Although the start of summer is still officially weeks away, summer activities are now in full swing, with outdoor art shows, festivals, concerts and other activities popping up all over metro Denver and beyond. Of course, there's plenty of entertainment indoors, too. Keep reading for the 21 best events of the week.
Tuesday May 29
School of Rock, a 2003 film starring Jack Black, is all about chaos in the classroom, as Black’s character, Dewey, a substitute teacher (and aspiring rock star) with too-perfect students, turns the class into a shredder’s dream. Turns out it morphed into a pretty swell — and surprisingly inspirational — Broadway musical, which comes to Denver this week as part of a national tour. Perfectly timed to kick off summer vacation for your own students ages eight and older, School of Rock opens Tuesday, May 29, and runs through June 10 at the Buell Theatre in the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Tickets start at $25; reserve yours and learn more at denvercenter.org.
Wednesday, May 30
Virtual reality is beginning to play out on unexpected stages, including the Denver Botanic Gardens, where Cyberscapes by Serenity Forge brings video-game vistas and images of landscapes to the DBG’s Gates Court Gallery. It’s a far cry from the peaceful garden grounds, but the imagery shares a certain sense of tranquility with the venue. Created by Boulder-based game developer Serenity Forge, Cyberscapes opens with a reception on Wednesday, May 30, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., and runs through August 5 at the Gardens, 1007 York Street. The reception, which includes a 6:30 p.m. artist talk, is free, but an RSVP is requested by emailing email@example.com. Learn more by searching for "Cyberspace" at botanicgardens.org.
The remarkable Colorado nonprofit Think 360 Arts has been serving up intergenerational arts education programs for 55 years while helping local artists with paid positions as workshop leaders. That’s a tall order for an organization that depends on donations and grants, but Think 360 Arts continues to bring hands-on creative experiences to the people — and especially children — who need it the most. You can lend a hand and have a good time, too, by attending the Think 360 Arts 55th Anniversary Party, a traditional fundraiser with food, drinks and a silent auction that’s also a showcase for Think 360 artists, who will provide entertainment and pop-up activities. Join the party on Wednesday, May 30, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at Cultivated Synergy, 2901 Walnut Street; admission is $35 at eventbrite.com.
Thursday, May 31
In its latest and last iteration in 2018, Pink Progression, a large, morphing, community-oriented group exhibit inspired by the solidarity of recent women’s marches, is going big for the finale after two earlier shows this year at the main libraries in Boulder and Denver. Organizer Anna Kaye says some artists created new, sizable installations for this show, while others worked together in fresh collaborations, but all did so with the same objective: to celebrate common ground, universal struggles, feminism, compassion and inclusivity. The final exhibit opens with a reception on Thursday, May 31, from 6 to 8 p.m. and runs through August 18 at the Metropolitan State University of Denver’s Center for Visual Art, 965 Santa Fe Drive. Find more information and a schedule of related panels and workshops at sites.msudenver.edu/cvaelo, and learn more about Pink Progression at pinkprogression.wordpress.com.
Until you’ve seen WAVE: Light + Water + Sound, Breckenridge’s groundbreaking arts festival and summer kick-off, you haven’t really experienced the full width and breadth of what an arts fest can be. Over just four days, the BreckCreate arts organization brings a world of art to the mountain town, with monumental and interactive outdoor installations and indoor artworks, pop-up music performances, films, bike rides and workshops featuring a cast of artists both local and international. Highlights range from Interphase, a musical light sculpture crafted by Denver multimedia artist Cacheflowe and AudioPixel, to Place/d, a series of large-scale, outdoor installations made from umbrellas and lit from within by Berlin-based artist Stephanie Imbeau; other installations will light up the area and water around the Blue River Plaza and downtown Breckenridge throughout the fest, and especially at night. WAVE events run daily from 3 to 11 p.m., Thursday, May 31, through June 3. Event admission is free, but you might want to make a long weekend of it. Learn more at breckcreate.org.
