The West has inspired artists for over a century, and LoDo's David Cook Fine Art is one of the best places in Denver to check out some of the genre's older creations. The gallery rarely presents exhibits, so The Painter's Eye, on display last summer, was an unusual treat. The show included pieces by artists who worked in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and California. A bonus was the in-depth display of pieces by local master Charles Partridge Adams, an impressionist who worked in the early twentieth century. It was a great way to enjoy the mountains without having to leave town.

The Denver Art Museum's New World department includes both pre-and post-Columbian sections, and patrons Jan and Fred Mayer were principal sponsors of two relevant shows designed to showcase both. First was the post-Columbian offering, Painting a New World, which surveyed Mexican colonial painting. Then came the pre-Columbian Tiwanaku, which examined a little known civilization in Bolivia. Donna Pierce, the DAM's curator of Spanish colonial art, put together Painting a New World, and Margaret Young-S´nchez, the museum's curator of pre-Columbian art, did Tiwanaku. The two shows were predicted to have low attendance, and they did. But they were fine, well-thought-out shows, so it's great the DAM did them anyway.

In the early '90s, architect Cab Childress designed a mountain home for University of Denver chancellor Daniel Ritchie. The imposing stone structure was done in an unusual neo-traditional style, with a copper roof called "Granny's Castle." Though Childress didn't know it at the time, the building was his audition for the post of DU architect. Over the next decade, Childress rewrote the appearance of the DU campus, beginning with the impossible-to-miss Daniel L. Ritchie Sports and Wellness Center, and followed by many other equally outrageous buildings. Curator Sally Perisho told the whole story in Poetry and Stone, a long-overdue salute to Childress's great contributions to the built environment of Denver.

Assembly art gallery is know for showing more controversial, cutting-edge works than some of its neighbors on Santa Fe Drive. But it wasn't an exhibit that got director Jared Anderson in trouble with the City of Denver. No, it was his yard art, "Womb." Designed as a freestanding monumental sculpture, "Womb" spans nearly fifty feet by fourteen feet, blocking the back of the gallery from the trashy alley behind 768 Santa Fe. It's a beautiful, innovative piece, but when inspectors got wind that Anderson had used recycled doors -- a prohibited material for constructing walls -- they cited him and took him to the Board of Adjustment of Zoning Appeals. Anderson eventually prevailed, and he won a variance for his sculpture. Now he hosts regular film nights in the gallery's back garden, where visitors can enjoy the protection of the city's best art wall.

Lakeside Amusement Park creaks on year after year, slowly sliding down the path toward historical oddity. It's Colorado's very own Coney Island, and that's exactly what makes the place so charming. Local photographer Christina Ianni captured the broken-down park -- with the rickety old Cyclone and carny-favorite Tilt-A-Whirl -- on film, using toy cameras scrounged at five-and-dimes. The results were rich, magical photos that expressed the beauty and nostalgia of one of Denver's great cultural legacies. When they all hung en masse in Kirk Norlin Gallery, it was as if Ianni had captured not just the park, but the heart and soul of Denver.

Stiles African American Heritage Center
Retired teacher and Colorado Preservation, Inc. State Honor Award-winner Grace Stiles rescued a once-dilapidated Victorian frame house in Five Points and reshaped it for the greater good. The Stiles African American Heritage Center is stuffed with Stiles's own special legacy for black Denver's youth: a haystack of pictures and artifacts that piece together the lives a dozens of the region's African-American historical figures. Stiles invites school groups to tour her mini-museum, and occasionally hosts lectures and Chautauqua-style performances for the public.

Denver Art Museum
Courtesy Denver Art Museum
For several Decembers now, the Denver Art Museum has hyped an exhibition on Our Lady of Guadalupe by offering free Southwest Santos family backpacks, which include special games designed to encourage interaction with the artwork. Families can play Rhymes & Riddles or put together an Our Lady of Guadalupe magnet puzzle while taking in the museum's collection of Virgin-centric artworks, most of which are housed in the Spanish Colonial gallery. The idea is to attract groups that might not normally visit the cultural institution; free vouchers are available for some families. Organizers deem the outreach a success. Some might even call it a miracle.

Last August, a selection from the Denver Art Museum was reduced to a tiny canvas, but it reached a global audience. An intricate 1940s Navajo weaving by master artisan Daisy Taugelchee was one of ten artifacts depicted in "The Art of the American Indian" stamp, a series of 37-cent stamps released by the United States Postal Service. The inclusion of Taugelchee's piece, which has a permanent home in the DAM's Native American Arts collection, lent a bit of Colorado cachet to letters sent around the world.

Organized by Pamela Jamruszka of the Red Rocks Community College theater faculty, and with the support of the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities, the first Playwrights Showcase of the Western Region featured three intense days of panels, workshops, discussions and play readings. The series was designed to inform and inspire, and to begin the process of putting Western playwrights on the map.

Edward Albee's play about a man in love with a goat makes you question every assumption about sexual mores you've ever made. Just where are the boundaries between the permissible and the impermissible, and what do they mean in the lives of actual people? The Goat or, Who Is Sylvia? is skillfully written, funny, silly, profound and disquieting all at once; the script includes one of the most extraordinary scenes in modern dramaturgy, as the wife who's discovered her husband's animal obsession careens from rage to helpless laughter, laughter to anguish and anguish to bitterness, breaking vases and furniture as she goes. Director Nagle Jackson gave this strange, daring piece a top-notch production at Curious, with an expressive cast, intelligent direction and an elegant set.

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