Francis Scott Key could not have envisioned a time when his "Star-Spangled Banner" might be fused with the state song of, say, Namibia; in those days, it would have been impossible to foresee John Guillot's World Anthem Project. The local producer used a computer system called Experiments in Music Intelligence to sample 192 national anthems and create a compositional whole. The anthem debuted this past New Year's Eve in Denver, providing a sonic backdrop for the rockets-red revelry.
Rocky Mountain News Books editor Patti Thorn likes mysteries and light fiction. She also respects serious literature. And she harbors a profound curiosity about the current publishing scene, from self-published e-books to monolithic houses, the travails of local writers and the struggles -- and victories -- of independent bookstores. For the past several years, she's dished up a Sunday book section that's a delicious blend of humor, insight, gossip, analysis and wisdom, a section that focuses on Colorado while placing the state's literary doings in a national context. But come April 2001, the News will never again publish on Sunday -- and given the current economic climate, we're not willing to make book on what will happen to Thorn's section.
In an effort to come up with a millennium show last fall, Sally Perisho, director of the Metro Center for the Visual Arts, had the idea for a historic exhibit that would survey women artists working in Colorado during the twentieth century. To carry out her plan, she collaborated with freelance curator Katherine Smith-Warren, who also wrote the accompanying catalogue. The result was Time and Place, a riveting look at women's work beginning at the turn of the nineteenth century and ending at the close of the twentieth. Highlights included pots by Anne Van Briggle Ritter from the 1910s, photographs by Laura Gilpin from the 1920s, and an installation by Virginia Folkestad from 2000.
As the Denver Center Theatre Company's principal designer, Bill Curley has fashioned an impressive string of stage settings over the years. There was the Venice Beach storefront set, complete with a flying plane inviting patrons to renew their subscriptions, that served as the backdrop for The Comedy of Errors; the romantic cyclorama and cobblestone walks that enveloped The Beauty Queen of Leenane; and the magical Parisian watering hole that housed Picasso at the Lapin Agile. But Curley's greatest accomplishment occurred last season, when he served as Tantalus designer Dionysis Fotopoulos's assistant while also mounting the incredible exhibit that accompanied the twelve-hour epic (the traveling show's curator publicly acknowledged Curley's contribution on the exhibit's opening night). Clearly, Curley is that rare creative individual -- the kind who quietly gets it done.

Expectations were high for Jeff Wenzel: Painting, but even the highest of those were exceeded by this magnificent show held at Ron Judish Fine Arts in February. Educated as a ceramics artist, Wenzel works his paper surfaces as though they were made of pliable clay. He twists and tears, paints and repaints, guided by his instinctual and on-the-mark aesthetic judgment. Wenzel's always been good, but he's never been better than he was here.
DJ Chonz is the consummate hip-hop DJ. From his successful mix-tape series to his own online radio show to the packed houses he regularly rocks, Chonz has helped Denver heads appreciate one of hip-hop's often overlooked elements: the artist behind the turntables. Respected by artists from both coasts, Chonz has opened for Raekwon, the Baka Boys, Maseo from De La Soul and Common. Not limited by hop-hop conventions, however, Chonz recently started a new series at the Roxy that aims to bridge the gap between rap and other forms of electronic music. But whether he's educating or stimulating his crowds, Chonz never loses sight of the fact that a jock's primary objective is to keep them moving.
A group of five of Colorado's most interesting experimental photographers were brought together for Fresh Eyes, a cutting-edge exhibit organized by Kathy Andrews, head curator and exhibition director at the Arvada Center. Strong pieces included the uncharacteristic bottle shots by Mark Sink and the multiple-image travel pictures by Michael Butts. David Sharpe's enlargements of pinhole prints depicting the Western landscape were especially choice, photomurals that managed to be retro-pictorial and up-to-the-minute at the same time.

Otis Taylor is one of Colorado's many undiscovered treasures -- but if White African, an early release by NorthernBlues Music, a new Canadian blues imprint, receives the attention it deserves, he won't be undiscovered for long. The album isn't just the top blues recording by a local since...well...Taylor's last release; it's as good as any blues disc put out in the past year by anyone, anywhere.

Best Evidence of Life on the Alternative Scene

ILK @ Pirate

It's sad but true: Denver's alternative galleries have seen better days. Nevertheless, that little hole-in-the-wall ILK @ Pirate keeps chugging along. The small room is typically the site of wonderful shows, and the exhibiting artists, almost always the members of the two-venue ILK co-op that runs the place, usually give the space a complete facelift for each one. It's an ilk of a different kind, but it's a good one.
Thanks to the beneficence of former Boulderite Jello Biafra -- the onetime leader of the Dead Kennedys who created the Alternative Tentacles label -- Slim Cessna finally got the opportunity to display his eccentric take on country to a sizable audience beyond these parts. And he's made the most of it. Always Say Please and Thank You is frequently hilarious -- check out the timeless stomp "Last Song About Satan" -- but never at the expense of C&W verities.

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