Best Local Art Booster 2015 | Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

Though Denver's art scene is starting to catch a national buzz, local museums have had relatively little to do with that hometown success. They generally skip material with a made-in-Colorado stamp in favor of scanning the globe, looking for stuff to display from just about anywhere else. But there's a notable exception: The Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art has taken a different tack by focusing on the paintings, sculptures, pottery and prints that were done right here, with the best of the lot being as good as it gets. Named for the great mid-twentieth-century abstract painter Vance Kirkland, the museum is the brainchild of Hugh Grant, who is doing more to advance the cause of Colorado art than anyone else in town.

This past summer, it seemed as though beautiful, cosmopolitan, street-smart murals were blossoming everywhere, as teams of artists began painting walls throughout the city and along the Cherry Creek and Platte River greenways, thanks to funding from the city's Urban Arts Fund graffiti-prevention program( Individual collaborators included everyone from student artists from VSA Arts to international artists such as Brazil's Bruno Novelli and Claudio Ethos, with a wide swath of local writers, fine artists and muralists carrying the most weight, transforming walls in Denver into the kind of graphically sophisticated, community-minded concrete-and-brick canvases we're used to seeing in cities around the world.

At times, the term "newscast" can seem like a misnomer, since so much of what fills too many thirty-minute shows doesn't actually qualify as news. But 7News swims against the tide. The anchor team of Anne Trujillo and Eric Kahnert do their best to keep the focus on events, incidents and happenings of significance, supplemented by an ace investigatory crew featuring John Ferrugia, Theresa Marchetta and Keli Rabon. On a nightly basis, 7News newscasts earn the name.

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Downtown Aurora Visual Arts has been providing at-risk kids from the neighborhood with mentoring and positive art experiences for more than twenty years. Late last year, DAVA hit the jackpot by being selected to receive the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award — a $10,000 grant awarded annually to just twelve programs across the nation — for its Job Training in the Arts wing, which teaches older kids art-related work skills. DAVA director Susan Jenson and thirteen-year-old student Boris Cochajil traveled to Washington, D.C., in November to receive the award directly from the hands of First Lady Michelle Obama, who also gave Cochajil a neck rub and some advice on how to loosen up.

The hoopla in February over the opening of the touring exhibit 1968 at History Colorado overshadowed El Movimiento: The Chicano Movement in Colorado, a locally produced 1968 side trip that debuted at the same time, but its impact is no less stunning. Put together with help from local movers — from muralist Emanuel Martinez and CHAC co-founder Carlos Santistevan to Chicano power couple Daniel and Maruca Salazar, who've participated in the Chicano-rights movement here from the very start — the exhibit traces an important and underappreciated part of Colorado history. Then, to add a splash of color to history, Maruca Salazar, director of the Museo de las Americas, organized Chicano, an art exhibit designed to wow viewers with wit, installations and imagery — and to convey a real sense of why the movement has never really gone away. Los Supersonicos (the artist tag team of Carlos Frésquez and Francisco Zamora), photographer Delilah Montoya and filmmaker/installation artist Daniel Salazar show the movement through artistic eyes; Salazar's film installation even gives viewers a chance to take a selfie against a moving backdrop of marching protesters. Both exhibits continue through May.

Dancer and RedLine resident Tara Rynders is on a global mission to bring her moves right out into the streets, and she's been doing it, country by country, since 2011, when she launched You & Me, an ongoing series of site-specific interactive performances that has been on the road ever since. The model is both simple and a little complicated, but it all comes together in a magical way: Last year, in a Denver-based version, guests moved from one individual, multidisciplinary, artist-led experience to another during an evening that kicked off with a dance in an empty lot and culminated in a community dinner that was an art experience all its own. (

Processus is one of several projects that have opened in the newly renovated Temple building. It consists of a community workshop with a multi-use wood and sculpture shop, a darkroom, a clean room for printmaking and a small gallery space, well equipped with tools and equipment. And it's all available to members who pay a reasonable $100 monthly fee or people who purchase $200 punch cards good for eighteen hours of workshop time. The dream of Denver artist couple Viviane Le Courtois and Christopher Perez, who put months of hard work into fundraising for the project, Processus will soon add lectures, gallery shows, hands-on workshops and pop-up events.

Iraqi war veteran Curtis Bean found healing in art and yoga, and now he's helping other soldiers find peace through his Art of War Project. Bean founded the homegrown art-therapy program in 2013, through the Denver VA Medical Center. Last summer, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #1 purchased a space on Santa Fe Drive where Bean could expand his program to include yoga, photography classes and film nights. Everything is free for veterans and their families, and aspiring artists are given gallery space and a chance to show their work to viewers on First Fridays.

Denver's galleries and museums are top-notch, but art lovers can also view premier work at other venues. Many bars and coffee shops celebrate our town's talent, filling their walls with dedication and a careful eye. But Kaladi takes that up a notch, rotating the work of quality artists — whose pieces are often affordable and approachable — on a frequent basis and making the shop feel like as much like a pop-up art space as a coffee spot.

The original intention of Open Press: Celebrating 25 Years of Printmaking was to toast Denver's premier print-atelier master printer Mark Lunning. But the show also turned out to be a salute to the Denver art scene during the last quarter-century. Of the fifty artists included — which was a who's-who list — most still live and work in the Denver area. The enormous show was the keystone event of the inaugural Mo'Prints: Month of Printmaking, a biennial that alternates with the more well-established Month of Photography. It's hard to imagine how next year's print-event organizers will be able to top this riveting extravaganza dedicated to Open Press, a genuine Denver treasure.

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