The story of the Evil Companions goes something like this: Several decades ago, a secret society of Denver writers would meet, drink and gab at downtown watering holes, and while the conversations might have been deep, they weren't always pretty. But when the Evil Companions concept was resurrected in 1992, it was with a lovely objective: to annually honor a contemporary author who embodied the intellectual spirit of the original crew. Oh, sure, cocktails are still allowe -- in fact they're de rigueur -- but tonight's twentieth-anniversary celebration will have a certain level of propriety. After all, this year's honoree, Luis Alberto Urrea, comprises a regular literary trifecta -- a 2005 Pulitzer nominee and member of the Latino Literature Hall of Fame, he made his name as a journalist, poet and imaginative novelist.

"They always say the way authors are chosen is very mysterious because that's how they are -- they're the Evil Companions," notes the Denver Public Library's Jen Morris. "But in this case, he's a very well-regarded author who has a Colorado connection, and we just thought he'd be a great fit for our twentieth anniversary." Case in point: Urrea's a fine author, but also a strong advocate of books, one who's been in the news lately after five of his own works were banned in the Tucson Unified School District as part of a larger ban on all Mexican-American studies. Of this, he wrote on his blog: "It's not about Mexican-American studies, it's about education, it's about the history of this land, it's about the people of this land, it's about literature. Be angry!"

Meet the man at 6 p.m. at the Oxford Hotel, 1637 Wazee Street, where he'll speak, read from his work, sign books and most likely crack a few jokes; for tickets, ranging in price from $60 to $150, go to www.dplfriends.org. Proceeds benefit the Denver Public Library Friends Foundation.
Thu., April 12, 2012

National Western Complex
A $50,000 prize pot certainly ain't no spittoon, and who takes that steak money home depends on which cowboy can put up with the most bull for the longest amount of time. Beginning tonight at 7 p.m., the 2011 National Western Stock Show will present the PBR Bull Riding event, in which ninety rodeo cowboys from around the world will compete against each other and against 1,800 pounds of hoof and muscle for life, limbs and a fat saddlebag of cash. Will any of them last eight seconds? You'll have to mosey on down to the Coliseum, 4655 Humboldt Street, to find out, and may the spirit of Hank Williams be with them -- always.

The bull-riding competition runs through Wednesday; tickets vary in price from $15 to $60, depending on the event round and seating preference. For a full schedule and more information, check out the NWSS website at www.nationalwestern.com.
Mon., Jan. 9, 7 p.m., 2012

Sie FilmCenter
Produced by his youngest daughter, Gina, this profile of Harry Belafonte, foregrounding the 84-year-old actor and singer's political activism, is a moving if occasionally wearying hagiography. Not that the subject is unworthy of anything but veneration: Unbowed by the racism that dogged him during the first several decades of his career, Belafonte served as a tireless confidante to and fundraiser for Martin Luther King Jr., and he enlisted Sidney Poitier at the last minute to travel with him to Mississippi in 1964 to deliver funds to civil rights workers. His humanitarian work in Africa is only one facet of his continued commitment to global justice. Belafonte, in various sit-downs, commandingly narrates his own life -- professional, political and personal -- his rhetorical flourishes sometimes bordering on the verbose. ("With her, I could possibly live out the rest of my journey in a joyous world," he says of third wife Pamela Frank, whom he married in 2008.) Sing Your Song's greatest asset is its archival riches, such as a clip from 1968's Petula Clark Spectacular, in which the British pop star clasps Belafonte's forearm during a duet -- a moment of interracial touching that caused NBC to go bananas -- and footage of Sammy Davis Jr., Shelley Winters and Nina Simone sharing the same stage at a concert Belafonte organized before the last leg of 1965's Selma-to-Montgomery march.
Feb. 3-9, 2012

Westword's MasterMind Awards for 2012

The Living Room

Eight years ago, Westword added a very special component to Artopia: the MasterMind awards. Recognizing that the local arts scene needed a little fertilizer to really get going, and growing, we created a program that every year honors five cultural visionaries — artists and organizations alike — working to change the cultural landscape of metro Denver. And we decided to not just honor them, but to give them each substantial cash awards to use as they see fit.

The first seven classes of MasterMinds have done amazing things with their awards, frequently using them to help other, struggling artists along and creating major multipliers for the more than $120,000 that Westword has given away so far. "Winning the MasterMind was everything to me," says Eric Matelski a 2010 MasterMind. "I was working my ass off to make every art idea I had stick. I had to work a full-time day job, plus random second jobs to do the projects I believed in. I really enjoyed the artists I was working with and enjoyed the idea of promoting them in the most unique ways." When I won, I really did not expect it; it was such a shock. I needed the money, but the award at the time weighed heavier on my mind. This meant that people were paying attention to what I was doing in Denver and liked it."

Each year, the previous winners help choose our next class of MasterMinds at meetings as creative and freewheeling as many of the artists the awards commemorate. And like our earlier honorees, the 2012 MasterMinds are an extraordinary group. Through their work, they've helped to convince teenagers to write — and perform — slam poetry; created a potential world center for the study of design and textiles; made recordings of almost every local band concert available for free, just for the asking; helped turn Denver into a mecca not just for comedy, but for storytelling, as well; and put on shows — lots of shows — that have made Denver a far more entertaining place to live.

