Fred Ramey and Greg Michalson are proof positive that good novels don't have to come from Manhattan -- they can hail from a cowtown such as Denver, thanks to their publishing house, Unbridled Books. The independent book publisher only puts out ten books a year, which allows Ramey and Michalson to be choosy about whom they work with. As a result, "They're all extremely important to us; our ego is attached to every single book," Ramey says. Their focus is fiction, particularly literary fiction that concentrates on beautiful writing, strong voices, strong characters and a strong sense of place. Unbridled isn't representing any local writers at the moment, but the house does represent well for Denver's literary life.
If there's anyone who should be frontin' for Denver, it's someone who titles a book of poetry about civil-rights martyrs Murder Ballads. A person who understands that Denver readers want beautifully crafted prose, depth of storytelling and consciousness-raising ideas wrapped in one catchy package. In short, we want it all -- and Jake Adam York delivers. The Alabama native moved here just five years ago, but he's already fully immersed in his adopted home. He teaches creative writing at the University of Colorado at Denver and held a creative residency at PlatteForum last year, where he ran a poetry lab for students from North High School and P.S. 1, creating the art installation "A Map of Denver" in the process. York also edits the Copper Nickel, the national literary journal based at UCD, and organizes the Denver Mint Reading Series, which brings Pulitzer-level and up-and-coming poets and writers to town. On top of all that, he's finishing his next book -- Annumeration of Starlings -- that will be a followup to Murder Ballads. That's a great verse-case scenario.
Parking along Santa Fe Drive on a Friday night ain't what it used to be, particularly on First Fridays. Visitors could easily spend so much time hunting down a prime parking space that they'd miss out on all the wine and cheese. In December, the Artdistrict on Santa Fe rectified the situation, offering a free shuttle-bus service to and from the light-rail station at 10th Avenue and Osage Street from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. every First Friday. Originally the free ride was only scheduled through April, but the numbers of people using the orange-dotted shuttle have risen so much that it will most likely continue on well beyond April Fools' Day. "People have gotten to be dependent on it," says Artdistrict president Jack Pappalardo of Habitat Gallery. "Now they'll expect it." There's never too much of a good thing.
Eco-devo and the arts usually go together like drinking and driving. So many artists thought it was just crazy talk last year when the Denver Office of Cultural Affairs announced it was creating a position that would help artists -- not just big-box retailers -- access economic opportunity. Ginger White accepted the challenge of becoming the city's arts eco-devo specialist, but instead of careening off like a drunk, she's been Dale Earnhardt (and not Jr.), smoothly rounding difficult corners on her way to enriching the local arts scene. Although that doesn't mean she's got cash to throw around, she's finding ways to help artists work through the zoning process, access city loans and maneuver other roadblocks inherent in the city government/artist relationship.
Starving artists hate that rich people run the show simply by throwing their money around, but thank goodness Kent and Vicki Logan spread the wealth. The couple is giving the Denver Art Museum a $10 million endowment for the modern and contemporary department, more than 300 artworks from their personal stash (added to the more than 200 they have already donated), and their Vail home and private art museum, plus another $5 million for maintenance of the property. The Logans have been generous to our community before, but this is the best thing they've ever done.
Lisbeth Neergaard Kohloff and her husband, Skip Kohloff, retired from the board of the Colorado Photographic Arts Center last year, giving up their posts as the tag team that ran the place. The Kohloffs got involved with CPAC back in the '80s and have been the backbone of the institution. Over the years, they promoted innumerable local careers and put together a star-studded roster of exhibits that featured some of the most famous photographers in the West. It's safe to say the Kohloffs are two of the best when it comes to making Denver's art world tick.
The scope of the Museum of Contemporary Art's third biennial, 2005 BIENNIAL BLOW OUT, was expanded to include artists from beyond Colorado's borders. Denver dominated the show anyway, with six of celebrity juror Kenny Schachter's ten final selections living in town. This show is one of the most difficult to get into, so each of our artists -- Louisa Armbrust, Patti Hallock, Susan Meyer, Jason Patz, David Sharpe and Jeff Starr -- deserves a gold star and a huge helping of respect.
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Last spring and summer, the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center was dominated by Chihuly, an over-the-top extravaganza that highlighted the career of Dale Chihuly. The survey began with some of the glass master's oldest pieces, from the 1970s, and ended with several hot-from-the-furnaces items. Michael De Marsche, president of the Fine Arts Center, orchestrated the exhibit, which ended up being the biggest hit in the institution's seventy-year history, attracting more than 80,000 visitors. De Marsche knows how to play to a crowd, and he announced earlier this year that the CSFAC plans to acquire many of the pieces that were on display in Chihuly.
Amish women from the turn of the last century didn't intend for their quilts to be works of modern art, but that's exactly what happened, as evidenced by last year's Amish Quilts exhibit at the Denver Art Museum. The quilts look much like the minimalist paintings done much later, but the Amish were guided not by aesthetics -- as the minimalists were -- but by a religious philosophy that called for plainness. They preferred solid colors in dark shades and fine dressmaking wool and fancy polished cotton, which turned the quilts into bold geometric compositions. DAM textile curator Alice Zrebiec put the show together using quilts loaned by Faith and Stephen Brown. Zrebiec's best decision was displaying the quilts as paintings.
Denver painter Bruce Price created a batch of fabulous pieces for FULL: New Paintings by Bruce Price, his solo at + Gallery last fall. Though the work was clearly a continuation of past efforts, the paintings were also completely new-looking. Even though Price is a protege of the great Clark Richert, he's interested in theories of decoration and ornamentation, which Richert dismisses. Price lays patterns next to one another so that they seem to collide or overlap, creating an almost 3-D appearance even though the surfaces are flat.

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