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Denver's Museo de las Américas is one of the only institutions anywhere that focuses on the art of the Southwestern United States, along with that of Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean, and it programs it all from within the modest facilities on Santa Fe Drive. But Museo director Jose Aguayo has always been a big dreamer. Ten years ago, he brought the Museo from dream to reality, and now he'd like to do the same with a dramatic and architecturally significant planned addition and alteration of the currently non-distinct building. The design -- cooked up by RoTo Architects of Los Angeles, a nationally renowned firm headed up by famous architect Michael Rotondi -- completely reconfigures the space, adding studios and a row of artists' lofts. The most exciting feature will be an elaborate facade reminiscent of the fabulous Mayan Theatre's -- a logical choice, since both are meant to recall the architecture of the ancient Mayans.

Best Rediscovery of a Nearly Forgotten Colorado Artist

Edgar Britton

It's common wisdom that once an artist dies, his or her work should soar in value, but more often, the artist fades from the collective memory. That's what happened to Edgar Britton, who in the 1950s, '60s and '70s was Colorado's most famous sculptor. But last year, nearly twenty years after his death, in 1982, Britton was back in the center ring. Not only was he the subject of a pair of simultaneous shows at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center and the Coburn Gallery on the Colorado College campus, but his life and work were the subject of a cogent if unusual monograph written by CC professor Jane Hilberry. The unconventional nature of the Hilberry book is fully revealed by its somewhat outlandish title, The Erotic Art of Edgar Britton. It was good to see one of the best artists in the state finally being given his due.
In 1939, German-Jewish artist Max Lazarus came to the United States from Trier, Germany, where he was that city's most important expressionist painter. Prominent in the Jewish community, Lazarus was commissioned to paint a mural on the ceiling of Trier's main synagogue. But the 1930s was not the best time to be a Jewish modernist in Germany, and Lazarus emigrated to the States. He eventually settled in Denver, where, in the 1940s, he got a job teaching arts and crafts and carried on his work as an artist until shortly before his death in 1964. Now the museum in Trier would like to collect his work, and since very few German pieces survived -- the Nazis burned down Trier's synagogue, and most of his other work was destroyed -- the institution has come looking in Denver. But nearly forty years after his death, Lazarus has been absolutely forgotten in the Mile High City, and except for a handful of pieces, his work is unknown. So the museum has launched a concerted effort, even hiring a detective to track down the estate. It's a good mystery, and, hopefully, one that will be solved.
In 1980, a group of friends opened an alternative art space in a then-rough part of town and gave it the difficult and unconventional name of Pirate: a contemporary art oasis. But the co-op's name perfectly reflected the difficult and unconventional work that has so often found a home in the space at 3659 Navajo Street. Now, more than twenty years later, the original members have mostly scattered to the four winds. The exception is Phil Bender, who has not only remained as an active Pirate member, but has also run the place and kept it going during many dry spells. In addition, Bender has presented a solo exhibit of his own work at least once a year since Pirate's founding. For last summer's Bender bender, Paris, Paris Architecture, Etc., Etc., he covered the walls with hubcaps, postcards, coasters and other found items -- playing off his longtime penchant for using objects collected in multiples and putting them together in unlikely combinations to create pieces that are greater than the sum of their parts. Truly, Bender's unwavering dedication through the years has set a fine example for other artists.
You have to hand it to the folks who strive to try something different, and the Other Side is just such an effort. Rather than being just another artist cooperative, it's more of a true collective, where artists not only share studio and gallery space (and daycare), but attempt to give back to the community by offering classes and workshops, as well as art for sale at reasonable prices. Located in the former Platte Anchor Bolt warehouse space and created out of the visionary dreamworks of grassroots art entrepreneurs Chris Minter and Jeff Ball, the Other Side is a place where artful things and concepts can grow unfettered. Check it out.
Hair today, gone...well, you know the drill: When local artist/entrepreneur Lonnie Hanzon decided to cash it all in, sell his workshop and auction off nearly everything in it, he also decided to drop his three-foot tresses, what he liked to call his "greatest work of art," and put them on the block, to boot. To his credit, he turned the whole crazy event into a theatrical experience and created a reliquary for the lopped locks. We can only hope that Hanzon and his newly chromed dome are now in a better place.
They used Colorado Yule Marble for the Lincoln Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. In fact, anytime someone wants to make something look grand, they call for the sleek stone that's quarried in the town of Marble, near Aspen. At the Marble Institute of Colorado's MARBLE/marble XIV classes this summer, sculptors of various levels of experience and expertise can learn to shape marble. After a group of internationally known instructors offers the basics on carving stone, each student will receive three cubic feet at which they can chip away. That rocks!
Who can argue with a tradition that's been handed down for centuries, has its origins in a mystical fertility ritual, and involves grown people dressed in white holding antlers on their heads? That's the core of the solemn annual rite known as Abbott's Bromley Horn Dance, which leapt across the Atlantic decades ago and embedded itself in Denver's folk-dancing community. The Maroon Bells Morris Dancers perform the rite as part of the annual Winter Solabration at the Temple Events Center, and they're faithful to the ritual. Done in good fun, participants say, the ceremony gives new meaning to the phrase "horny dancers."
This program for young dancers places an elite crew of twinkletoes in the spotlight for the annual Colorado Ballet staging of The Nutcracker. It's a wonderful experience, of course, for any second-grader keen on turning pro, but the fast-track connections that come out of the mingling of so many upper-suburban stage mothers at related social events may be an even more compelling reason that the Sugar Plums have attracted so many applicants. Proceeds benefit the ballet, and various spinoff programs for alumni and older children have made the entire affair accessible to a wide range of youngsters -- whether their parents are Denver bluebloods or not. On your toes, kids!
Hard to say if it was dance, theater, circus or dressage, but whatever it was, Cheval Théâtre provided an astonishing evening of entertainment during its extended Denver run last fall. Sitting in the audience, you sensed some mysterious, Cirque du Soleil-influenced story must be responsible for the goings-on in the sawdust ring under a tent in the parking lot of the Pepsi Center -- there were evocative costumes, golden coins, a fallen horse and rider amid swirls of smoke -- but the plot didn't really matter. What mattered was the magnificence of the horses, beautiful animals that represented some seventeen breeds and had names like Gadjal, Chabo, Dansk and Hercule; the grace and skill of the riders; and the extraordinary, almost mythic relationship between the animals and their humans.

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