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Best of Art and Entertainment 

Life's Pleasures

Best New Energy Downtown

32 Bleu
32 S. Tejon St., 955-5664

Though it is by no means the first venue to bring the much-revitalized nightlife to downtown Colorado Springs, the new 32 Bleu is upping the ante as a viable midsize venue for national music acts while remaining committed to the local music scene. Spearheaded by Jason and Jamie Spears, this venue may well crack open a plethora of opportunities for our long-struggling music community. --nb

Best Uncensored Entertainment

Local poetry open mikes
Every second Wednesday at Utopia Caf
Every third Tuesday at Jack Quinn's
Every fourth Wednesday at Acoustic Coffee Lounge
All start at 8 p.m.

There's no filter here. No beeps. No line-item vetos. No f***ing asterisks. Just real men and women with real opinions, putting their fears on the line and cutting to the chase. Not every word is a priceless gem, but at least you know they haven't been massaged to the point of being palatable to everyone and their dog (a la the usual fare from your average stumping politico). In fact, plan on being offended here and there -- or at least startled by an unfamiliar belief or two. Because that's what America is all about. This is still America, isn't it? -- tp

Best Theater Production
Readers' Poll Winner

TheatreWorks' King Lear

TheatreWorks has done it again. For launch of their 20022003 season (and their annual summer Shakespeare Festival under UCCS' big blue tent), they set their sights on one of the Bard's most challenging works -- and hit a bulls-eye. Murray Ross directed a superb cast in their seamless three-hour production. Bob Pinney was a fantastic Lear, the role perfectly showcasing his range, intelligent body and unpredictable sense of timing. Melvin Grier could do no wrong as the Fool, Mark Hennessy was a wonderfully nasty villain and ... on and on. The production may have wrapped up in July, but as our readers will attest, it's not escaped our memory. --tp

Best New Art Space

Phototroph Gallery & Studio
218 W. Colorado Ave., Suite 111 (under the bridge), 442-6995

Small, tidy and well managed, Elaine Bean has brought a truly professional photography gallery that regularly features the plethora of local masters as well as nationally known shutter-nutters. A welcome addition to the arts community. --nb

Best Place(s) to Discover Local Hip-Hop and DJ Talent

The Underground
110 N. Nevada Ave., 633-0590
Mole 33 Records
318 E. Colorado Ave., 667-1158

The Springs is home to some incredible underground DJs and hip-hop talent, though the venues and shops supporting this talent are few. Don't be surprised if you see Accumen, F.O.S., Idiolectic Conception, The Procussions or all the crews at Dark Warrior Productions blowing up on a national level soon. The Underground -- a venue that always changes but has remained committed to new music for years -- is one of the few places that regularly host hip-hop shows and DJs. To find their records, and to find out where all the DJs in town get their gear, go see Joel Aigner at Mole Records. --nb

Best Jazz Showcase

Pikes Peak Jazz & Swing Society's
Second Sunday Jazz Affair

Original Castaway's, 107 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs

Imagine you've been transported to the ballroom of a cruise ship. You're surrounded by women with perfectly coifed hair and debonair men who know how to lead -- all without an apparent care in the world. But wait! -- the music isn't canned schlock from a band that's suffering from seasickness and claustrophobia. Instead it's one of Colorado Springs' jazz staples, led by the likes of Frank Fanelli, Al Eberhardt, Louis Mock, Tom O'Boyle and many more. You've stumbled upon the Second Sunday Jazz Affair held -- surprise -- on the second Sunday of every month (from 2 to 5 p.m.) in the red vinyl lounge of the Original Castaway's in Manitou Springs. It started as an open jazz jam session for profession musicians in 1985, but over the years has morphed into a showcase for area jazz bands (though they still invite professional musicians to jam twice a year -- in May and November). After an afternoon of toe-tapping tunes and a few spins on the dance floor, you'll be without a care in the world, too. -- tp

Best Venue for the Texas Two-Step

3910 Palmer Park Blvd., 596-1212

Swing came and went. Salsa's now experiencing a feverish (but faddish?) popularity. My guess for the next big dance trend? Well, with Laura and George in the White House, my money's on the Texas Two-Step, and there's no better place to get a jump on the craze than Cowboys. Their expansive parquet dance floor (we're talking more than 1,000 square feet here, people!) holds a central position in their more-than-spacious carousing quarters. And just to make sure you're not two-stepping on your partner's toes, lessons are offered twice a month, on Sundays from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. (waltz, WC swing and the cha-cha offered on the alternating weeks.) Loosen up by boogie-ing down with some line dancing from 5 to 6 p.m. --tp

