Best Of 2003

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Best of Art and Entertainment: Life's Pleasures: Arts & Entertainment 

click to enlarge KATHY CONARRO
  • Kathy Conarro

Best Artist Wed Never Heard of Before This Year Bill Cummins
Before this year's Something New exhibit at the Fine Arts Center, barely a soul had heard of Bill Cummings. This 70-something retired advertising man from New York City moved here 10 years ago and began unleashing the visions that he'd stored up over the course of his 40-year professional career. With apocalyptic bravura, Cummins' prolific output (mostly on paper) ranges from prophetic to brilliantly satirical. His outlook: cynical. His politics: conservative. His artwork: masterful. Let's hope he sticks around. NB

Best Parade Readers Poll Winner Festival of Lights
First Saturday of December, downtown

So ... the rodeo parade has a heap o' horses. The Veterans Day parade boasts patriotic marches and a plethora of military music. Green's the theme of the Saint Pat's parade. The Festival of Lights? It's our only parade at night, and everyone lights up. Lights dance to the beat of the music on marching band instruments. They twinkle and glide atop floats and other colorful entries. Audience members wave glow sticks. Bells jingle, hot cocoa abounds, the snow glistens (sometimes) and no one faints from the heat. It's the coolest. GTS

Best Art Gallery Readers Poll Winner Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center
30 W. Dale St., 634-5581

OK, so the Fine Arts Center isn't really a gallery -- it's an art museum. Wait a minute -- it's not just a museum -- it's a performing arts center as well. And it's not just a performing arts center/museum either -- John Gaw Meem's magnificent building is our city's great architectural masterwork. And it's a school as well -- artists and teachers at the Bemis School of Art have enriched the lives of thousands of students. And let's not forget the FAC's unrivalled collection of the arts and crafts of Hispanic New Mexico. Oh, and there's a wonderful library as well -- and did we mention the best small theater in the state? JH

click to enlarge Bill Cummins, a fresh new face on the Springs art scene. - NOEL BLACK
  • Noel Black
  • Bill Cummins, a fresh new face on the Springs art scene.

Best Museum Readers Poll Winner Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum
215 S. Tejon St., 385-5990

It's good that the readers chose the Pioneers Museum because it's one of our city's great, underrated treasures. Not only is the building (the old courthouse) spectacular, but the museum also has a great historical archive (the Starsmore Center) and always offers fantastic little shows that range in subject from quilts to antique children's toys to great painters of the West. Peep it out if you haven't done so lately. NB

Best Example of Physical Multi-Tasking Capoeira
Brazilian Capoeira LLC, 231-6833

Capoeira, a 400-year-old Brazilian art form created by African slaves, combines the balance, strength, endurance and flexibility of a martial art with the fluidity and rhythm of dance, drumming, acrobatics, singing and clapping. Form a circle, start an hypnotic background rhythm with brisk clapping, djembe, a tambourine and two berimbaus (traditional single-stringed instruments), and wait your turn to leap into the circle with a partner and perform an intricate interplay of kicks, tumbles and dance moves -- what better way to work out your aggression, crank up your heart rate, and expand your repertoire of Brazilian folk music? NH

click to enlarge The Fine Arts Center, Readers Poll winner for Best Art Gallery. - MATT STEVENS
  • Matt Stevens
  • The Fine Arts Center, Readers Poll winner for Best Art Gallery.

Best International Artistic Collaboration The Colorado Springs/Nuevo Casas Grandes Mural Project
The new ceramic tile mural on the entrance to Centennial Hall showcases the power of sisterhood -- sister-cityhood, that is. Early this year, five local artists created a mural in one of Colorado Springs' six sister cities, Nuevo Casas Grandes, Mexico. The Sister City Mural Project came full circle this summer when the Nuevo Casas Grandes contingent (including the city's mayor, Jess Mara Au Dominguez) arrived and transformed the downtown building's faade into a visual testimonial to the creative power of international cooperation. BLS

Best Local Band Readers Poll Winner Johnny and the Jukes
Johnny and the Jukes is the most popular band in all of Colorado Springs! It must be Tim Zahn's wacky hat and the inescapable party sounds created by the accordion. These are the sounds men are made of -- zydeco and funk. Invite them to your wedding or your bar mitzvah. Look for them in a listings section near you! NB

Best Hope for Our Local Music Scene Fusion of Syllables, Idiolectic Conception,

Accumen, Against Tomorrow's Sky, The Great

Redneck Hope, Magic Dave and the New Mules
This might otherwise be called the super-duper, extra-special, very dedicated bands award. From blues to hip-hop, metal and rock, never (in recent memory) have there been so many original groups taking themselves so seriously and having such a good time doing it. Watch the Playing Around listings for these and the many other bands who make the drive to Denver for a music scene more and more irrelevant. NB

click to enlarge One of Larry Hellers masterpieces, housed at The Heller Center, our local arts secret.
  • One of Larry Hellers masterpieces, housed at The Heller Center, our local arts secret.

