Best Shmoozer for Designers 2012 | Red Drinks Denver | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

Is Denver on the brink of becoming a notable national fashion center? Some people think it could be just that, with the right kind of push. A circle of friends in the local fashion industry — Tricia Hoke, Deb Henriksen, Lisa Elstun and Jose Duran — got to wondering how they could draw the design community closer together to create a more cohesive front. Inspired by the success of Green Drinks, a shmoozer for folks in the environmental arena, they devised Red Drinks, a once-a-month networking get-together where fellow designers can network and share ideas at Double Daughter's over drink specials and snacks. In that welcoming atmosphere, they hear speakers, view fashion and trunk shows, and talk business. On the agenda recently? A presentation about the newly forming Fashion Association of Denver.

The hippie movement of the '60s and '70s played an important part in Colorado history. Like other spots in the American West, this state was invaded by hordes of young free-thinkers in VW buses; they camped out in Capitol Hill, Boulder, Nederland and Manitou Springs, as well as more isolated spots. West of Center: Art and the Counterculture Experiment in America, 1965-1977, put together by Museum of Contemporary Art director Adam Lerner and his wife, Elissa Auther, attempted to establish an upward reappraisal of the West's place in the art world by celebrating the contributions of this movement. Though different parts of the show dealt with different parts of the West, notably California, the crescendo came in the section devoted to Colorado's legendary Drop City art cooperative near Trinidad, and one of Drop City's founders, Clark Richert, emerged as the clear star of the show. West of Center reminded us that many of the region's master artists came here as barefoot kids with pie-in-the-sky notions about how to revolutionize art and community — and many of them are still trying to do so.

The opening of the Clyfford Still Museum inspired several other Denver venues to present shows tied to the momentous event, and several of these displays set a very high standard. The most gorgeous example was AB EX, at the museum-sized Robischon Gallery. Designed by Jennifer Doran, who owns the flagship space with her husband, Jim Robischon, AB EX covered a broad range of abstract art. There were mini-solos devoted to four artists: contemporary abstract expressionist Gary Komarin, a protégé of Philip Guston; Manuel Neri, a significant figural abstractionist; Denver's own late, great Dale Chisman; and Still contemporary Robert Motherwell. This roster was augmented by a small group show featuring the work of three followers of Still: Frank Lobdell, Jack Jefferson and Colorado's Charles Strong. AB EX wasn't just one of the best shows in the area over the past year; it ranks as one of Denver's best shows ever.

They admit the initial concept was, well, a little crackpot. For local filmmakers Andy Raney and Jeremy Make, the genesis of their movie was a Jäger-fueled discussion of how difficult it was to define American culture after a year of studying abroad. Cut to their bright idea: In order to capture the meaning of art in this country, the former roommates toured the United States in a decrepit, fussy red golf cart named Christine. During the hundred-day-plus trip, Christine broke down much more than a hundred times, but that just gave the two more time to ask the Americans they encountered along the way, "What is your art?" The answers to that question became the basis of the documentary kART Across America, which rated an NPR discussion with Michael Moore.

The University of Denver has featured important artists on its faculty since Vance Kirkland founded the department in the 1920s. Dan Jacobs, director of the Victoria H. Myhren Gallery at the school, is interested not only in DU's illustrious history but in its very vital present, and the latter provided the focus for Faculty Triennial. The university's most famous teacher currently is Lawrence Argent of "I See What you Mean" (Big Blue Bear) fame, but there are other well-known faculty members, including Susan Meyer, Jeffrey Keith, Mia Mulvey, Lauren Mayer and Rafael Fajardo, all of whom took part in the show. Since there was nothing linking the works of these various artists other than their connection to DU, the show wound up providing a glimpse not only of what's now happening on the campus, but also what's happening across Denver's art scene.

Boasting two Funktion-One systems — one on the main floor and the other on the second level, in the Beatport Lounge — Beta's sound is unrivaled by virtually any club in North America, much less Denver. With more than 100,000 watts of power being pumped into the main floor speakers and a constant tuning process that tweaks the sound system for maximum output, Beta and its Funktion-One system have been among the top five nominees for Best Club Sound System in America at the International Dance Music Awards since 2008. It's not hard to see — or hear — why.

For MCA Denver's Another Victory Over the Sun, put together by museum director Adam Lerner and assistant curator Nora Burnett Abrams, all of the exterior light sources were blocked, making the interior fairly dark, with the works only minimally lighted. But that was enough to make pieces by Denver artist David Zimmer stand out. A wall installation called "Chorus" was particularly impressive: On brackets, Zimmer had mounted thirteen apothecary jars with digital screens inside; on the screens were moving images of birds landing on and flying off a windowsill, where a camera had been mounted. This tour de force was both eye-dazzling and thought-provoking, no easy task for an artist — but Zimmer pulled it off.

A Touch of Spring is a romantic comedy of a fairly familiar kind — an American couple in Rome, a mild mystery needing to be solved, a charming young girl who rocks the stodgy American man's world — and the most original thing about it is the character of Baldo. Especially in the Miners Alley Playhouse production. Playing the elfin, charming, smart and ambiguously sexed Baldassare Pantaleone, or Baldo, Michael Bouchard scampered off with the evening. His performance was filled with bravado and at the same time rather waiflike, authoritative and accommodating, full of fakery and grand gesture — and still very appealingly human.

Elder Thomas is a nineteen-year-old Mormon missionary who visits the dying protagonist in The Whale, Samuel D. Hunter's play that premiered at the Denver Center Theatre Company this season. Through him, we learn a lot about the pull of Mormonism for some young people, and also quite a bit about how Mormonism operates. Elder Thomas returns several times to visit Charlie, both when he's welcome and when he's less so — and we discover that although he himself is brimful with concern and compassion, his faith remains punitive and judgmental. Cory Michael Smith showed both innocence and conviction in his performance, giving us a character who was no religious caricature, but a complex youngster with a troubled past.

Best Supporting Actor in a Shakespeare Comedy

Robert Sicular

In the Denver Center Theatre Company's production of The Taming of the Shrew, Robert Sicular played Katherine's much-put-upon father, Baptista, with silver-haired dignity. He showed us the man's blind fondness for prissy Bianca, and just how painful it was to have crazy, angry Katherine as a daughter. Baptista has to speak a lot of not-particularly-inspiring dialogue that does nothing much but carry the plot forward, but Sicular did so with clarity and insight — while still managing to be funny.

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