The ten best moments in Denver arts: 2011

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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Okay, It actually wasn't either of those things -- but 2011 was pretty okay in its own right, and at certain times it was downright awesome. Because we're in the business of thoroughly cataloging things, we've cataloged the definitive best moments in the Denver arts scene this year, from the winter of mild discomfort to the spring of benign optimism to the summer of it being just a little too hot for our taste and back again. Here they are, in chronological order.



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10. Denver destroys its balls
Smash Putt, December 29, 2010 - February 6, 2011

If you want to get all technical about it, Smash Putt actually began at the ass-end of 2010, but the majority of its run took place in 2011 -- and that run was awesome. It's difficult to pinpoint Smash Putt's awesomeness to a most awesome moment; depending on who you are, it might have been when you destroyed your ball in a drill press, or it might have been when a heat-cannon launched that fucker into an industrial fan. Or it might have just been when you honked the horn of the motorcycle on the course and fucked up your buddy's putt. It sounds too weird to be true, but for six glorious weeks, this bizarre, destructive, wickedly fun art-project of a putt-putt course was true in Denver. Smash Putt, you will be missed.

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9. Lolo and Mabel chuck marshmallows at a sex doll
24rd Triannual Intronational Dance Competition, January 26

The 24rd Triannual Intronational Dance Competition was not really so much a "dance competition" as a "weirdness competition" with dancing mostly optional. And there was much weirdness -- some of the most compelling weirdness the year would have to offer, in fact. Highlights included hand-puppets, unicycle-riding and knife-juggling, and marshmallows somehow factored into almost all the proceedings -- more so than dancing, really. But probably their best use was as projectiles, when they were fired, badly, at a sex doll.

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8. Mutton-chop gathering tears hole in the fabric of time
Vine Street Pub Mutton-Chop contest, February 27

In all fairness, the fabric-of-time-hole thing happened only in a metaphorical sense, the night Vine Street Pub brought back one of the most awe-inspiring and lamentedly forgotten of bygone facial-hair traditions: the mutton-chop. Hopes that the contest would single-handedly bring these ostentatious cheek-mittens back into style were largely dashed after the contest ended, but for a couple of glorious hours back in February, these gentlemen were kings.


7. Deepak Sharma Bajagain sets a world record for most grapes eaten in three minutes
Work for Children Food Campaign, March 28, 2011

The previous record, 172 grapes, had been set by Ashrita Furman in June 2010, but this year, Colorado resident and all-around badass Deepak Sharma Bajagain came along and absolutely burned that record to the fucking ground when he put back a whopping 180, each one carried to his mouth via a small plastic spoon, as stipulated in the regulations. It was a proud moment for Colorado -- nay, it was a proud moment for the world. We set it to "Yakety Sax."

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6. Cosplaying weirdos break out of the convention center
StarFest, April 15 - 17

Cosplay, as Thorin Klosowki reflected on his visit to StarFest -- a convention basically devoted to it -- can be divided into two major sub-groups: Those who dress like established sci-fi characters and those who make up their own, based on the parameters of the universe -- Darth Vader versus a generic Storm Trooper, for example -- or even just make up universes of their own. Whatever the case, the universe of the Mariott DTC was not enough to hold in these cosplayers, who frequently insisted on spilling into the streets and annoying the office drones.

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Max Kauffman
Max Kauffman

Yikes.    really?      really?     grapes?     

Bobraglandl
Bobraglandl

I am late to this. But my ten best moments in art in Denver, happens to be the ten months I haven't starved as an artist.

Jdlc_denco
Jdlc_denco

You've got that right Bob.  Too many artists think the "system" owes them something just because they are artists.   The artist is no better than a plumber or an electrician when it comes to what is owed them, nothing.  They have to rely on themselves to make it financially.  It's about personal responsibility

calhounp
calhounp

wow, bob. great response

Jdlc_denco
Jdlc_denco

I’m OK with Otte’s piece because I read it as a myopicperspective and one man’s opinion, freedom of speech and all that.  However his response that the art communityshould entertain him shows how out in left field he really is and his complaintthat he does not know how to make the review of an art show entertainingsuggests to me that he should place the focus of his writing in a different directionother than the arts.  Again, this list isjust one person’s opinion and is certainly not the definitive list compiled byan expert in the subject.  I’m certainthat if someone published a list that contained only ‘traditional’ arts andclaimed it to be ‘the’ list for 2011 all the contemporary artists would be upin arms and vice-versa.  Art and culturego hand in hand and define our society as a whole.  It’s not just the private domain of the visualartist.

Lauri Lynnxe Murphy
Lauri Lynnxe Murphy

That's true.  "Arts" is broad and there are many overlapping circles of culture.  But the spots on those lists are so coveted by arts organizations because they can make an enormous difference in exposure, which equals survival.  So there's a level of responsibility journalists need to take, too, which is something that I believe Westword has consistently been very good about thanks to Patti Calhoun's leadership.  I realize the blog is sort of a different thing, but it still makes me sad.

Jdlc_denco
Jdlc_denco

If you think 'responsible journalists' owe anything to arts organizations and their belief that they are superior in any way and should be given deference when doling out press space then you are sorely misguided.  "the spots on those lists..."  are you kidding me?

