Young fiddle champs display a thousand yard stare

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The annual National Western Stock Show is happening in Denver right now. I ambled through the show grounds on Saturday for the first time marveling at the rows of placid livestock, the myriad booths selling everything from bandanas to sceptic tanks, and the hoards of people dressed in western drag. Eventually, after wandering through an orderly meeting of unfazed alpaca, I stumbled upon the Colorado Fiddle Championships where I spent an hour, transfixed. The Junior Division of the competition had just gotten underway when I arrived. I … [Read more...]

Should news organizations foster greater transparency about their arts coverage?

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I am conducting a small but important piece of research in order to find out how members of the arts community feel about how media organizations go about deciding what arts stories to cover. Here is the link to the survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/YJPVXNW The aim is to discover how people in the arts view the typically secretive internal processes that go on at media organizations when it comes to deciding what arts stories deserve coverage and to what extent there might be an advantage to being more open about editorial views … [Read more...]

Wanted: Crack Colorado Critics

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I'm currently in the enviable position of being able to hire a klatsch of topnotch arts critics to join my team at Colorado Public Radio, where I head up the new arts and culture bureau. But finding good cultural commentators is proving to be very challenging. With the demise of the Rocky Mountain News and the shrinking of the Denver Post, many of the local critics have moved into other professions such as PR consultant and grade school teacher. The few remaining ones seem to be overworked and underpaid. And as I look around the arena, … [Read more...]

A few days in DC

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I've spent the last few days in Washington DC. Mostly, I've been here for meetings at the Mother Ship, NPR. But I've also been out and about tasting the sights and sounds of a city that has become dear to my heart over the past couple of years. I'm going to share a few brief thoughts about the things I've been up to, arts-wise, in far-away DC over the past few days: 1. Roseanne Cash residency at the Library of Congress: It was a treat to hear Cash perform the songs from her forthcoming album in order, in their entirety, with her band. … [Read more...]

A new music series in Denver

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A great new, monthly classical music series launched this week at Denver’s most prominent jazz club, Dazzle. The series invites comparisons to the classical programming at Le Poisson Rouge in New York. But the Denver series so far has a different vibe to that of the New York venue. It’s more intimate and judging by the repertoire plans for the coming months, looks to be predominantly focused on 20th century music. What was great about the inaugural concert was the high talent of the performers (many of whom play with the Colorado Symphony) … [Read more...]

Who Gets To Decide?

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USA Today is running a poll to decide which airport in the country has the best art. Denver International Airport (DIA) is one of the front-runners, along with Albuquerque, Chicago, Dallas and Miami. USA Today will announce its list of Top 10 Airport Art destinations on Wednesday. I've been exchanging emails with Chris Stevens, the manager of the art and culture program at DIA, about the USA Today contest. DIA is home to some of the country's most polarizing public art pieces including the much-reviled "Mustang" (aka "The Demon Horse", … [Read more...]

Denver: Sports Town or Arts Town?

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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!

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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...]