Best Place to Meet Aging Outlaw Bikers

Southside Johnny's
528 S. Tejon St., 444-8487

If you wander over to Southside Johnny's on a sunny Friday afternoon, chances are that you'll see a dozen gleaming Harleys parked just south of this more-than-slightly-cool watering hole. You'll also see a bunch of burly guys and shapely babes in their leathers, enjoying the afternoon. Twenty-five years ago, it might have been best to keep your distance, but things have changed. Instead of strung-out 20-somethings with hair-trigger tempers, you've got a bunch of mellow, reasonably prosperous middle-aged folks who like to talk about their grandkids. Just one thing -- keep your hands off the Harleys ... --jh

Best Open-Air Gallery

The Train Tracks
Between Cimarron Street and Colorado Avenue

Not only are the trains beautiful, but where else can you see different works from incredible graffiti artists all over the country every day? Take a picnic lunch and watch the show roll by. --nb

Best Classical Music Group
Readers' Poll Winner

Colorado Springs Symphony
619 N. Cascade Ave., 633-6698

Last year, the Colorado Springs Symphony did the unthinkable. On Sept. 11, while an entire nation wept tears of sorrow, the symphony, along with cellist Yo-Yo Ma, took the stage at the Pikes Peak Center and shook it with fiery intensity. As politicians encouraged us to return to normal lives, the symphony led by example -- performing brilliantly only hours after the attacks had occurred. In their unwavering commitment to both the Pikes Peak region and the spirit of musical artistry, the Colorado Springs Symphony truly deserves their standing as a local treasure. --jk

Best International Film Festival

Lavender Film Festival, or call 38-movie June-September

This year, the Pikes Peak region's gay and lesbian film festival, the Lavender Film Festival, offered films from China, Slovakia, Great Britain and practically everywhere in between. The choices were complex, lush, exotic and cutting edge -- pretty impressive for a festival barely three years old, set in a town that was once known as ground zero for homophobes and anti-gay fanatics. Festival director Alma Cremonesi deserves a bundle of red roses delivered to her door for every remarkable gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and transsexual-themed film she's brought to Colorado Springs. --kce

Best New Band
Readers' Poll Winner

Fusion of Syllables (F.O.S.)

Can't wait 'til F.O.S. gets signed and Black Pegasus, Tommy Wreck, MC Strife and DJ Andirexit get to come back to C. Springs and spit at the doorstep of local radio stations who are either too lazy or too stupid to give them (and many other great local bands and crews) air time. No, these "rhymes from Colorado aren't what you expect." Exactly. The people have spoken, and F.O.S. more than deserves the Best New Band title. --nb

Best Museum
Readers' Poll Winner

Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum
215 S. Tejon St., 385-5990

The Pioneers Museum is endlessly interesting, even if you care not one iota about pioneers. Start with the building itself -- a marvelous Victorian structure, once the county courthouse, a memorial to a time when folks thought that government buildings ought to look like, say, the Basilica of St. Peter's, only better. And then look at the collections -- early Colorado art, Van Briggle Pottery (thanks to the late Lois Crouch, the world's finest), not to mention quilts, firearms, and all kinds of historical oddities. If you've got kids, take 'em for a ride in the 1908 Otis elevator; if you don't, have a seat in the restored second-floor courtroom, which you may remember from your own childhood -- a couple of Perry Mason episodes were filmed there. --jh

Best Art Gallery
Readers' Poll Winner

Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center
30 W. Dale St., 634-5581

OK, so the Fine Arts Center is the best art gallery in town. Well, that may not be a fair competition, since it's the only art museum in town. The FAC is home to extraordinary Navajo textiles, world-class collections from Hispanic New Mexico, a fine assemblage of regional artists, and at least two masterpieces: John Singer Sargent's "Portrait of Elsie Palmer" and Walt Kuhn's "Three Clowns." Not to mention the building itself, John Gaw Meem's brilliantly realized masterpiece, arguably the finest structure of any kind in Colorado. Put up the FAC against other small-city art museums in the plains states and the Rocky Mountain West -- only the Amon Carter in Fort Worth and the Joslyn in Omaha are in the same class. --jh


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