In fall 2012, the University of Colorado unveiled a small but elegant building called the Fulginiti Pavilion for Bioethics and Humanities, named for former chancellor Vincent Fulginiti. Designed by NAC Architecture with Stuart Crawford, the building includes a good-looking little gallery. In an inspired move, freelance curator Simon Zalkind was hired to set up the first year's schedule. He started with a show focusing on Soviet dissident Ernst Neizvestny, then followed up with an exhibit about AIDS that paired the work of the late Wes Kennedy with that of Albert Winn. (Pieces by Judy Chicago and her husband, Donald Woodman, will fill the space through May.) That's quite a roster for a small gallery, and it proves that Zalkind, who also curates at the Singer Gallery, can always be counted on to do something worthwhile.

Best Rollout of a Relocated Gallery
Frank Sampson

Although it was tiny, the Sandra Phillips Gallery on Santa Fe Drive established itself by focusing on important artists from the state's art-historical past. But when gallery owner Sandra Phillips moved to the Golden Triangle last fall, she knew she had to pull out the stops to recapture the exhibition-going crowd. Frank Sampson, dedicated to one of the best-loved and most established painters in the state, did just the trick. The eighty-something magic-realist from Boulder is still at the top of his game, as his show of recent paintings made clear. And the exhibit was a great way to get people to notice Phillips as well.

MCA Denver
JC Buck

Yarnbombing is a joyful thing: We look out our windows to find that the trees have grown socks and that flowers have bloomed on chain-link fences, and nobody knows exactly how that came to be — or even wants to know. Yarnbombing is done in secret — although around here, you'd rarely be wrong if you guessed that the deed had been done by members of Denver's number-one yarnbombing squad, the Ladies Fancywork Society. So it was almost a slap in the face to their fans — a gentle, funny one — when MCA Denver asked the LFS to come out from undercover to knit a huge temporary curtain to protect the museum's reception desk from piercing winter winds whistling through the building's open entryway. Titled "Fancygasm," it's just that: a knitted patchwork splash of wintry colors that awes and surprises guests before they've even entered the museum proper. Oh, what a web they weave.

When Adam Perkes, the intense actor who played the lead in Bat Boy for Equinox Theatre, was found dead in a Glenwood Springs hotel early this year, the rest of the cast was devastated, and it looked as if the show would have to be canceled. But director Deb Flomberg felt that if that happened, everyone involved would remember the production with nothing but pain. So she contacted Nick Sugar, who had previously both played the role of Bat Boy and directed the show, and he agreed to take over. After a frantic six-day rehearsal, Bat Boy reopened to an enthusiastic audience and a standing ovation. Campy, funny and touching, the musical tells the story of a creature that's half bat, half human, and his attempts to make a place for himself in the world. Flomberg relates the theme to Perkes's life: "It's about someone who feels very alone, isolated and rejected." In Sugar's interpretation, she adds, you saw "a little bit of Nick and a little bit of Adam."

When Randy Roberts opened Z Art Department a few years ago, he decided to focus on artists important to Colorado's history, including Herbert Bayer, Roland Detre and Winter Prather, all of whom are dead. Then last year, he delved into contemporary art by living artists. One of the first exhibits of this kind was Parson in Perspective, which looked at a decade's worth of work by important local sculptor Chuck Parson, who creates conceptual abstractions made of sheets of steel, panes of glass and hunks of stone, with the finished pieces held together by nuts and bolts from the hardware store. Z Art Department has kept a low profile, but that is starting to change with crowd-pleasing efforts such as this one.

Curious Theatre Company

Curious had a rocking season last year, and this year the company did it again, mounting three of the season's must-see shows. Time Stands Still was an incisive examination of the way the media covers war — and the resulting indifference of the public — in the very human context of a relationship between a photographer and a writer who were both profoundly damaged by a stint in Iraq. Then there was Red, a two-man piece about the relationship between Mark Rothko and an apprentice-disciple that told us much about the narcissism of the great painter and what it takes to make art. The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, a play about race, wrestling and ambition, charged into your consciousness, jolted you to attention, picked you up in a front face-lock and set you down breathless. Then there was the mordant humor of Becky Shaw and the — sorry about this — forgettable Maple and Vine. Generally speaking, everything at this theater — sets, lights, costumes, acting — is top-notch. If you're looking for a present for a theater-loving special friend, you can't do better than a Curious season ticket.

Buntport Theater Company
Courtesy Buntport Theater Facebook page

The members of Buntport don't just put on plays; they create the plays they put on through a communal process of idea swapping, testing and rehearsing. Since these shows are never critic- or audience-tested, every one represents a big risk. And they're all staged in Buntport's convention-busting style. Sweet Tooth was a take on the turn-of-the-century decadent movement — think Oscar Wilde strolling along the Strand with a lily in his hand — but you didn't have to know anything about the decadents to enjoy this piece about a wealthy woman who created her own artificial reality. The Roast Beef Dilemma, though less successful, had an equally creative premise, involving an eighteenth-century clown sent to prison for uttering the words "roast beef" on stage. Tommy Lee Jones Goes to Opera Alone featured the actor in the shape of a giant puppet, and Wake was a soulful and serious take on Shakespeare's The Tempest. We can't wait to see what Buntport comes up with next.

When you're designing for a small space like Miners Alley Playhouse on a low budget for a play set in a treehouse, and the actors have to enter and leave through a trap door beneath it, you've got yourself a whole lot of headaches. Fortunately, designer Richard Pegg, who has a solid understanding of both aesthetics and construction, was more than up to solving the problems in his design for Sweet Storm. He made the interior of the treehouse welcoming and cozy, and the overall stage imagery — sky, tree branches — elegant. And as the two protagonists played out their difficult relationship, you sensed that the one thing you didn't have to worry about was their physical safety.

Any show with Chuck D as the host would qualify for this award, but this one sparkled like it was taking place two decades ago. Flavor Flav stole the show, providing the crowd with some truly memorable moments — now grabbing the bass from Davy DMX and slapping intensely, now stepping behind the drums to drop an incredible solo. X-clan, Schooly D, Leaders of the New School, Awesome Dre and Son of Bizerk all brought high energy to the night, which was anchored by Chuck D's personal stories about each act. Some would say the stars of the Hip Hop Gods Tour are past their prime — but you couldn't prove it by this show.

Last summer, Denver proved, once again, that it's a straight-up poetry town — and also that it takes a village to make it that way. Minor Disturbance represents the city's junior division of slam poets, who, besides being talented beyond their years to begin with, benefit from the expert coaching of the adult brigade. So we're not surprised that the youth slam team took first place at the Brave New Voices 2012 national slam-off. Keep on rhymin'.

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