The 2012 MasterMind awards will be presented at Artopia at 8 p.m. on Saturday, February 18, at the Living Room, 1055 Broadway. And in a special ceremony this year, the MasterMinds will introduce a half-dozen artists and entrepreneurs who've inspired them: our 2012 MasterMinds' MasterMinds, who join the first group initiated last year.

The 2012 MasterMinds class:

- Hinterland: 2012 MasterMind award winner

- Minor Disturbance: 2012 MasterMind award winners

- Andrew Orvedahl: 2012 MasterMind award winner

- Dianne Denholm: 2012 MasterMind award winner

- Lance Stack: 2012 MasterMind award winner

The 2011 MasterMinds' MasterMinds were Chris Loffelmacher, Marilyn Megenity, Mondo Guerra, Rick Griffith, Dana Cain and Ginger White. Below are the previous MasterMind winners.

2011: Slam Nuba, Sarah Slater, Tricia Hoke, Illiterate, Tiffiny Wine

2010: Fallene Wells; Jennie Dorris; Jolt; Eric Matelski; Laura Goldhamer

2009: Brian Freeland/LIDA Project; Viviane LeCourtois; Ravi Zupa; The Denver Voice; Vicky Nolan

2008: Creative Music Works/Andrew Starr; RINO/Jill Hadley Hooper and Tracy Weil; Jason Bosch/ArgusFest; Art From Ashes/Cathleen O'Neill; Mona Lucero

2007: Jessica Robblee; Jimmy Sellars; Tony Shawcross/Deproduction, Denver Open Media; Vox Feminista; The Fabric Lab/Josh and Tran Wills

2006: Dragon Daud, aka Dave Denney; Katie Taft; Deb Henriksen; Cafe Nuba/Ashara Ekundayo; Johnny Morehouse

2005: Lauri Lynnxe Murphy; Emerging Filmmakers Project @ Bug Theater; Brandi Shigley; Denver Zine Library; Buntport Theater

Stoney's Bar and Grill
Dylan Burkhardt
Slip into your finest pair of publicly appropriate panties and get ready for the inaugural Cupid's Undie Run today at Stoney's Bar & Grill. Runners are encouraged to have fun with the undergarment theme while keeping it on the classy side; in other words, no thongs or string bikinis, please. "Our whole idea is that we're running for the kids; we just hope they're not watching," jokes run director Sarah Morley.

The run is a benefit for the Children's Tumor Foundation, specifically in support of neurofibromatosis. After participating in the original Cupid's Undie Run in her previous home of Washington, D.C., for years, Morley felt it was time to bring the event to Denver. "There's always a pub crawl or some kind of race with costumes happening here; people here have a lot of spirit and are very festive," she says. And Morley's guess was right on the money, as registration for the Denver version is already "leaps and bounds" beyond other cities in this first year of national expansion beyond D.C.

The 1.5-mile run will begin around 2 p.m.; later, as participants reconvene at Stoney's, 1111 Lincoln Street, Wax in the City will facilitate a "Tip for a Strip" auction, where runners can bid to see their male running companions get their chests waxed for charity. Registration is $35, includes a free "I'm With Cupid" T-shirt and can be completed via www.cupidsundierun.com. Pre-registration is encouraged, as space is limited.
Sat., Feb. 11, noon, 2012

Although Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation -- the document declaring that all slaves be freed -- on January 1, 1863, the news didn't reach a still-confederate Texas until June of 1865. That's when the slaves there celebrated, an occasion that sparked the observance of "Juneteenth."

This year's Juneteenth Music Festival, in Denver's Five Points neighborhood, will include a concert featuring funk legends the Ohio Players, booths with local vendors, role-playing history lessons, and twenty other music acts.

In the past, Denver has had one of the most attended Juneteenth celebrations in the country, yet participation has fallen off in recent years, prompting a newer push to stretch across generations, especially in the African-American community. "Many people don't know that the Juneteenth Music Festival has continued to happen every year, which is why we want to make this year bigger and better," says co-organizer Miguel Taylor. "Five Points is historically known as the 'Harlem of the West,' so the neighborhood is already rich with African-American history. Juneteenth will only continue to enhance that."

Juneteenth runs from 9.a.m. to 9 p.m. today and tomorrow on Welton between 24th and 28th streets. Visit www.juneteenthmusicfestival.com.
Sat., June 16, 9 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sun., June 17, 9 a.m.-9 p.m., 2012

Skyline Park
“There’s no one way to be blind,” says Karen Karsh of the American Council of the Blind of Colorado. “We are all individuals.” And today’s Raisin’ Cane walk is all about identifying and supporting those blind and visually-impaired individuals while raising awareness for eye health, accessibility and other issues.

National White Cane Day began back in 1964, but Raisin’ Cane puts a brand-new spin on things with a spirited walk in which participants will be challenged to travel seven blocks using a local-artist-designed cane or a sighted guide — with the option to be blindfolded.