Best Comeback By an Almost Flat-lined Symphony Orchestra Colorado Springs Philharmonic
January's announcement that the Colorado Springs Symphony Orchestra had declared bankruptcy was devastating, but the newly formed Colorado Springs Philharmonic wasted little time rising from the ashes of the defunct CSSO. The new group held several benefit concerts -- one packed-to-the-gills extravaganza at Grace Church and one featuring the marvelous violinist Rachel Barton. But the most exceptional proof of the musicians' indefatigable dedication was the 24-hour-long benefit performance held in the produce section of a King Soopers grocery store. The best news? The Philharmonic looks like it's here to stay. BLS

Best Theater Stick Guns by Jim Jackson
We're lucky to have Jim Jackson. The director of the Manitou Art Theater and resident clown (literally) has a knack for proper props and physical comedy. Jackson's solo autobiographical piece Stick Guns premiered last fall and remains the best piece of homegrown theater to date.

Told through a series of vignettes, Stick Guns is Jackson's account of growing up in Cañon City in the 1960s. Maintaining a paper route while fending off local bullies, sniping birds with a BB gun, or merely playing with "GI Josephs," innocence is tough to maintain in a town forever on the brink of a breakout.

Keep your powder dry; Stick Guns will return to the MAT in April. JD

Best Rediscovered Local Arts Secret The Heller Center
Who knew an artists' estate, charming as Georgia O'Keeffe's at Abiquiu, rested smack in the middle of Colorado Springs? Though not open to the general public yet, you can arrange to see this picturesque estate that houses the majority of local painter Larry Heller's paintings and prints from the 1930s to the 1980s. Owned and cared for by UCCS, the estate is a local treasure that could help revive the memory of the great Broadmoor Academy era of painting and printmaking that made Colorado Springs one of the great art colonies west of the Mississippi before WWII. For details, contact Perrin Cunningham at 262-3964. NB

click to enlarge Strings attached  Patti Smithsonian and David Simpich. - KENNETH WAJDA
  • Kenneth Wajda
  • Strings attached Patti Smithsonian and David Simpich.

Best Place to Read a Movie

Best Movie Theater Readers Poll Winner Kimball's Twin Peak Theater
115 E. Pikes Peak Ave., 447-1945

Pop quiz: Where can you have a glass of wine and do some reading without your reading glasses? Why, at the movies, of course! Kimball's Twin Peak is the best place in town to settle down in your seat and be whisked away to France, Spain and even Middle Earth (sometimes that pesky Elvish has to be subtitled). And even if the film you're seeing happens to be in English, the art house selection means you can count on stretching your most important muscle -- your brain. BLS

Best Mini-Julliard Colorado Springs Conservatory
1430 N. Hancock Ave., 577-4556

Future stars, take note. Colorado Springs Conservatory Director Linda Weise and her staff continue to wow parents and the community with their tremendous skills at teaching children about music and the performing arts. March's sold-out performance of Giancarlo Menotti's Martin's Lie (an opera performed in collaboration with the Colorado Springs Chamber Orchestra) showed just what children can do with the proper training. With this kind of resource, maybe one day Colorado Springs will be able to identify and nurture the next Mozart instead of losing him or her to the cold, cruel world. BLS

Best New Addition to the Arts Scene TIE, The International Experimental Cinema Exposition
2 N. Cascade Ave., 277-6657, www.experimentalcinema.com

It's strange, mysterious, enigmatic and even incomprehensible. No, not experimental film, but the fact The International Experimental Cinema Exposition, one of the world's few organizations devoted solely to the preservation and screening of experimental film, moved to Colorado Springs. Sure, Director Chris May is from Colorado Springs, but so was Joe Perry from Aerosmith, and you don't see him wandering the streets. Anyhow, TIE does the local culture a favor by virtue of its strange, mysterious, enigmatic and even incomprehensible presence. NB

Best Local Puppeteers Patti Smithsonian and David Simpich
Patti Smithsonian and David Simpich may be some of the only puppet/marionette makers in the Colorado Springs area, but they could hold strings against just about anyone anywhere when it comes to mastering puppets and pulling their strings. Be sure to check out David Simpich's solo show A Christmas Carol and any or all of Patti Smithsonian's rollicking shows where she utilizes everything but the kitchen sink. They're suhweeet. NB

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