We couldn't help feeling like we were living in a big city last spring, when Create Denver brought digital media and 3-D video projection to the heart of the Denver Theatre District, making use first of the giant Colorado Convention Center LED screen at 14th and Champa streets before turning the whole wall of the Ellie Caulkins Opera House into a many-storied projection screen for an eye-popping light show. Random dancers and BMX bikers entertained in the intersection as the sun went down on a beautiful evening, and we swear we heard a collective inhalation of expectation and joy as the first images of the digital video program, curated by Ryan Pattie and Ivar Zeile of Plus Gallery, flickered into view up above. After that ended, the Ellie began to light up with site-specific patterns and images in a spectacular narrative in the dark. It was a major art happening...and we're ready for more.

Art and design intersected three ways last summer at Microclimates, the product of a successful Kickstarter campaign launched by artists Samuel Schimek and Rob Mack. The installation, a sort of soundscaped walk through three environments — the woods, a cave, and a meadow inhabited by animal graphics and iconic images — spread throughout the garage that is Super Ordinary. At the opening, many of those images repeated in the fashion designs of a third partner, Rebecca Peebles, whose styles hit a makeshift runway that led out onto a street lined with onlookers and food trucks. It helped that it was a beautiful, festive summer evening and that the subject matter was whimsical. We can only hope that next summer brings more happenings of this sort to Super Ordinary.

Even now, on the brink of total approval, the controversy still seems to rage around international installation artist Christo's dream to drape sections of the Arkansas River in southern Colorado with translucent fabric canopies. And though the Bureau of Land Management gave its okay to the project in November, clearing a major hurdle for Christo, and it seems likely that the project, which outlived Jeanne-Claude, Christo's famous red-haired partner in crime, will proceed, there are still a few permitting roadblocks. Originally slated for 2014, the Over the River schedule has been moved back another year, to August 2015. But no matter: It will happen. And when it does, folks from around the world will journey to Colorado to see it.

While we certainly understand the desire to protect one's brand, the chances of anybody confusing Elway the band with John Elway the man are about as good as people mistaking this fishwrap for the similarly named Westwood college. Just the same, when the Broncos executive caught wind that the band formerly known as 10-4 Eleanor was now calling itself Elway, he got all John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt about it. Only instead of marveling, "Hey, that's my name, too!," he sicced his attorneys on the dudes, requesting that they kindly knock it off.

When Alex Botwin parted ways with Pnuma Trio, the multi-talented musician focused on Paper Diamond, which took over the electronic airwaves, and he helped build up other artists who later found great success. This inspired him to form Elm & Oak Records, a store and label now based in Boulder that sells records from the imprint's flagship artists as well as merch and other local retail items. With Two Fresh, Quiz, Cherub, Raw Russ and Paper Diamond on the label, Elm & Oak has steadily grown since 2010, and shows no signs of stopping in 2012.

Club Vinyl

Reggae on the Roof, the brainchild of Francois Baptiste and 3Deep Productions, has gone through many inceptions and DJs, but the Thursday-night party at Vinyl has never stopped. Attendees can expect to hear the hottest sounds and vibes courtesy of KDJ Above, who turns the place into an island dance hall with the sounds of the best reggae interspersed with the latest in mainstream hip-hop. Arguably the most consistent weekly party, Reggae on the Roof has held it down for more than a decade, and from the looks of the crowded dance floors, ain't a damn thing changed.

Aurora Fox Arts Center

Entering the Aurora Fox's black-box theater for K2, audience members were confronted by a steep cliff (a miraculous piece of design by Charles Packard), where two men were sitting on a ledge. Pakistan's K2 is the second-highest mountain in the world, and it kills climbers; these two men are stranded there. One of them has a gruesome injury on his leg; the other makes a few attempts to climb the cliff and summon help. It's bitter cold and growing dark. The two debate survival strategies, muse about mortality and consider what their lives have meant — and that's pretty much it for the action. The play asks a lot of both actors and viewers, trapping them together in a static situation and a bleak and terrifying place. But under the direction of donnie l. betts and in the hands of two veteran actors, Jude Moran and William Hahn, K2 proved a riveting evening of theater.

Z Art Dept.

The art scene we have today in Denver is rooted in the late '70s and early '80s. That's when the first co-ops were founded and a generation of galleries began coming on line, with a crowd of artists emerging to fill those places; the first First Friday celebrations even date to that era. Many of the people intrinsic to establishing the scene are still around, but a few who died prematurely have been all but forgotten. John Haeseler Revisited, at Z|Art Dept., resurrected the reputation of one such once-lively force. The display of Haeseler's brightly colored, somewhat Warholian paintings was a definite stretch for Z, where the normal stock-in-trade is the quiet elegance conveyed by vintage abstraction. But it was great to once again experience Haeseler's work, which hadn't been exhibited for more than fifteen years, and to see how fresh and new it all still looked.

Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities
The Arvada Center

Collin Parson hit it out of the park with Robert Mangold Retrospective: Time, Space and Motion, a show that's still open in the entire set of galleries on the lower level of the Arvada Center for the Arts. The center's exhibition designer, the twenty-something Parson served as curator of this show as well: The son of sculptor Chuck Parson, he met Mangold, the dean of contemporary sculpture in Colorado, when he was a child. Parson brought in a timeline to map out Mangold's long and distinguished career; the exhibit includes pieces from his many different series, notably the spherical whirligigs of "Anemotive Kinetics," as well as sketches, videos, clippings and photos. As a result, it's a full-tilt retrospective that takes the viewer through the decades of Mangold's long and illustrious career, reflecting all his various musings on space and movement.

Brian Norber has been such a mainstay of Boulder's Dinner Theatre for so many years that he could well say with Gus, the Theatre Cat (a role he took on this year): "I have played in my time, every possible part/And I used to know seventy speeches by heart/And I knew how to act with my back and my tail/With an hour of rehearsal, I never could fail." His work keeps getting richer and deeper, however. As the Phantom's father, Gerard Carriere, he was quietly dignified through most of the evening, breaking down emotionally only at the end of the Phantom. And as the melancholy, middle-aged Man obsessed with 1920s musicals, he provided the spine and just a touch of gravity for The Drowsy Chaperone, a charming piece of fluff, pitching the role precisely between cynicism and wonder, and making the Man's enthusiasm infectious. Yes, it's dumb, he seemed to be saying, but, damn, ain't it great? Isn't the musical just about the best thing the USA ever gave the world? And in that moment, you simply had to agree.

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