Brazilian-born New York artist Vik Muniz is chiefly known for his funny photographs, but he isn't really a photographer. He's a conceptual artist who uses cameras to preserve his ephemeral re-creations of works like "The Last Supper." For that da Vinci sendup, Muniz used expertly applied chocolate syrup, though he's also turned to ad hoc art materials such as cotton balls, wire, thread and cut-up magazines. This spectacular solo was curated by Devon Dikeou, whose own Dikeou Collection includes "The Last Supper" and who cherry-picked the West Collection's sizable Muniz holdings to come up with one of the best shows of the year.
When Frames singer Glen Hansard and new talent Markéta Irglová agreed to co-star in director John Carney's Once, neither expected much. So imagine their surprise when the joy-filled film became an unlikely hit that not only brought them together as a couple, but ultimately earned them an Academy Award for the impossibly gorgeous "Falling Slowly." At the Ogden long before the Oscars, the pair shared music from the movie and plenty more, interacting with the crowd and each other in such an intimate a manner that the audience became not just witnesses to their love story, but part of it.
Robischon Gallery
In January, Robischon Gallery co-directors Jim Robischon and Jennifer Doran put on a full-blown salute to contemporary Chinese art in Face East, an authoritative group show. The two typically go all out for their exhibits, which in this case meant traveling to China to pick pieces right out of the studios and workshops of the selected artists. The exhibit included more than fifty paintings, prints and sculptures by some of the biggest stars of Chinese art and some of the most promising emerging artists. Several artists do work that comments on Chinese politics, while others are more vaguely political, referring to the collision of East and West in Chinese culture. Although China is a police state where cultural life is hardly encouraged, artists there are making the best of it, as they have for centuries.
DJ Ivy is an electronic chameleon behind the decks. Regardless of what he's spinning — house, breaks, down-tempo and damn near everything else — his sets are always tasty masterpieces of dance-floor delight. He handles it all, from smooth and sexy funk to tripped-out space journeys and deep, pumping progressive grooves. Whether he's opening for dance-music royalty or headlining his own residency, he always manages to craft thoughtful, heady sets that ignite the crowd. And no matter what the occasion, Ivy is the consummate professional: He brings it and leaves it all on the floor.
Denver Victorian Playhouse
Terry Ann Watts gave a beautiful and open-souled performance as Sister Helen Prejean, the real-life nun who has worked for years with death-row inmates, making her exactly the sort of wise, calm woman you would want beside you in a crisis. Watts was quietly dignified throughout Dead Man Walking, but you could see the mingled rage and pity in her eyes when she was confronted with men who claimed to be only doing their jobs: the rigid, callous prison chaplain, the officer in charge of strapping down the condemned man, the governor who used the convict's last chance for clemency as a political photo op. And she made the moment when Prejean finally broke down and wept almost unendurably poignant.

Best Depiction of What It's Like to Be a Struggling Musician

Everyone But You

After completing El Diablo, his fourth album, Eric Shiveley sold his home in Denver and moved to the San Luis Valley to build a house and recording studio. And just hours before he was slated to break ground in November 2005, he purchased a cheap camcorder at Wal-Mart and began shooting Everyone But You, a touching documentary in which he set out to chronicle the process, but instead captured the feelings of exasperation that accompany being a struggling musician. The film, which highlights a number of great tunes from Shiveley and his friends, has been selected for screening at several prominent festivals across the country. If folks have the same reaction we did, Shiveley's days of struggling may soon be over.
Center for Visual Art/MSU
Luxury goods usually dominate design exhibitions, but there are also design items meant to solve social problems. This is what Metro professor Lisa Abendroth gathered together to pull off the thoughtful Substance: Diverse Practices From the Periphery at the Center for Visual Art. The show was divided into sections called Access, Community, Education, Wellness and Shelter (which included an inflatable plastic tent for the homeless). The pieces were predictably functionalist, and therefore doctrinaire modernist in style. But this modern bent was the best part of the show, because it meant that everything was beautiful, even if that wasn't what the designers had in mind.
The late Charles Eames and his second wife, Ray, created furniture classics in the 1940s, '50s and '60s, seemingly hand over fist. Many, like their plywood-and-leather lounge chair and ottoman, are still being made. Eames's granddaughter, Carla Hartman, who lives in Denver, has collected his work for decades and has special access to the still-running Eames Office in Los Angeles. For this show, laid out by Shannon Corrigan, Hartman assembled pieces from her own collection supplemented by those from the office's archive. Interestingly, some of the best things were the one-off structural experiments for chair legs done in metal and wood.
Rachel Corrie has been a lighting rod for controversy since her death in Gaza at the age of 23, when she was run over by an Israeli soldier driving a bulldozer while attempting to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian home. And My Name Is Rachel Corrie has proved controversial, too. The play was too hot for the New York Theatre Workshop, which originally planned a presentation in 2006, then postponed it indefinitely. But Denver audiences were able to see it last fall, thanks to Countdown to Zero, Brian Freeland's new company that intends to stage nine more significant works before disbanding. The house was packed almost every night, and Rachel Corrie's parents even came to Denver for two performances, including one that was followed by a panel on the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Brown Barrel Tavern
Eric Gruneisen
Save for the jukebox and TVs, the Brown Barrel looks like it hasn't changed since the '60s. Hey, if it ain't broke, don't fix it, right? It's easy to walk past this joint; the exterior is about as nondescript as a plainclothes policeman at a dad convention. And it's even easier to miss at night, since it can close as early as 11 p.m. depending on how busy it is. But if you're an early-morning drinker and need a mug of Landshark Lager instead of a cuppa joe, the Brown Barrel's the place for you — especially on Sundays, when happy hour runs from 8 a.m. to noon.

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