Lauri Lynnxe Murphy
Lauri Lynnxe Murphy

Yes, the responsibility of truth in advertising, at the very least: if you say an article is about the arts, then that's what it's focus should be.  The responsibility is to the community one is a part of: by putting forward something about the arts that is mostly not about art, then you pretty much give the impression to people that there's no art to be had so you needed a bunch of filler.  Why should reporting about the arts be any less accurate than reporting about business or politics?

Look, I care because Westword has had such high standards, and has stepped up and been a vital part of the art community for a long, long time.  I'm speaking from love here and being honest because I give a shit.  People in this community work their asses off for very, very little reward -- the least they deserve is a little bit of RESPECT.

Lo-Lo Flamingo
Lo-Lo Flamingo

Sweet, thanks for putting me on the list!  And thanks, Mabel, for your enthusiastic help with the marshmallows.  :)  

I recently undertook another "artistic endeavor" in the form of this Christmas e-card:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...  Please watch, comment, and share with friends...this thing needs to go viral!!

Love,Lo-Lo Flamingo

Lauri Lynnxe Murphy
Lauri Lynnxe Murphy

This list just makes me sad.  Westword's been too good of an arts supporter to be creating a list about the "11 best moments in Denver arts" that is so devoid of...art.  When I think of how many artists and organizations work so hard to create amazing experiences for audiences in Denver, then it makes me want to wretch to think that one of these valued spots on this list was taken up by teenagers having sex at Ikea.  I mean, seriously?  If you want to promote the idea that Denver is some cultureless backwater, then by all means -- celebrate competitive grape-eating.  But I know there's enough talent there to make TEN lists like this every year, so  someone clue this writer in to the wealth of Denver culture before next year's list!  (Or, here's a thought -- just name the list something else and DON'T mislead people that it's about the arts!)

Jef Otte
Jef Otte

Okay, one, that competitive grape-eating thing was like my favorite thing that happened all year. The other thing is, I'm tasked here with writing a list of events and make it entertaining to read; thus, the events themselves must be entertaining to read about. I would have loved to make this list more heavily arts-focused, but the fact is, here's what happens at 99.4 percent of art events: People drink crappy wine and look at art. That is not entertaining to read about. Personally, it's frustrating to me as an arts reporter that the Denver arts scene isn't more concerned with coming up with more novel ways to present art to people -- events where something actually happens. I therefore put the onus on the Denver arts community to put the fucking lampshade on its head and entertain me.

Lauri Lynnxe Murphy
Lauri Lynnxe Murphy

Jeff, if that's what you think, then clearly, this is the wrong job for you. Generations of arts writers have come up with myriad interesting and entertaining things to write, and that's long before Denver was as cool as it is now. It's obvious you either: a. Have no clue about what's actually going on and don't get to that many arts events, or b. Have been spoon-fed so much corporate pablum that you need people to stoop to Carrot Top level stunts for you to feel sufficiently amused. I mean, for Pete's sake, I didn't even live here last year and I could make ten lists of things I wanted to see, from the Denver County Fair's debut to the MCA's letting people take home carrier pigeons.

Blame the arts scene all you want, but a good writer could make the opening of a beer can sound exciting. Of course, if competitive grape-eating is your bar, well, I guess you have a lifetime of disappointment in your future.

Lauri Lynnxe Murphy
Lauri Lynnxe Murphy

Jef, I don't know why I'm not allowed to reply to you below, so I'll reply here.  I absolutely see the humor, and if the column had been titled "10 best moments in Denver pop culture", it would have been completely appropriate, and I'm sure I would have enjoyed your column much more.  If you do your own closer reading, you will see that the two examples I reeled off the top of my head on my phone were "things I wished I could have seen" specifically, not "things that were missing from your column".

As far as "corporate pablum" goes, you couldn't get more grass-roots or home-grown than the County Fair (basically put together by two people with a lot of local help, not a corporation in sight), although you won't catch me defending the art walk, which has long outlived it's day in the sun.  However, I lived here long enough to know extensively how much awesomeness there is here in the arts, and I say again: if you can't see it, then you aren't the right person for the job.  It's that simple.  If you write about what you love, and keep the hate to yourself, then everyone winds up much happier.

Jef Otte
Jef Otte

Laurie, a closer reading of the piece you're critiquing might have revealed that I did, in fact, nod to the Denver County Fair, and while the MCA pigeon thing was indeed interesting (see my extensive coverage of it here http://blogs.westword.com/show..., it didn't lend itself to the kind of "moment" I was trying to get at here. But speaking of corporate pablum, MCA and the DCF aren't exactly wanting for exposure, either.

I will indeed continue to blame the arts scene for pandering to the same old crowd with the same old tricks (another Art Walk, anyone?) and the self-congratulatory hand-job it gives itself for doing those things, because I'm just not that interested in more coverage of that stuff. And Laurie, honestly, if you can't see the hilarity in a video of a guy eating 180 grapes with a small plastic spoon sped up and set to "Yakety Sax," then I fear the lifetime of disappointment is yours. But you're right, it doesn't take much to entertain me.

calhounp
calhounp

or here's another thought: Come up with a 10 Best Moments in Denver ART: 2011 post.

as regular readers know, we define "arts" fairly broadly on Show and Tell, our arts and culture blog -- but we stick closer to a standard definition for "art."

Sosfrojd
Sosfrojd

I agree with you, Lauri. It's fun, but also an unfortunate use  of the word "arts."

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