“I’m calling it more of a ‘trust walk,’” says Karsh, who is also a singer, pianist and songwriter and has been blind since birth.

The inaugural Denver walk is open to all members of the community and will feature several local political figures, including Secretary of State Scott Gessler and City Councilwoman Mary Beth Sussman. At the end of the jaunt, walkers will be treated to breakfast burritos and coffee. The program begins at 8 a.m. at Skyline Park at Arapahoe and 16th streets; a $20 donation is requested for those interested in participating. For more information, call the American Council of the Blind of Colorado at 303-831-0117 or visit www.acbco.org.
Mon., Oct. 15, 8 a.m., 2012

Plus Gallery
Susan Meyer might be one of Denver’s most unique artists, yet she hasn’t had a full exhibition since 2004, when her installation Malfunction Junction — a room-sized roller-coaster track ablaze with synchronized lighting that crashed from the heights into another, flatter dimension — blew more than a few minds at Plus Gallery. Since then, says the gallery’s Ivar Zeile, she’s moved into a sculptural realm of striated landscapes in wood or acrylic layers, inspired by high-rise Utopian structures dreamed up by Le Corbusier in the 1920s. Until now, Meyer, a University of Denver instructor, hadn’t produced a body of work complete enough to warrant a solo gallery takeover, but the wait is over: Susan Meyer: Plato’s Retreat, opens tonight at Plus, showcasing the next stage in her architectural studies — a work of concrete stratum overgrown with plant life — as well as some carefully researched pieces that experiment with 3-D printer technology.

“To take this concept of Utopia and really push it through several iterations that plumb the depths of the concept is rare,” Zeile notes. “Few artists push the envelope the way she does. I haven’t seen anything like her work in Denver or even outside of Denver.” And he’s excited to be able to once again present the singular, morphing vision of Meyer, whom he describes as being adored and revered in the local art community.

Find out why, and prepare to see minds blown all over again, at the free reception, from 7 to 10 p.m. at Plus, 2501 Larimer Street. “It comes together in the studio, but it’s not really together fully until it’s installed in the gallery,” Zeile says. Plato’s Retreat continues through November 24; visit www.plusgallery.com or call 303-296-0927.
Wednesdays-Saturdays. Starts: Oct. 19. Continues through Nov. 24, 2012

The holiday show at Obscene/Courageous Theatre begins on a traditional note: a family sitting around the tree on Christmas Eve. But that’s where it gets weird. When drunk Uncle Al shows up and the kids beg him to read them a story, Al pulls out H.P. Lovecraft’s Necronomicon and begins to tell them three of the cosmic horror master’s tales.

“It’s kind of a funny burlesque Christmas show, but also a legit stage adaptation of some Lovecraft stories,” says Sarah Crockarell, co-director of the H.P. Lovecraft Holiday Special. “There’s a group of people around this time of year who feel a little bit isolated and would probably have more fun going to a show about monsters from another dimension than something about Santa Claus.”

The show switches back and forth between funny original scenes from Obscene/Courageous of the family on Christmas Eve and adaptations of Lovecraft classics The Call of Cthulhu, From Beyond and The Dunwich Horror. It opens tonight at 8 p.m. and runs December 15, 20, and 21 at Wesley Chapel, 1290 Folsom Street in Boulder. Tickets, $10 for students and $12 for the general public, are available at the door or at www.brownpapertickets.com.
Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Starts: Dec. 14. Continues through Dec. 21, 2012

Today's RiNo Open Studio Tour is a happy dalliance between the River North Arts District and Create Denver; the two happened to rendezvous simply because their dates tend to intersect, and it turns out that a major art-district tour is a nice topper to a full weekend of crowing about local art. There's plenty of it to be found in RiNo (to the tune of 65 open locations), notes spokesman Tracy Weil, but there will be things to be found there, as well: Plinth Gallery on Brighton Boulevard is instigating a district-wide scavenger hunt for 100 numbered ceramic rhino figures that you can keep if you find one, and special rhino-shaped chocolates will be for sale at several locations, including the Chocolate Crisis Center, 3370 Walnut Street.

Also, because RiNo likes to throw a party when it swings open its many doors, the district will host an iron-pour performance/demonstration by members of the University of Colorado Denver sculpture program from 1 to 5 p.m. at Ironton Studios, where Biker Jim will be dealing dogs and the studios will be open to visit. Guests are invited to carve a sand tile for casting for $10 (makes a swell Mother's Day activity or gift!), and an after-party follows from 4 to 6 p.m., featuring Create Denver's own Catalyst Ale, specially brewed by Wynkoop Brewery using a bouquet of house yeasts from six local breweries to flavor the inspiring suds. Besides tasting mighty fine, beer sales will benefit the new RiNo nonprofit organization.

RiNo's frontier comprises a blend of youthful collectives, high-end galleries, house galleries, warehouses full of studios and other fascinating holes-in-the-wall. Start early -- the tour runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. -- and don't forget to visit www.rivernorthart.com for a complete map of open locations.
Sun., May 13, 11 a.m.-6 p.m., 2012

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