Ice Cube Gallery

One of the star turns in the Overthrown portion of Marvelous Mud was the outrageous installation "Apoptosis," which was later reconfigured and deconstructed for Oxytocin: Katie Caron and Martha Russo at Ice Cube. Using ceramic blobs that were internally lighted and connected by wires, Katie Caron and Martha Russo made forms out of clusters of smaller shapes; the tangle of wires linked these different clustered forms together. The piece was meant to refer to the nurturing hormone oxytocin, which is associated with childbirth. This multi-part work played off Pendent Tendencies: Jerry Morris, a two-part ceramic installation by Morris, an art newcomer who created suspension pieces that defined environments — one about politics, the other religion. These displays were a fitting postscript to the "ceramaganza" displayed earlier at the Denver Art Museum.

Aurora History Museum

The Aurora History Museum is puny compared to the gleaming History Colorado, set to open in Denver this spring. But what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in honesty — and accessibility. Not only is the museum free to visit, it's also very free with the facts. Its exhibit about the city's founding, for example, is accompanied by explanatory plaques that reveal how cows would block traffic on "the dirt track that was Colfax" in Aurora's early days, and why an early-1900s town marshal assigned his pet parrot the job of protecting Aurora's only buckeye tree from "marauding children." The best plaque, however, could be the one that describes former Mayor Dennis Champine: "Rising from humble roots to become a successful businessman in Aurora, his term was marred by a minor criminal record, an investigation into nepotism and inappropriate behavior. In 1979, he punched the City Attorney in the face." Now, that's an honest plaque — if not an honest way to govern.

Readers' Choice: City Park Jazz

The trend in central Denver galleries, especially in RiNo, is to tout exhibit spaces as extensions of someone's home, as found at places like Hinterland and Pattern Shop Studio. But when Tran and Josh Wills rolled up the garage door on Super Ordinary last year, they inaugurated a new underground house-gallery: In the same space where their kids like to skateboard between exhibits, the Willses have launched a unique showcase for emerging and urban artists where every opening is an event and everything from cupcakes and beer to independent local fashions are rolled out along with the art. We like their homey hospitality and the DIY ambience, which fits right into the genre-jumping rhythms of RiNo.

Center for Visual Art/MSU

Many artists are interested in environmental issues, and former Center for Visual Art director Jennifer Garner brought a bunch of them together for Reclamation, an exhibit dedicated to art made from trash. Though a group show, Reclamation zeroed in on California artist Ann Weber, who weaves cardboard strips to make big abstract sculptures that have a monumental presence despite their modest materials. To supplement the Webers, Garner invited five Colorado artists — Brian Cavanaugh, Yumi Janairo Roth, Jon Rietfors, Terry Maker and Sabin Aell — who all work along similar lines, at least conceptually. The show provided striking proof that one person's trash really is someone else's treasure.

Readers' Choice: Ice Cube Gallery at Ice Cube Gallery

Singer Gallery

It was an off-the-wall choice on the part of Singer Gallery curator Simon Zalkind to mount an important show dedicated to an artist who quit doing work years ago. But Myron Melnick: Taking Shape: Works with Paper turned out to be a fabulous exhibit. Zalkind sampled both wall sculptures and monotypes by Melnick that showed off his two very different gifts: a sense for form in the sculptures, and an expertise in color in the prints. In addition, Melnick's elegant abstracts refer to a range of earlier art, everything from tribal pieces to works by the modern masters. The Singer, part of the Mizel Arts and Culture Center at the Jewish Community Center, has had a much-reduced schedule of late, with only a few shows a year, but with exhibits like this one, Zalkind is holding up his end as best as he can.

Readers' Choice: Clyfford Still at Clyfford Still Museum

There are few more pleasant ways to give back to the community than drinking while doing so — which makes Illegal Pete's latest charity venture both sweet and savvy. The restaurant chain recently launched a series of collectible beer glasses dedicated to noteworthy (and Illegal Pete's-friendly) bands on the Denver scene, with local dance-punk outfit the Photo Atlas the first on its roster. For just $10, music/beer lovers can purchase a band-designed glass filled with Colorado brew — and while they get to keep the beer and the glass, the money goes to the band. Since each edition has roughly 200 glasses, that means each act could collect up to $2,000 to cover equipment, recording costs and other fees. And bringing it full circle, Illegal Pete's is presenting live shows with each band during its commemorative glass's run, so that you can drink up the sound and the suds at the same time.

Denver Art Museum
Courtesy Denver Art Museum

The marvelous Marvelous Mud, on display last summer throughout both Denver Art Museum buildings, was not a single show, but eight separate ones, all about clay — at least to some extent. The main display was Overthrown: Clay Without Limits, which showcased current trends in ceramics; Focus: Earth & Fire also concentrated on contemporary works. Then there were shows that looked at historic ceramics, including Blue and White: A Ceramic Journey, which examined classic Chinese ware; Marajó: Ancient Ceramics at the Mouth of the Amazon, made up of prehistoric Brazilian ceramics; the self-explanatory Mud to Masterpiece: Mexican Colonial Ceramics; a solo devoted to the first American Indian woman to gain individual fame for her pots, Nampeyo: Excellence by Name; and a look at some industrial archaeology with Potters of Precision: The Coors Porcelain Company, which showed how that outfit manufactured beautifully designed laboratory vessels. The celebration was so all-inclusive that there were even relevant photos displayed in Dirty Pictures. On their own, the shows comprised by Marvelous Mud were all wonderful diversions; taken together, they created a cohesive whole, a vessel filled with amazing ideas and art.

Fa'al of Eazy Media is hard to miss. Typically moving faster than the rest with his backpack and camera equipment, the guy can be seen at pretty much any and every hip-hop show in the scene — local, national or otherwise. Whether shooting the Foodchain or capturing footage of high-end fashion shows and other aspects of the nightlife scene, Fa'al has a keen eye for getting the best shots. Using his creativity, editing and directing ability and sound training, he's helped bolster the scene and is most definitely on track to do much more in the future.

William Havu Gallery

William Havu, the director of his namesake gallery, came up with a frothy confection last summer that celebrated serious artists taking a lighthearted approach to subject matter. Many of these artists were riffing off toys or the idea of play, as indicated by the show's title, Toy Stories. The exhibit featured many amazing things, including works by Michael Brennan, Michael Stevens, Frances Lerner, Laurel Swab and Esteban Blanco, but as good as they all were, nothing could compare with the sculptures by Phillip Maberry and Scott Walker. Working as a team, the two created pieces that at first glance looked like cheap inflatable beach toys but were actually meticulously made polychromed ceramics. They were unforgettable — and so was this highbrow/lowbrow show.

A resident at almost any hip-hop nightclub you can name, DJ Top Shelf boasts an in-depth knowledge of good Southern rap. But he doesn't just break new records with wall-thumping bass; his selection is diverse enough to reach even the most underground of hip-hop heads. As a result, he's quickly risen through the ranks of the city's finest party rockers. Even when not behind the decks himself, he can be found alongside his DJ comrades on the mike, toasting up the crowd and keeping the energy moving. Recently inducted into the prestigious ranks of the Core DJ family, Top Shelf is one who's definitely on his grind.

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