Best Evolving Gallery District 2011 | RiNo | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

River North, with its active enclave of studios and workshops, has always stood by its motto "Where Art Is Made." But increasingly, it's also where art is seen, as more and more galleries open their doors in the neighborhood. These days, the funky and the tony rub elbows happily in RiNo, as evidenced by the recent move to the area by the highly regarded Rule Gallery, hot on the heels of the more freewheeling Wazee Union's debut. They could, in fact, change that motto to "Where All Art Is Made," as the district has morphed over the past few years into a beehive of creative — and connected — endeavors. Charge on, RiNo!

Best Experimental Music and Food Showcase


Last year, Corey Elbin set out to create a special night of community-oriented experimental music and performances, which just happened to include reasonably priced vegetarian and vegan meals. And with Gorinto, his Wednesday-night showcase of some of the most interesting avant-garde musicians and performance-art and dance acts in town, Elbin has thoroughly succeeded. Hosted on the second floor of the Mercury Cafe, Gorinto benefits from a superb sound system and a comfortable environment in which you can experience the likes of Ships & Fog, Aenka, Holophrase, Last Eyes and Alphabets, among others, all over a healthy meal. The result is always pleasantly surprising, always satisfying food for thought.

Kevin Kain is not your typical party promoter. Not only is he part of a team of folks who frequently and consistently pack Denver's hottest hip-hop nights, but he manages to stay on point with his Facebook game, ranting with the eloquence of a judge and the lexicon of a journalist. Whether it's about the club fuckery he experiences or a hilarious observation on society, Kain incites conversation and inspires swift reactions. Though full of charm and niceties in person, Kain uses his Facebook status as a bully pulpit — and people crowd around for the sermon.

Rockstar Aaron knows how to throw a dance party. But that only makes sense, because for years he's been one of the hardest-working DJs in these parts, spinning regularly at least three nights a week. With Female Trouble, which he helms on Fridays at Bar Standard, he lays down an energetic mix of rock, dance and Top 40, tossing a bit of '80s magic into the mix as well. Although the club night makes a slight nod to the John Waters film of the same name, Aaron also makes it clear that while the evening is edgy, it's geared to the ladies — and, by virtue of that, gentlemen. There's no cover, and females get $1 drinks until midnight. Do you smell T-R-O-U-B-L-E?

Between arthouses and snowboarders and anyone else with a large white surface to project on and a masochistic yen for cat-herding, there are probably at least two film festivals running at any given time in this town. And while many of them suffer from a disconnect — either they're "local" or they're "good," but they're rarely both — the first EFPalooza made a strong bid for resolving that imbalance. Of course, its parent organization, the Emerging Filmmakers Project, based at the Bug Theatre, has been uniting, nurturing and showcasing local filmmakers since 2002; in fact, the impetus for the festival came when host Patrick Sheridan realized that the group was about to screen its 500th film, which he felt warranted some celebration. With a track record like that, it's no surprise that the inaugural EFP managed to round up a diverse and shockingly high-quality selection from an array of top-notch local artists — and even though the going is always roughest the first time around, EFPalooza delivered like gangbusters. Here's to the sequel.

November was a banner month for John Hickenlooper: The beer-brewer-turned-mayor stepped into the big leagues of politics with his actual election to the office of governor of Colorado, as well as through his fantasy role as a U.S. senator in Casino Jack, directed by his cousin, director George Hickenlooper, who passed away shortly before the film played the Starz Film Festival. In one of the movie's best scenes — a daydream sequence in which Jack Abramoff, played by the always-fantastic Kevin Spacey, goes off on John McCain (via real footage) in a Senate hearing — Hick plays the nameless senator sitting next to McCain's double. His performance mostly consists of looking grave and saying something like "Seize that man" (it's hard to tell; there's other dialogue over the line), but Hickenlooper's silver-screen legacy will live on — at least until it's eclipsed by him actually becoming a U.S. senator. And with a look that grave, we wouldn't rule it out.

Best Film Performance by a Mayoral Candidate

Jeff Peckman

Out-of-this-world mayoral candidate Jeff Peckman has gotten face time on The Daily Show (back when he was pushing a Denver ballot initiative calling for Safety Through Peace) and Late Night With David Letterman, where he touted his proposal that the city create an Extraterrestrial Affairs Commission. But his best-timed appearance may have been in the movie trailer for Battle: Los Angeles, from an interview done back in December — before he had any thoughts of running for mayor, Peckman assures us, but released right after Peckman made the 2011 ballot. Too bad the movie crashed.

Looking for a way to make up for a dip in donations due to the lagging economy, the Denver Zoo came up with an event that's both money-making and, if things go well, baby-making: the Singles Safari, a one-night party at which 500 men and 500 women wander the zoo, looking for love and stopping by various "Ask Me" stations, where zookeepers explain the horny details of polar-bear breeding and elephant sex. If the singles get lucky and become couples, the zoo also now offers Date Night, which, just like a relationship, is less focused on doing it and more focused on eating dinner by candlelight.

It's one thing to hear about the four elements of hip-hop or even to experience them peripherally. Driving around town, you might admire the elaborately scrawled graffiti while listening to someone on the radio rapping. And if you've been to a club, chances are you've danced to a DJ or maybe even watch somebody breakdance. It's another thing entirely to experience hip-hop culture in the flesh. And thanks to Delfino "Fienz" Rodriguez, a true-school dyed-in-the wool b-boy, the community has a chance to do just that at Mighty 4 Denver, the free annual b-boy jam that takes place every summer in the heart of downtown. This past July, b-boys and b-girls of all ages showcased their individual breakdance style in front of a captive audience of awestruck onlookers. We look forward to seeing them again this year.

Denver has an abundance of arts districts — there's the town's biggest, along Santa Fe Drive, one in LoDo and another in RiNo; there are arts districts in Cherry Creek North and along Tennyson Street, among other places. But for a true arts district, it's impossible to beat the Golden Triangle, the area circumscribed by Broadway, Colfax Avenue and Speer Boulevard — because that's where the Denver Art Museum is located. This neighborhood is also home to the art-collecting Denver Public Library and the soon-to-be-completed Clyfford Still Museum. But not only does the Golden Triangle boast important buildings filled with art, it also has some of the town's top commercial galleries, too, including the William Havu Gallery, Walker Fine Art and Z Art Department. And just across Broadway — technically a few yards outside the Golden Triangle — the new History Colorado museum is nearing completion. All of Denver's arts districts contribute to the cultural life of the Mile High City, but the Golden Triangle is the one to beat.

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