There are restaurants that hang art, and then there is La Cour: Run by a family of staunch Francophiles, the new blue-brick cafe brings a little bit of Paris to South Broadway for folks longing for charcuterie and cheeses, a tasty tartine or quiche, affordable French wine and/or pastries from Trompeau Bakery, all served with a view of artwork. But La Cour deliberately bills itself as an "art bar," so in addition to the food and relaxed atmosphere, there's a gallery that offers changing shows ten times a year. C'est si bon!

Museums and art centers are typically in purpose-built structures, often with dramatic architecture to set off their aesthetic cred. On the other hand, galleries are almost always in rehabbed spaces. This is certainly true in Denver, where until recently there were only two galleries in specifically designed buildings: the William Havu Gallery and Plus Gallery. Now there's a third: the soon-to-be-completed new Space Gallery. The structural elements of the building came from a kit, but instead of erecting a barn or hangar with it, Space owners Michael Burnett and Melissa Snow commissioned architect Owen Beard to create neo-modernist interior and exterior skins. Beard's beautiful handling of the details, like the horizontal ribs cladding the second floor, which is also pierced by a seemingly random pattern of windows, makes it look like a miniature contemporary-art museum.

Nine artists, some of them graduating RedLine residents, joined together early in 2013 to realize a dream by building out TANK, a revolutionary new studio space in Overland. The flowing circular blueprint worked so well that they've since added a second buildout of interconnected, doorless studios, including an area reserved for residents selected through Adam Gildar's nonprofit Art-Plant. Imagined in the working spirit of other precedent-setting spaces like RedLine and Ironton (which also got a new building this year), but with an added layer of grit, TANK proves that Denver's art community is ready for its close-up.

The Golden Triangle is looking at a glittering future, with the new Vance Kirkland museum soon to join such monumental achievements as the Clyfford Still Museum, the Denver Art Museum, the Byers-Evans House Museum, the History Colorado Center, the Denver Central Library and the revitalized Civic Center. But many of the welcome developments in this neighborhood are on a smaller scale, with new galleries and arts-oriented businesses making a home here. Golden Triangle Museum District founders Robin Riddel Lima (of the Native American Trading Company) and Christine Serr (of Gallery 1261 and Abend Gallery) have worked hard to get the district off the ground, and the results are solid gold.

Griffith Snyder of Inner Oceans spent a few years as a member of the Americana-inflected pop band Dovekins. The popular band appeared headed for a national audience before dissolving suddenly, leaving Snyder with a lot of time to contemplate his next move. He wrote expressive music that came from his imagination, and formed Inner Oceans in order to share those songs. The band rapidly gained an audience, appealing both to fans of well-crafted pop and those with a taste for the experimental. Snyder didn't actually spend a winter at an abandoned seaside resort, reflecting on his life and writing this music, but it sure sounds like he did. Listening to Inner Oceans, you can practically see the fog rolling in.

Despite the surge in online learning, the Auraria campus has undergone a full-blown bricks-and-mortar boom in recent years. The latest building, which is still under construction, is the University of Colorado Denver Academic Building, by Anderson Mason Dale. Its mass is very complex and its materials rich and varied. And although Auraria's standard red brick is carried out in the tower block, the more dazzling white stone that covers much of the lower floors is more eye-catching. Prominently situated at the northwest edge of the campus, it provides a gateway that links Auraria to the rest of downtown.

ViewHouse Ballpark

Lotus Clubs founder Francois Safieddine, who owns Chloe and Suite Two Hundred, clearly knows a thing or two about dance clubs. He took a slightly different approach with ViewHouse, which opened just before the start of the 2013 baseball season, in the former home of Mori Japanese Restaurant. Safieddine pulled out all the stops to honor the ViewHouse name, transforming the venue into a 20,000-square-foot party palace topped by a deck with a breathtaking view of the mountains and Coors Field.

The ArtStir open-air art market debuted last Memorial Day weekend at the Denver Pavilions, and we can't wait to see what it will stir up this year. Featuring a vendor list made up exclusively of Colorado artists, ArtStir went out of its way to create a mix that doesn't look like that of every other outdoor fest, keeping an open mind and digging deep to find new artists. With the insights and seasoned eye of this year's new event curator, I Heart Denver's Samuel Schimek, ArtStir looks to be avoiding sophomore slump and keeping its fresh, youthful, trendy appeal.

Slam poetry is a growth industry in this city, with local spoken-word performers regularly winning national honors, even making their case before Denver City Council, as University of Denver student Jose Guerrero did to mark the release of Imagine 2020. The report came complete with a new poem by Guerrero, which included a classic line about another arts icon in this town: the Big Blue Bear.

As an educator

I often find myself arguing for the

Importance of art in our classrooms

I go on and on about its potential to empower

Our youth and its

Ability to turn traumatic life experiences

Into beautiful pieces of art

For those who remain skeptical

I challenge you to take it up with the

Big Blue Bear and as

You stand there staring right into the

Big Blue Bear's Butt

You will smile, and realize

That small moment of joy

Could be the most important lesson we could

Teach our youth...

Best Book Club

Words Beyond Bars Project

This book club has everything: great titles, a dynamic facilitator, interesting company all deeply engaged in relating works of literature to their life experiences. The only hitch is you have to be in prison to join. Ex-librarian Karen Lausa's largely volunteer effort to bring serious books into the Colorado Department of Corrections, which began with a group of lifers at Limon in 2012, has expanded to several other facilities, demonstrating that incarcerated men and women, adults and juveniles are all hungry for a good story — and a chance to reflect on what it can teach them about their own wrong turns and possible paths to redemption.

Denver Museum of Nature & Science
Aaron Thackeray

The Denver Museum of Nature & Science is growing like a weed, most recently with an elegant if enormous klipp architects-designed addition. With it came the lyrical "Iridescent Cloud," by Seattle's Laura Haddad and Tom Drugan. The piece, constructed by Demiurge Design, is a canopy of sorts, supported by three canted pillars that hold a woven mesh of stainless-steel cable that's been adorned with transparent tetrahedral prisms made of acrylic. As the sun passes over — or when artificial light hits them at night — the prisms sparkle with iridescent reflections.

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