Love it or leave it, Denver’s got plenty of public art — in fact, Denver Public Art has placed more than 400 pieces around town since its inception thirty years ago. To celebrate three decades of making Denver a more interesting place to walk down a street, DPA overseer Denver Arts & Venues invites the public to An Evening Celebrating Denver Public Art, a free party with food and beer, music and artist meet-and-greet opportunities at which the slick new Denver Public Art website will also be unveiled. Join in on Thursday, May 31, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the McNichols Building, 144 West Colfax Avenue. While admission is free, you do need to register in advance at eventbrite.com. And who knows? You might get to dance with a big blue bear or a demonic blue stallion if you go.
In 2006, author Michael Pollan changed the way we think about the food we eat with his book The Omnivore's Dilemma. Now he’s doing the same for the psychedelic experience with a new book, How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence, a study of new research on the use of psychedelics in the treatment of depression and other forms of mental disorders. Along with the scientific and historical background of hallucinogens, Pollan writes in first person of his own experience as a human guinea pig, something that’s sure to trigger conversation when he speaks and signs copies of How to Change Your Mind on Thursday, May 31, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Colfax Tattered Cover, 2526 East Colfax Avenue. Tickets for the event are $33 at eventbrite.com and include a copy of the book ($28, Penguin Press); learn more at tatteredcover.com.
A sugar-fueled journey through childhood nostalgia, Cartoons & Comedy is settling into its new home at the Black Buzzard, 1624 Market Street, with one of its biggest shows yet. Hosted, curated and edited by cherubic comedy fan Chris Baker, Cartoons & Comedy is a Mystery Science Theater 3000-esque presentation of Saturday morning favorites like Muppet Babies and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles spliced with vintage toy commercials and anti-drug PSAs, nimbly riffed upon by some of Denver's funniest comics. The next show, on Thursday, May 31, at 10 p.m., features a trio of heavy hitters including Jim Hickox and Christie Buchele, plus the C&C debut of Adam Cayton-Holland. Help yourself to a heaping bowl of Boo Berry, kick back, and enjoy one of Denver's most amiably goofy comedy shows. Admission is free; find more details on the Black Buzzard's Ticketfly page.
Join Colorado Symphony music director Brett Mitchell and concert pianist Natasha Paremski for their stage debut at the state's most iconic venue, Red Rocks Amphitheatre, 18300 West Alameda Parkway in Morrison, on Thursday, May 31. Enjoy an evening of song under the stars as the symphony honors the centennial anniversary of treasured American composer Leonard Bernstein with a rendition of the overture from Candide, showcases of Paremski's virtuosic skills with Sergei Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2, and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's crowd-pleasing Symphony No. 4. The concert will be a feast for the ears and eyes alike, as the music will be accompanied by "Happy Clouds," an installation from sculptor Stuart Semple that's part of his Happy City Denver takeover. Showtime is 7:30 p.m.; get tickets, $29.50 to $69.50, at axs.com.
Friday, June 1
Get outta town: The Colorado Prairie Music Festival takes over the Lincoln County Fairgrounds in Hugo this weekend. The fun starts at 6 p.m. on Friday, June 1, when entertainment ranges from team-roping to a beer garden, whiskey tasting and dancing under the stars to music by Rhett Uhland. On Saturday, June 2, the fairgrounds open at 2 p.m., with a Kid Zone with face painting, bounce houses and a train from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. For more adult entertainment, the beer garden will open at 4 p.m., with opening act Kimberly Dunn playing at 6 p.m., followed by the Randall King band and then headliner Josh Abbott Band at 8 p.m. The fest concludes with a cowboy breakfasat at 9 a.m. Sunday, followed by cowboy church. Tickets range from $25 to $100; for more information, go to seelincolncounty.com.
The People's Fair, the city's oldest and grandest block party, returns to Civic Center Park, at Colfax Avenue and Broadway, this weekend for a three-day celebration of Colorado culture and cuisine. This year promises to be the Fair's biggest blowout to date, with so many festivities on the schedule that organizers have added an unprecedented third day: An opening concert will take place on Friday, June 1, from 5 to 10 p.m. (tickets are $5). On Saturday, June 2, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday, June 3, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Denver's finest vendors, food trucks and entertainers will take over the park in a veritable gauntlet of food, music and fun. Performers include local favorites such as Trout Steak Revival, Moon Taxi, the Dazzling Divas Drag Show and many, many more. Guests can also wind down in the local beer and wine garden courtesy of Team Player Productions, organizers of the Breckenridge Wine Classic. Admission to this family-friendly event is free; visit peoplesfair.com for all the details.
