Denver: Sports Town or Arts Town?


Denver is currently undergoing a planning process to develop a new cultural plan for the city. The last time this was done on a significant scale was in 1989, when strategies that have made a lasting impact on the city's cultural landscape -- such as the decision to allocated 1% of all public building project budgets to the commissioning, creation and installation of public art -- came into being. On Monday evening, city cultural policy officials held a town hall meeting to summarize the progress of the plan development so far and get … [Read more...]

Illegal Candy


I've been in this country for 16 years and yet still I struggle with certain customs on this side of the pond. Tonight's Halloween culture is a case in point. I was briefly at home between meetings at around 6pm -- the time of day when most of the local kids decked out as dragons, fairies and pandas were out with their parents doing the trick or treat thing. This is the first time I've ever had to encounter this custom first-hand. Trick or treat wasn't a big thing in my community growing up in England. I don't think I ever went around the … [Read more...]

A New Research Center for the Clyfford Still Museum


It's fascinating to see how arts institutions dedicated to the work of a single artist or movement work to develop their audiences and areas of interest. In the case of the Clyfford Still museum in Denver, finding ways to keep the work and legacy of a single 20th century American painter fresh is an ongoing challenge. Beyond exhibiting the artist's work from as many different angles as possible (how soon will they run out of angles, one can't help but ask?) the museum regularly develops projects that are only tangentially connected to … [Read more...]

Christo’s Empty Sandbox


Every other week here in Colorado it seems there is news of Christo's ongoing battle with opposition groups regarding the installation artist's plan to drape six miles of the Arkansas River in translucent fabric. If given the green light, the installation will be in place for two weeks. But the process of making it happen has taken 21 years so far. Christo loves to talk about how the endless protests and law suits involved in bringing his ambitious works to life are as much part of the artistic process as the end product. In an article for … [Read more...]

Hold The Front Page


Yesterday afternoon, I received a press release with the words "Breaking News" at the top of it. Had there been a huge explosion at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts? Were priceless works of French art stolen from the Denver Art Museum just days before the opening of the big Passport to Paris exhibition on Sunday? No. It was a press release for an exhibition of glass art by Dale Chihuly that's opening at the Denver Botanic Gardens next June. Not only does this appear to be a fraudulent use of the term "Breaking News," but it also … [Read more...]

Colorado Springs!


It's easy -- and lazy -- to think that all of the cultural stuff worth mentioning in Colorado takes place in Denver and nearby Boulder. Certainly, I've been running around these cities over the past couple of overly busy and therefore sadly blogless weeks experiencing arts happenings as diverse as Eve Ensler's Body of Work, Wonderbound's A Gothic Folktale, The Catamounts' Failure a Love Story, the Beyond Blue exhibition of 25 years of Denver public art, The Narrators' monthly storytelling session and so on and so on and so on. Biggest … [Read more...]



I had two more first time arts experiences this weekend that reminded me of my arts-going life in the Bay Area. One might question the validity of my comparison-making on the basis of an inaugural visit, but I think there's also a case to be made to share initial thoughts. My impressions will no doubt evolve as I get to know these organizations better. On Saturday, I made my inaugural visit to the University of Colorado's Denver's Newman Center for the Arts. In as much as Newman Center Presents is a university-based presenting organization, … [Read more...]

Come On Denver!


If I have to listen to another person in this city apologize for the cultural paucity of "this dusty old cow town" and claim that Denver's art scene is "worthless compared with London/San Francisco/New York/Paris/Los Angeles etc" I think I am going to lose my mind. There's enough interesting stuff going on  to keep people of all kinds of cultural tastes - from the arch conservative to the uber experimental -- occupied many times over every night of the week. And like any other city with a vibrant arts scene, the ratio of ill-conceived to … [Read more...]

A Week of Firsts


I've been so busy, that I haven't managed to put down a thing in writing about some of the cultural activities that I've been up in and around Denver in a week. And as I look back over the last seven days, it looks like it's been a week of "first time" experiences for me. 1. Frightened Rabbit, Local Natives and The National at Red Rocks: My first Red Rocks concert experience. By the light of a full September moon. The sound for Frightened Rabbit (the band I most wanted to see) was terrible. But otherwise a grand experience. I wonder if Red … [Read more...]

Enough With The Anniversaries


As I sat in the Colorado Public Radio performance studio last week listening to the luminous young pianist and composer Conrad Tao talking about how much he loves playing the music of Benjamin Britten, especially in light of the fact that 2013 is "a Britten year," a thought about the off-hand way he expressed the composer's anniversary gave me pause for thought. No one in the classical music realm bats an eyelid when people speak of it being "a Britten/Wagner/Verdi etc year." But if you think about it, the phrase is slightly ridiculous and … [Read more...]

An Arts Desk In The Flood


When I was a rookie arts journalist, Ray Sokolov, the then Arts & Leisure section editor of The Wall Street Journal, jokingly complained to me about how weird it feels being an arts editor in a busy newsroom during a major event, when everyone but he is rushing around covering a disaster, war or other breaking news of serious import, while he sits there overseeing the coverage of things like dining out and the opera. "No one ever asks me my opinion about Iraq," I remember Ray grumbling as I chatted with him about an assignment he was … [Read more...]



Perhaps it's something about being in a new city, or maybe Denver is just a place where amazing cultural surprises lurk around every corner. But I feel like my days here have been full of unexpected, delightful encounters with art. The latest two instances of this that I'd like to report on in brief are as follows: 1) The Red Rocks Amphitheatre, one of the world's great outdoor performance venues, is transformed by day into a hangout for tourists and a parcours for athletes. When I was out there late morning a few days ago with some friends … [Read more...]