Barker Lounge

Denver's gay scene has no shortage of drama: It seems like every time we look up, somebody is boycotting one gay bar or another. Take a time-out at the Barker Lounge, where the staff is friendly, the regulars are always happy to strike up a conversation, the drinks are cheap, and you can even bring your dog. While this bar might not be the best cruising ground, it's a comfortable spot for LGBTQ people of all ages and desires to hang out in a drama-free zone. Some nights are quiet, with just a few people chatting at the bar or shooting pool; other nights you might find a pantsless dart tournament or a dancing crowd of queens with yapping dogs.

Dairy Arts Center

The Catamounts' productions not only provide food for thought, but occasional feasts after certain Saturday-night shows, when a truck rolls up to the Dairy Center for the Arts and attendees line up for a plateful of food inspired by the play they've just attended. There's also beer — again, brewed specifically to mesh with the evening's theme. For example, after There Is a Happiness That Morning Is, the Heirloom food truck served a lamb-and-fig tagine over saffron couscous, accompanied by a fig-and-fennel saison brewed by Wild Woods Brewery. Tickets to these feasts are hard to come by; we're sure the Catamounts would like to feed everyone after every performance, if they could just figure out how to finance it.

Table 6
Cassandra Kotnik

Every Sunday morning, DJ Ginger Perry sets up shop at Table 6 for a breakfast that could double as a dance party. Discerning diners can enjoy their Hollandaise with a side of hip-hop, their biscuits with boom-baps and beats — and their Bloody Marys with, well, another round. Nothing says "hangover cure" like good food, good drinks and grooving tunes.

Cold Crush

With a name inspired by a late-'70s hip-hop group from the Bronx, Cold Crush opened on Upper Larimer last May and immediately became part funky lounge and part artist haven. Most nights of the week, DJs spin all manner of hip-hop, funk and soul, and occasional guest musicians stop by to test out the Crush's killer sound system. The hip bar serves up shots of the wheatgrass and ginger varieties for teetotaling rockers, but it also boasts an extensive wine-and-beer list.

Kirkland Museum director Hugh Grant has spent the past several years rediscovering forgotten or all-but-forgotten Colorado artists who were once prominent and giving them shows. But he did something different with In Thin Air: The Art of Phyllis Hutchinson Montrose. Since the artist had never been prominent, Grant became the one to discover her. A protégée of Angelo di Benedetto, who was the reigning dean of the once-vibrant art scene in Central City, Montrose chose not to exhibit except on rare occasions; as a result, no one knew who she was, and there was no awareness in the community of her very finely crafted representational surrealist paintings, which were carried out with a meticulous technique. When Montrose was starting out sixty years ago, abstract expressionism ruled, so she was behind the times. But seen in retrospect at the Kirkland, her work looked pretty cool.

Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art

If art truly heals, the proof is in programs like the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art's Flood Project. Activated quickly in the wake of last fall's devastating floods in Boulder County and beyond, the project went straight to the people affected in a variety of ways. Denver artist Viviane Le Courtois visited towns turned upside down by floodwaters to gather stories and artifacts salvaged from the mud for a book and public sculpture. Members of the bARTer Collective gathered treasured recipes from flood victims, and Preston Poe of YouTunes wrote songs inspired by their testimonies. The design team of Berger & Föhr created a limited-edition poster with Lyons print studio Shark's Ink. These small but powerful ways to commemorate the floods made a difference in the lives of the people who lived through them.

RISE Comedy

In the wide world of comedy, improv can get a bad rap — but Governor Jack is working tirelessly to change that perception. This group of funny dudes hosts various events at its Voodoo Comedy Playhouse home, including The Duel: Improv Cagematch, which pits local troupes against each other in heated improvisational throwdowns. But the quintet's signature show is Governor Jack Watches You Sleep, a night when Denver "celebrities" — like television lawyer Michael Sawaya and rapper Mane Rok — are interviewed on stage and their answers twisted into a hilarious improv show. Governor Jack is also instrumental in the planning and execution of the Denver Improv Festival, which last year saw groups from all over the country perform for hundreds of fans at multiple venues in downtown Denver.

Artist and gallery owner Mai Wyn Schantz took over the former Sandra Phillips space on Santa Fe Drive in the arts district after the latter decamped for the Golden Triangle, and thoroughly remodeled it. The result is a nice exhibition room and a spacious studio. Influence — the inaugural exhibit in the newly rehabbed space — surveyed the artist's own influences. There was Gregory Euclide, whom Schantz met in high school in Wisconsin, before he became nationally known, and other artists from her home state. Once in Denver in the '90s, she'd shared a studio with Bryan Andrews and was a student of Chuck Parson, Clark Richert and Bruce Price. Last but not least, there was the work of her partner, Zach Smith. Despite being a highly individual take, the works held together.

Best Indoor Element of the 2013 Biennial of the Americas

First Draft

When the curator of the 2013 Biennial of the Americas left the program, the job of planning this exhibit fell to Denver-based curator Cortney Lane Stell, who had just one week to finalize a list of participating artists and just a couple of months before she needed to install their work. Despite those challenges, First Draft was a winner, in part because Stell chose to include many interesting local artists -- something that should be standard for any biennial being held in Denver.

Phamaly is the only company in the country to use performers with every kind of disability in its shows, whether those handicaps are physical, cognitive or emotional. The company stages a musical in the Space Theatre at the Denver Performing Arts Complex annually and puts on a second, non-musical production at the Aurora Fox. There are also evenings of wry and revealing sketch comedy in both Denver and Boulder. When you watch a Phamaly production, you can't help being aware of the tremendous effort most of the actors made simply to arrive at rehearsals and perform. Yet what you feel is anything but pity: Rather, it's tremendous respect for the talent on stage and joyous amazement at the strength of the human spirit.

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