Best Revamp of a Rec Center Into a Community Arts Space

Globeville Rec Center

When the nonprofit Birdseed Collective took over operations at the Globeville Recreation Center last summer, the group's artists got down to business, covering every inch of the space with color and shape. Surrounded by the visual work of such artists as Elisa Gomez, Moe Gram and Thomas Scharfenberg, as well as the unmistakable serape patterns of Birdseed leader Anthony Garcia, neighbors can now come here to learn, be fed or simply hang out. Though the collective had already been doing programming for the center for a while, taking over operations meant that Birdseed now had a permanent home for its weekly food bank, a place to teach all-ages breakdancing lessons and space for local Grupo Tlaloc to share the tradition of Aztec dance. And the collective keeps dreaming new community-centered ideas into reality: This spring, it will launch its first youth football team, the Denver Dragons.

The Secret Love Collective is responsible for many inviting and thoughtful art installations popping up across Colorado, including costumed parades, vibrant photo booths and sequined twists on traditional family portrait settings at the Denver Art Museum's Untitled series, and a Spooky Valentine's party at Understudy. Comprising a queer-identified assembly of artists, Secret Love Collective is inherently political; members Katy Batsel, Lares Feliciano, Piper Rose, Frankie Toan, Genevieve Waller, Katy Zimmerman and Lauren Zwicky come together to create spaces that invite exploration of the concepts of love, vulnerability and human connection in temporary worlds of felt, fabric and fringe.

Organizing events around photography is nothing new, but there's something refreshing about TheyShootn's approach. This loose collective of photographers has put together Día de los Muertos gatherings, Lotería-inspired art shows, lowrider car events and panel discussions about the gentrification of Denver's east side. By bringing the community together with art, TheyShootn co-creators Armando Geneyro and Blake Jackson and their crew of shooters have created context and given weight to important and often overlooked elements of the city's culture and people.


If you haven't seen the light art of Lumonics, a working studio and homage to the colorful illuminated works of nonagenarian Dorothy Tanner and her late husband, Mel, Google it now. Though best seen in person in a dark room, you'll get an idea of the magic being made there. Inspired? Now you can make your own light sculpture from Plexiglas and LED lights, with expert instruction at the Lumonics studio. Taught by Tanner associate Marc Billard, the four-session classes are an opportunity to bring the wonder of light to your own living room; no experience or artistic talent required. Let there be light!

Carla Atwood Hartman, granddaughter of celebrated furniture and architectural designers Charles and Ray Eames, has every reason to be interested in chairs, and that's how she became the Chairs Lady. For nearly twenty years, she's been teaching kids and adults to release their inner artists by creating their own sculptural visions of miniature chairs. At her brick-and-mortar studio in the Golden Triangle, Hartman offers private and occasional drop-in classes; she also stocks a design-focused retail corner that's full of finds for last-second gift-giving. Please be seated.

Who knows what humans could build with their own two hands if only they had the space? And the tools? And maybe a few maker-friendly tips? All three are available under one roof at the well-named My Own 2 Hands, a comfy, 6,000- square-foot workshop that offers state-of-the-art tools, work benches, storage lockers and in-shop mentors and experts, as well as how-to classes and camps for kids. No excuses: It's time to make your masterpiece.

Courtesy of Fort Greene

Fort Greene's low-key brick exterior highlighted by an 0x000Aancient "Budweiser on tap" sign may not signal much from the outside — but crack open the door to this Globeville watering hole and you'll find the sights and sounds of a robust arts and music community. The bar's tiny set of expertly decorated rooms makes a big deal of Denver creatives, hosting album-release shows, dance nights and the occasional Selena-themed party/art show/costume contest. In a city where you can find a formulaic bar in almost every neighborhood, Fort Greene's dim lights, mini-stage and comfy couches create the perfect environment for creating true community.

Marilyn Megenity's Mercury Cafe has long been a haven for Denver's creatives, welcoming artists as patrons, employees and, of course, featured entertainers. The cavernous space has three rooms that are constantly being transformed by swing dance lessons, in-house theatrical productions, live music, witchy workshops and craft markets, movie screenings and more. Its website calendar (which is also conveniently printed out and hung in the establishment's bathroom stalls) is consistently jam-packed with both down-to-earth and out-of-this world events. This Mercury is always rising.

Programmer Keith Garcia has been bringing Denver into the cult-film fold for more than two decades, and his latest foray, Big Gay Matinee!, is nothing short of brilliant. With an intentional 1:30 p.m. Sunday time slot — sliding perfectly between drag-queen brunch events and Sunday evening beer busts — this afternoon movie snack brings sometimes obscure favorites out of the celluloid closet. Garcia gives educated and entertaining introductions to obvious classics like Valley of the Dolls and Auntie Mame, along with more nuanced picks such as A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge and Troop Beverly Hills. Each showing is preceded by an appearance from a local drag performer, ramping the camp up a notch as only Garcia can.

At between $19 and $20 a pop, a ticket to an IMAX show is steep. But the experience is totally worth the price of admission if you're watching a movie that deserves a larger-than-life screen. Not only is the IMAX screen at UA Colorado Center Stadium 9 so massive that it teeters on overwhelming, but it brings in the right films to maximize its size. (Free Solo, anyone?). If you're an IMAX newbie, we recommend opting for seats in the back of the theater so that your eyeballs don't explode. But if you like living on the edge, sit front and center to feel like you're part of all the action and adventure.

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