More than a few tears were shed in the arts community when Hinterland Art Space left RiNo after losing the space to redevelopment more than a year ago. But the gallery’s owners, Westword MasterMinds Sabin Aell and Randy Rushton, kept the vision of Hinterland alive with a move to a rural Morrison property, complete with an old barn they hope to transform into New Hinterland. To raise money for the renovation, they’re throwing a New Hinterland Benefit Concert on Friday, June 1, at Globe Hall, 4483 Logan Street, that doubles as the launch of an ambitious Indiegogo campaign to raise the funds they’ll need to build their dream gallery. Pan Astral, Luke Miller and special guests the Flobots will perform beginning at 9 p.m.; tickets are $8 to $10 at ticketfly.com. Learn more about Hinterland on its Facebook page.
Art in RiNo isn’t dead yet. Pioneering artists are still opening doors to new spaces in the neighborhood, including installationist Laura Phelps Rogers, whose gallery fooLPRoof Contemporary Art will throw a First Friday grand opening this weekend. For her opening salvo, Rogers has gathered an impressive army of more than 25 established and emerging Colorado artists working in a variety of mediums for a big group show; at the reception, on Friday, June 1, from 6 to 9 p.m., she’ll show off the gallery’s commercial and collaborative aspects while entertaining the crowds with a fashion pop-up by designer Mona Lucero. You can also opt to come early and make a square for the Art in the Everyday Community Quilt Project from 3 to 6 p.m. FooLPRoof is located at 3240 Larimer Street; learn more at the fooLPRoof Contemporary Art Facebook page.
The Happy City Denver smiles continue as Stuart Semple’s arty takeover brings lightness and joy to the city: On First Friday in June, Access Gallery will jump into the cheery fray with a hands-on art project that invites anyone, of any age, to participate in "10,000 Smiles,” an ongoing collaborative artwork created by you, using stickers and other non-traditional materials. Get ready to stick ’em up at the reception on Friday, June 1, from 6 to 9 p.m. (or Tuesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., through June 30) at Access, 909 Santa Fe Drive. Learn more about “10,000 Smiles” on the event's Facebook page or at happycitydenver.com.
Denver’s Lighthouse Writers Workshop, a Capitol Hill treasure in the Milheim House mansion, gets to show off the best of its strengths — a year-round series of writing workshops, talks and readings — to old friends and unknowing newcomers alike at Lit Fest, an intensive annual two-week showcase littered with prime examples of all of the above. Highlights of the fest, which begins on Friday, June 1, with a kick-off party from 6 to 9 p.m., include high-profile author reading nights and book signings, panels, kids’ workshops and a book tent sponsored by the Tattered Cover Book Store. Lighthouse is at 1515 Race Street; prices for individual events vary from free to $30. Find a complete schedule and details at lighthousewriters.org.
Saturday, June 2
Get with it: Lakewood is the metro area’s premier up-and-coming arts district, attracting artists and galleries looking for lower rents and the sense of community they’ve lost as gentrification warps the art scene in Denver proper. Now you can get to know some of the artists who’ve made the pilgrimage to Lakewood (and some who’ve been there all along) at the second annual Artists in Residences Studio Tour, organized in conjunction with Inspire! Arts Week Lakewood. Pick up a map for the self-guided tour at three Lakewood locations: Lakewood Cultural Center, 470 South Allison Parkway; Belmar Block 7, 445 South Saulsbury Street; or the 40 West Arts District, 1560 Teller Street. Then tour away on Saturday, June 2, and Sunday, June 3, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. Download the map and learn more at anamcarastudiogallery.com.
