Fort Collins Museum of Art
The brainchild of artist John Nava and printmaker Donald Farnsworth, California's Magnolia Editions has been creating tapestries using digitized looms for the last ten years. During that time, Magnolia has produced works by significant artists such as Chuck Close, Deborah Oropallo, Lewis deSoto and Leon Golub. The results of translating paintings or prints into tapestries are stunning, and the Fort Collins Museum of Contemporary Art wowed us by putting more than a dozen of them on view last summer.
Over the past few years, collecting couple Jill Wiltse and Kirk Brown have assembled a definitive group of fabrics documenting the significant role women played in post-war Britain. Designing Women, organized by Wiltse and Brown's personal curator, Shanna Shelby, and Tariana Navas-Nieves of the CSFAC, showed off this collection in spectacular fashion and lured textile curators from Europe and across the United States to Colorado Springs.
First of all, Modern Muse is an interesting, adventurous company. Artistic directors Gabriella Cavallero and Stephen J. Lavezza work with local playwrights and make their decisions based on artistic rather than commercial considerations. Some of their productions are among the gutsiest and most thoughtful the city has to offer. Secondly, the fundraiser they held last August brought Jamie Horton back to Denver. Yes, that Jamie Horton, the guy we've all been missing since he pulled up roots after decades with the Denver Center and took an academic job back east. Horton reprised a number of his best roles, assisted by John Hutton, Kathy Brady and Randy Moore, and gave us one of the finest evenings of theater we've had for a long while — all in an atmosphere that pulsed with warmth and camaraderie. The take: $10,000. The experience: priceless.
Curious Theatre Company
Find a terrific script, gather together a first-rate cast and a group of talented technicians, direct with a mix of meticulousness and wonder — and lo and behold, you get Curious's magical production of playwright Sarah Ruhl's take on the age-old myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. We're at a loss to decide what to praise first and most: Chip Walton's direction; Michael R. Duran's set; Shannon McKinney's lighting; Brian Freeland's sound; Janice Lacek's costumes; the choreography of Garrett Ammon; or the dedicated work of the actors: Tyee Tilghman as Orpheus, Karen Slack as a lively and expressive Eurydice and Jim Hunt as the father everyone wishes they had. You can still catch this wondrous show (it runs until April 18).
Originality, playfulness, a bit of brain food (but not enough to ruin the fun), surprises and lots of laughter. These are the things we expect from Buntport, and the group unfailingly delivers. This season began with a spoof on The Three Musketeers in which Alexandre Dumas was joined in his coffin by an argumentative, small-town librarian, and ended with the fizzy hijinks of Buntport's first musical, Seal. Stamp. Send. Bang. The company's tech is always amazing — low-cost, high-effect — and the scripts, developed by the members themselves, are clever and sometimes brilliant. But what makes Buntport (which weathered a financial crisis with its usual effervescent practicality) our hands-down winner was the group's ensemble work and the way the members' acting skills have sharpened and deepened over time.
Larimer Lounge
Jeff Davis
Though the idea of inviting completely inexperienced musicians, journalists, promoters and scenesters to get behind the decks seems like a bad one — especially at the Larimer Lounge, a venue that rarely showcases dance music — DJ Hot to Death (aka Monolith Music Festival's Matt Fecher) has turned his weekly event into the place to be on Monday nights. Sparkly electro-clubbers rub elbows with gritty rocker dudes and earthy singer-songwriters, while the music runs the gamut from contemporary country to hip-hop to metal. It's part dance party, part Denver music industry networking event and part DJ training ground. The drinks are cheap, the music selections are unique, the conversation is good, and you'd be hard-pressed to find more fun on a Monday.
Last fall, MCA Denver celebrated its first year in its spiffy David Adjaye-designed building at the edge of the Platte Valley. During that time, over 50,000 people made their way through. This response — not to mention the building itself — was orchestrated almost single-handedly by Cydney Payton, who served as executive director and head curator from 2001 through 2008. Payton not only oversaw the design process, but she ran the business end, as well, and programmed all the shows, which will continue to pull thousands of visitors into the place.
Some firefighters like to make movies. And what better topic for a firefighter's movie than, well, a fire? That was Rob Bieber's idea, anyway; the Denver firefighter and a cinematographer partner made Ricky's Rib Shack in order to convey to an audience what it's really like to be in the middle of a blazing inferno. Because Bieber was on the fire department at the time they were making the film, they had unprecedented access to burning buildings while following 24 recruits through an intense, five-month-long fire academy. They were so close, in fact, that some cameras suffered damage. That's hot.
To explore the subject of the American West, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center curator Blake Milteer put together a pair of conjoined solos that turned out brilliantly. In the back was Walt Kuhn: An Imaginary History of the West, and in the front, Place and Time: Reenactment Pageant Photographs by Edie Winograde. Kuhn, who worked in the early twentieth century, created blurry abstract paintings of cowboys and Indians, while Winograde, who is active now, takes photos of people playing cowboys and Indians. And because she used slow shutter speeds, her pieces were blurry and abstract, too. The combining of the modernist and the postmodernist was a terrific match.

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