Best Dance Project 2022 | The Conversation Series: Stitching the Geopolitical Quilt to Re-body Belonging | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

University of Colorado Boulder dance educator Helanius Wilkins likes to say that he'll most likely keep tweaking his current project, Stitching the Geopolitical Quilt to Re-body Belonging, until he dies. It all began when the pandemic lockdown collided with the murder of George Floyd, when Wilkins would walk alone for up to sixteen miles a day, gathering his thoughts about being a Black man, a dancer and an artist seeking both his place and a realization of social justice in an unstable world. That led him to visualize a project akin to sewing a quilt, which has developed into a process that begins by hosting conversations with communities of marginalized people across the nation. Each group's unique stories culminate in a movement performance choreographed by Wilkins. It's a beautiful cycle, and it's only just begun.
Claire Duncombe

Junkyard Social isn't just a playground for kids; it also serves as an organized date-night drop-off spot, a STEAM laboratory, a summer camp, a family disco and a hands-on art project workshop. But Junkyard Social is also a playground for adults, who are welcome to join their children on the jungle gym or just hang out with a coffee from the cafe. It offers yoga, live music and a grown-up storytelling group, and you can rent it for a party. Why go anywhere else?

Every First Friday of the month, the Art District on Santa Fe Art turns from a ghost town to a full-blown festival, with arts lovers walking the street to catch gallery openings and live painting, or just to see and be seen. You can drop some dough here, if you're looking to start or expand your art collection, but just being able to experience the fruits of Colorado creatives' labor — and be among others who appreciate the work — is enough to make for a fantastic Friday.

The Vance Street Art Hub, anchored by coffeehouse/cafe Mint & Serif, isn't so much an arty block as it is a little taste of old Lakewood's mom-and-pop hospitality, though the cafe does host art exhibitions. It's joined in the area by tattoo shop Solstice Ink, an outlet for anime fans called Otaku Attic, Purple Greens Vape & Glass and, inside Mint & Serif, All Its Own, a purveyor of succulents, air plants and gifts. Stop by on First Friday, when the gallery receptions down the street become packed.

In the age of TikTok and selfie museums, Selfie@Stanley aims for a better selfie experience. This one comes with more than 25 selfie stations, complete with backdrops and props to titillate imaginations, encourage family reunions and birthday parties, and simply get friends together for an afternoon of stupid, silly fun for $20 a head. And because it's located at Stanley Marketplace, the fun doesn't end when selfie-snappers emerge: There's food and drink, shopping and people-watching waiting.

Diving into the entrepreneurial market can be scary for a newbie, but Diana Sabreen has a coaching technique that's so fun, clients don't even notice how much they're learning. Sabreen's Boulder-based creative incubator, the Big Dream, not only offers one-on-one consultations to get you up to speed, but it also hosts group playshops and retreats that immerse people in activities that demand creative thinking and encourage team-building and interaction with fellow seekers. Coming up this summer in Boulder: the Imagination Collaboration creativity accelerator, with speakers, workshops, performances and more.
Evan Semón

If you're driving along East 39th Avenue heading to Steele Street, you'll see a curling ribbon of steel swirling in an arc overhead. No, it's not an errant part of the Interstate 70 project; it's a great piece of public art installed in 2021. Denver Public Art commissioned the work from acclaimed sculptor DeWitt Godfrey, who took a stark departure from the stacked, conical works he's known for to create this cascading sculpture. But what makes the work so compelling is its metaphorical acknowledgment of its surroundings: The metal materials point to the industrial history of its environment, while the structure serves as a portal to discovering the potential of your surroundings.

Sure, it's nice to stroll the streets of Denver, whether you're on an urban hike or just a mindless meander, and see all the wonderful street art and murals that grace this city's walls. But it's also nice to know what you're looking at, the background of the artist who created the piece, and the history of the neighborhood in which you're walking. And that's what the Denver Graffiti Tour delivers, at 10 a.m. every Saturday and Sunday, along with an acknowledgement of the gentrification issues that many associate with the murals. As co-owner Erin Spradlin told us last year, "We noticed it and were really bothered by that, so we started to speak about it in the tour and noticed people really responded to that."

While RiNo may be known for its splashy murals, the most compelling alley gallery is in the Golden Triangle. Right behind Stoney's in the 1100 block between Lincoln and Broadway, you can still find work produced for the 2018 Colorcon by some of Denver's finest muralists, including A.L. Grime, who used her signature abstraction to paint the black-and-white face of a girl emerging from meticulous line work. Head down the alley and you'll see an icy blue cave by Kendall Rose, stylized and colorful portraits by the Worst Crew, a bright iguana climbing a wall covered in painted leaves by the Designosaur, and a detailed mandala by Damon Soule.

Tyler Vitello

For Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month last year, the RiNo Art District commissioned a mural from local muralist Casey Kawaguchi and Nepali artist Imagine876. Using their signature styles — Kawaguchi typically paints greyscale images of Asian women while Imagine applies graffiti techniques and mixes in Sanskrit references — the two artists painted a mysterious woman in black and white, with a bright-orange-and-cobalt veil over her head and spread across the lower half of her face. As she gazes at you over that veil, her hands are pressed together in prayer. Don't miss it.

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