Denver hip-hop dance school the Bboy Factory is gearing up for the Bboy Factory Jam 6th Anniversary — with breakdance performances, showdowns and parties on Saturday, June 2, followed by a day of workshops on Sunday, June 3. The main event goes down at Highlands Masonic Temple and Event Center, 3550 Federal Boulevard, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, with a cast of exemplary Bboys and -girls from the metro area and beyond; admission is $15 at the door, and a free after-party follows at 10 p.m. at Fort Greene Bar, 321 East 45th Avenue. Prices for the Sunday anniversary workshops, held at the Bboy Factory, 6401 Broadway, with Menno, Wicket, Whack and Ali, range from $20 for one to $60 for all four. Learn more at the Bboy Factory 6th Anniversary Facebook event page.
Dudes have long dominated the rock world’s imagination — at least until recently, when music critics have announced the dawn of a "new era" of electric-guitar music being pioneered by women, as though women haven’t been rocking out from the beginning. From Wendy O. Williams to Bikini Kill and beyond, they've been slaying for decades, of course. At the free DJ night Playin’ With Fire: Women Who Shaped Rock, DJs Bodhi Shane Melnitzer and Sara Splatter will offer up a selection of the best women-made rock and roll, metal, punk and post-punk; it all happens on Saturday, June 2, from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. at Tooey’s Off Colfax, 1521 Marion Street. For more information, visit the Women Who Shaped Rock Facebook page.
If life's been a bit too cheery lately, let the Morbid Curiosities Expo bring you back to the dark side. On Saturday, June 2, from noon to 5 p.m., the flea market will host vendors that sell macabre delights, from ghoulish and sinister artwork to clothing, crafts and more. To get you in the dark-shopping mood, Morbid is partnering with HearseCon, a hearse expo that will showcase its best stock on the same lot as the flea market, at 800 South Havana Street in Aurora. For more information, go to the Morbid Curiosities Expo Facebook page.
Get your dancing shoes on and head up to Laporte for the Choice City Stomp 2018, a two-day festival that promises a lot of music without a lick of pretense. Founded by Jimmy Richter in 2012, the CCS showcases Americana, Southern blues rock and everything in between through bands from around the U.S. Local performers include Randall Conrad Olinger of Denver, Tejon Street Corner Thieves of Colorado Springs and DW Doucet of Fort Collins. The festival kicks off on Saturday, June 2, at 3 p.m. at the legendary Swing Station, 3311 West County Road 54G in Laporte, and wraps up Sunday evening. Find more information at choicecitystomp.com or the event's Facebook page.
Sunday, June 3
Take a trip around the world without leaving your seat at Vintage Theatre, 1468 Dayton Street in Aurora, when One Night Stand Theater presents Around the World With One Night Stand at 7 p.m. Sunday, June 3. The one-night-only production comprises short plays that take place around the world, including Lost and Found, by Jeffrey Neuman, about a wife losing her husband in a Paris art museum; The Clutch, by David-Matthew Barnes, about two travelers with romantic trouble who cross paths in Greece; and The Mother of God Concession, by Steve Hunter, a story about a 1950s expedition to South America plagued by jealousy, danger and "romantic obsession." Learn more at onenightstandtheater.org and reserve tickets, $10, at 303-725-4959 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
and a bonus....
Monday, June 4
If history's your thing, don't miss the chance to see a relic from the past at the Flying Legends of Victory Tour. Every summer, the Commemorative Air Force Museum in Mesa, Arizona, takes a few of its birds that flew in World War II on the road, and this summer it's bringing the B-25 Bomber "Maid in the Shade" — built in 1944 and one of only 34 still flying — to the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport, 11755 Airport Way in Broomfield, from Monday, June 4, to Sunday, June 10. Tour days and times vary; admission is $10 per person or $20 for a family of four. And if that isn't enough, a pilot will take you and your family on a ride Friday through Sunday between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. for $425 per compartment seat and $850 per bombardier/navigator seat in the nose. Get more information, including a tour schedule, at azcaf.org. Happy flying!
In order for an event to be considered for 21 Best, we need information at least three weeks in advance. Send it to email@example.com.