Best Work of Art in a Box 2021 | Latino Cultural Arts Center | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

Last fall, the Latino Cultural Arts Center reached out to people feeling the loss of traditional Day of the Dead celebrations along the Front Range by assembling ofrendas kits that people could buy, then use to build their own altars to the dead at home. Giving this concept new life was an ingenious twist: LCAC hired Latino artists to create a variety of traditional handmade elements to stock the DIY kits, including felt hearts, paper butterflies, calaveras (skulls), Mexican prayer candles and other decorative and symbolic items. And the concept lives on: LCAC has already sent out a call to artists for a second round in 2021.

Inez Sanchez's Missfits dolls aren't like any Día de los Muertos calacas you've ever seen. Each one-of-a-kind skeleton doll comes with a name, a story and a personality invented by the Denver artist: Head-turner Lupita, dressed to kill; Calabaza the squash woman; colorful Socorro, who lives in a house with no music; Chileta the chile contest judge; and Rosa and Valentino, a rose-killer and her gardening lover, are just a few of her characters. Look for Sanchez's wares at Día de los Muertos and holiday craft markets, monthly First Friday art fairs at the Arturo Garcia studio in Westwood, or on Etsy.

Best Religious Products and Skateboard Gear

The Retro

Somehow, the weird combination of religious swag and skateboard gear at the Retro works. In fact, it might be the best place for traditional grandparents and skateboard kids to meet in the middle — just as Latino religious images, from sacred hearts to la Virgen de Guadalupe, cross over into youth culture as board-deck decorations, jewelry, apparel, art and stickers. Try it — you might like it, too.

Kyle Harris

If you're looking to take a journey through the witchier side of life, head to Herbs & Arts. Breathe in the incense, shop for candles, beef up your tarot deck collection, have a consultation with a store herbalist, and explore your existence through a psychic or astrological reading on the spot. If you're planning to dive into the esoteric arts, there are also classes for the curious and plenty of books to read. This shop is filled with a playful, positive energy and all the tools you need to make magic.

Lindsey Bartlett

Let your inner geek run wild at the Wizard's Chest, a glorious shop filled with board, card and role-playing games, costumes and more. Open since 1983 but a relative newcomer to Broadway, the store boasts a playful interior and exterior designed by immersive-arts wizard Lonnie Hanzon. Whether you're looking for the latest in Dungeons & Dragons fun, robotics kits, a new wig, or a rattler for the toddler in your life, the Wizard's Chest will put you under its spell. The shop is currently offering a mix of online, curbside and limited in-person business; the real magic happens in the coming months, when it will get back to hosting gaming events and allowing 100 percent hands-on fun.

In a world of fast fashion, where garbage dumps are towering with wear-and-tear clothes, Julianna's Wardrobe is committed to keeping the history of yesterday's dresses alive by restoring them with modern flair. "I really believe our energy is in the fibers of the clothing that we wear," says owner Julianna Aberle-McClellan. So when a bride wants to go down the aisle in something her great-grandmother wore that has turned to rags, Aberle-McClellan taps into her background in theatrical fashion to create something spectacular, connected to the past and looking toward the future.

Be a Good Person, founded by Darian Simon and Julian Donaldson in 2015 to spread a message of positivity, has become an iconic Denver brand that uses hoodies, T-shirts, sweats and accessories to encourage people to be, well, good. In an age of social strife, online smackdowns, violence and general pessimism, the slogan, brand name and philosophy behind Be a Good Person is as relevant as can be. Each season, the company puts out a signature line sporting cheerful, all-caps lettering; along the way, it does its share of philanthropic work with nonprofits like the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

When Chris Sullivan opened the nationally celebrated Berkeley Park Running Company, he decided to upend the standard of the traditional shopping-mall running store. Instead, he launched a small shop on Tennyson Street with a great selection of trail- and road-running gear and beers, and in the process created a community hub for lovers of the sport. The shop hosts book signings, community runs (followed by a brew and snacks) and plenty of other gatherings. It's developed a reputation for first-rate customer service and honest staffers whose priority is keeping people engaged in the sport — even if that means they won't be making a sale. But that type of service makes loyal customers for life.

4568 Tennyson Street
Courtesy Goodwill Industries of Denver Facebook page

Scavenging for dream items should never be restricted to one particular thrift shop; part of the fun is going on the hunt. But when we have to limit our expeditions to just one spot, the Goodwill outlet at Broadway and Archer Place always seems to have what we're looking for, from dishware to fashion-forward jackets, ski and backpacking gear, dresses, shoes and more. There's also plenty of kitsch and art to browse — but if you've banned yourself from any more shopping sprees, this is also a convenient spot to drop off secondhand items.

The artisans of Geeklery understand what makes a nerd's world spin when it comes to personal ornamentation: It's the theme that counts. Geeks use jewelry to proclaim their love for sci-fi, fantasy, gaming and cosplay, and the results can be as out-of-this-world as they are decorative. If you're looking to adorn yourself with spider brooches, sapphire-studded Beam Me Up earrings or sterling-silver Zelda cuff links (or just want to decorate your home with like-minded artworks), hit up Geeklery's web page to shop — and feel good knowing that 5 percent of every purchase benefits Pop Culture Classroom.


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