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.

The impressive "I Know You Know That I Know" is a public commission granted to Denver artist Sandra Fettingis, who was asked by the Colorado Convention Center to cover an astounding 160 feet of wall space with murals. What she came up with is a highly sophisticated and complex set of triangular patterns that look something like trellises. These patterns — painted or in the form of cut acrylic panels — are essentially the same save for size and color (though all of them are black, white or red). The piece is meant to demonstrate how things change over time yet remain the same in some way — and it enlivens a corridor that had an unwelcome gloominess to it before.

Sidewinder

When Kyle Ramirez and her husband opened the Sidewinder Tavern, they imagined a place that would host live music, serve quality food and be open to everyone. The venue is co-managed by Ramirez's son, Fernando Guzman, best known for his multi-faceted drumming skills in bands like Fissure Mystic, Fingers of the Sun and Tjutjuna. Not only has the Sidewinder become one of Globeville's most welcoming stops for local bands and underground touring acts, but it's also a comfortable hangout for drinking and non-drinking patrons alike.

When the initial designs for the Daniel Libeskind addition to the Denver Art Museum were unveiled, there were the jagged Hamilton Building, the canted Museum Residences, the blocky parking structure, and a hotel in the form of a vertical shaft at the southeast corner of the site. This tower was meant to serve as a bookend of sorts, linking the whole thing back to the Gio Ponti tower on the Civic Center, thus creating a harmonious whole. But financial times being what they were, the hotel was never built, and the Broadway face of the complex was marred by a plot of gravel, above which sat the blank wall of the garage. But ground has finally been broken for the building, which will be going up soon. Designed by Guadalupe Cantu, a former partner at Studio Daniel Libeskind and now at the Davis Partnership, the new building, the Museum Center + Art Hotel, will house offices on the lower floors and luxury hotel rooms on the upper levels.

The Denver Central Library, the Denver Art Museum, the Clyfford Still Museum, the Byers-Evans House Museum and the History Colorado Center all occupy a small area around the Civic Center, giving the state a cultural heart. And in a couple of years, the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art will join the club, with plans unveiled a couple of months ago that call for a new structure on the parking lot at the northwest corner of West 12th Avenue and Bannock Street. The new museum, which will be twice as large as the Kirkland's current Capitol Hill location, is being designed by Seattle-based Olson Kundig Architects, a firm known for its neo-modern aesthetic. The building is expected to be completed in 2017.

Mutiny Information Cafe
Courtesy Mutiny Information Cafe

Mutiny Information Cafe is first and foremost a bookstore/coffee shop. But this Bermuda Triangle of weirdness in the sea of ultra-hip South Broadway is also a space that throws some of Denver's best all-ages concerts and art happenings. Stop by any night and catch zine readings, noise shows, performance-art pieces and the occasional jazz quartet getting down in the front window of the sprawling shop. And even when there's no entertainment, Mutiny captures Denver's truest self: It's a quirky, welcoming space where you can find good used books, excellent coffee, and an experience you never knew you were looking for.

American Museum of Western Art
American Museum of Western Art, 2nd Floor Gallery

Opened in the historic Navarre Building in 2010, the AMWA has been a tough booking for fans of Remington, Russell et al., with curated public tours only a couple of days a week. But now Wednesdays are "Open Range Day," with self-guided tours available from 11:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. One lunch hour can't possibly cover the vast range of this collection, but a few visits might get you from Bierstadt to Birger Sandzén. Yeehaw.

The yarn artists of the Ladies Fancywork Society proved last year that their work, though rooted in the street, transcends the underground designation. The LFS created not one, but two major yarn installations at a pair of Denver's most prestigious art museums: MCA Denver and the Denver Art Museum. The MCA kicked off 2013 with the LFS curtain installation "Fancygasm" adorning its chilly entryway in wintry shades of white and blue; later, in conjunction with its blockbuster textile exhibit Spun, the ladies draped a massive knitted floral carpet off the roof of the DAM that was later disassembled by museum patrons, who were invited to take home a piece of the work. A sneaky art idea has become a welcome part of the landscape.

Joan Didion's husband died suddenly one evening while she was preparing a salad for dinner in their New York apartment. After some time, Didion explored her terrible loss in a memoir, The Year of Magical Thinking, which was eventually staged as a play starring Vanessa Redgrave. This year, Wendy Ishii took on the role at Bas Bleu Theatre Company, and her performance was mesmerizing. Didion, according to her own account, is a "cool customer," and her prose is wry, strong, musical and sometimes almost detached. Ishii, whose great strength as an actor is her emotional depth and expression, reined herself in to take on Didion's persona, shaping her own large talent to the contours of another artist's consciousness — which made the single moment when she revealed the chaos and anguish within doubly moving.

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