Arvada Center curator Collin Parson has redirected the venue's visual-arts program so that it zeroes in on work made by in-state talent. The resulting exhibitions included solos dedicated to David Yust and Robert Mangold, and group shows focused on representational artists and women. His most successful effort, though, was Art of the State. Parson asked Denver art-world celebrity Dean Sobel, the director of the Clyfford Still Museum, to share jury duty with him. Together they pared 600 entrants down to the 160 who were ultimately selected. Paintings — in particular, abstractions — dominate, but there is also a nice selection of sculptures, photos and ceramics. The show, which is still open, is a great way to encourage the people whose blood, sweat and tears create the community around here.

Lion's Lair
Jon Solomon

Brandy Darling of Girlwreck Presents worked with Doug Kauffman, owner of the Lion's Lair, to bring a handful of shows to the storied bar that may not have otherwise come to town. This began in January with Garland Jeffreys, who was an early friend of the Velvet Underground and whose song "Wild in the Streets" has struck a chord with numerous punk bands across time. Two months later, Flipper performed an in-store at Wax Trax, followed by a pair of memorable nights at the Lair. And two weeks after that, Mojo Nixon played a rare, highly amusing two-night run. These were the kinds of shows that could have easily taken place at a much larger venue, but the intimacy of the setting made the Lion's Lair an ideal fit.

Boulder Outlook Hotel

While Blues & Greens dubs itself "Boulder's Home of the Blues," it's easily the best blues spot in the state. There's a steady stream of local acts such as Lionel Young, Otis Taylor and Dan Treanor gracing the Blues & Greens stage, but the club also brings in a number of nationally known heavies, like Janiva Magness, Steady Rollin' Bob Margolin and Alvin Youngblood Hart. If that's not enough, the place hosts rotating blues and jazz jams on Sundays, and if you're hungry, the menu offers healthy, locally sourced food.

Live@Jack's
Eric Gruneisen

A veteran of the Denver music scene, Jack Hadley has fronted his own blues-based act for close to a decade; he also spent a year and a half as lead guitarist in Otis Taylor's band, and played reggae with Rude Culture and R&B and funk with Network. Hadley knows his way around the blues, and he definitely adds a sense of professionalism to his weekly Monday jams at Jack's. While other blues jams around town attract their share of novices, Hadley's jams bring in more seasoned players, who come to play on the venue's pro sound system. A limited backline is also provided.

Counterpath

In 2006, Tim Roberts and Julie Carr created Counterpath publishing house. Five years later, they were ready to expand their artistic offerings into a physical storefront, which they fill not just with books, but also with carefully curated events and performances that range from film screenings to scholarly lectures to readings by traveling poets. Between acts, you can peruse Counterpath's collection of hard-to-find works from small-press publishers.

The Clocktower Cabaret
Eric Gruneisen

In a city as boosterish on burlesque as Denver, creativity earns extra bonus points. Every third Monday, the performance troupe behind Merry Widow's Artisan Operetta surprises its audience at Voodoo Comedy Playhouse with a comedic (and clothing-light) tribute to any number of topics from this century and the last — from sultry takes on Roy Lichtenstein and Mae West to a technicolor foray into '90s teen craze Lisa Frank. When it comes to burlesque maven Merry Widow and her troupe's shifting cultural aesthetic, nothing is sacred — and everything is sexy.

Bill Murray, who just a month earlier had been photographed across Austin at South by Southwest rocking Big Head Todd and the Monsters T-shirts, was at Wrigley Field for the opening day of the Chicago Cubs 2012 season, where he sang an enthusiastic rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." Accompanying him? Todd Park Mohr, one of Colorado's favorite sons.

Pablo Kjolseth, the heartbeat of CU-Boulder's time-honored International Film Series, is all about analog, and though he's now being forced to add digital equipment to IFS's projection rooms (new celluloid is essentially history with the recent passing of the Digital Cinema Initiatives), he promises to still deliver film classics on celluloid whenever possible. Kjolseth stands by the idea that a movie should be viewed in its original medium, and insists that there are plenty of older reels still floating around; he's collected an extensive archive at IFS over the years. On the other hand, digital projectors will not only allow Kjolseth to continue programming short runs of more current films shot digitally, but will also open up other programming possibilities: "I'm excited to be able to stay current," he says. "Going digital means that I might eventually be able to add 3-D to the bells and whistles available at IFS. More independent films are being made using 3-D technology." So at IFS, you can have your 3-D...and your classics, too. Live long and prosper.

Two men play 26 roles in Love Child, a play about a couple of actors who decide to stage Euripides's Ion in a sausage factory. Steven Burge played the actor's agent, who sits in the audience watching him and his own mother and father...oh, wait, maybe that was Damon Guerrasio. With the two men switching roles so fast and so often in this Avenue Theatre production, you pretty much forgot who'd done what within seconds of leaving the theater — though it all seemed completely clear while you were actually watching. Burge and Guerrasio are not only two of the most versatile and quick-thinking actors around, they're both snort-beer-through-your-nose funny.

Tracy Warren is a warmly appealing actress with a fine singing voice. And during Boulder Dinner Theatre's 42nd Street, we learned she also has a deft touch as a choreographer who can handle dozens of swiftly tapping feet as well as soulful solos and silly-funny two-performer numbers.

Best Of Denver®

Best Of