kindness and gratitude.” Among other offerings, the evening features the incandescent Jessica Robblee reading Mary Gordon’s "Ugly," about a sophisticated New Yorker forced to simplify her life. “It’s funny,” says Powell, “but also a heartbreaker.” There’s also “The Toilet Paper Baron of Metro Denver,” by local author Monterey Buchanan. “Weirdly up to date,” observes Powell. “We’re not doing unicorns and rainbows,” he adds, “but I’m looking for a little uplift in some of our shows this coming year.” The group will be live-streaming from Nomad Playhouse; tickets are $15 at storiesonstage.org.
Testigos / Witnesses
October 29 through March 20
The Museo de las Americas delves into the Otomi indigenous community of San Pablito, Pahuatlán, in the state of Puebla, Mexico, this fall with Gaal Cohen’s split photographic representations of people in various stages of life. Printed on amate, a pre-Columbian bark paper produced by the townspeople, the oversized works will tell their visual stories at the Museo through next spring. Timed tickets range from free to $8; learn more at museo.org.
Wall of Shame
October 23 through November 21
Michael Warren Contemporary isn’t known for its political shows. But after agreeing to display Pamela Joseph’s wall installation comprising 35 portraits of members of the Trump machine, all in sixteenth-century muzzles, the gallery decided to host a group exhibition showcasing works addressing a variety of social justice issues, from Black Lives Matter to climate change, COVID-19, nuclear proliferation and xenophobia. Michael Warren will host a free opening reception from 4 to 8 p.m. on Friday, October 23. For more information, go to michaelwarrencontemporary.com.
For more cultural events every week, go to westword.com/arts. We'll be updating this list through the fall, as well as posting three additional events lists every week; send information to email@example.com.