Sensory explosion 

Find something for everyone at Art Wars II

click to enlarge Watercolor landscape of Pikes Peak  prepare to - meet - your maker.
  • Watercolor landscape of Pikes Peak prepare to meet your maker.

Let's classify people according to energy levels, starting with the lowest: dead. Then, in ascending order, couch potatoes, low energy, normal, and high energy. After high energy? Some people have a fifth gear -- think Holly Hunter in Broadcast News or Jim Carrey on speed -- that allows them to do as much as two or three normal people.

That's Gwin Coleman, the woman who single-handedly created and runs Art Wars, a semiannual event that will take place Saturday evening at the City Auditorium.

Flyers describe Art Wars as "another unique art happening ... a night of fun-filled entertainment to raise money for the [nonprofit] Peak Ballet Theatre of Colorado."

It sounds tame, but be warned: it's not.

Coleman has assembled scores of performers, artists and musicians. There'll be poetry readings (tame enough so far); music (Eyes Caught Fire, Andy Clifton and a bunch of others); Chinese Sword Dancing; fire spinning by the Colorado Fire Tribe (don't try this at home, kids!); an art show; a 16-by-8-foot outside graffiti wall, to be painted the night of the show; flamenco dancing; Capoeira ... basically, sensory overload.

But even that's not enough for Coleman. The centerpiece of Art Wars is the creation -- and possible destruction -- of 15 artworks on the stage of the City Auditorium. Fifteen artists will each create a piece the evening of the event, and at 9:30 they'll all be auctioned off, with the proceeds going to charity. If a particular piece doesn't draw a bid, then it goes to the Wheel of Death, which, with a spin, determines just how it'll be destroyed: by chainsaw, ax or sledgehammer. The sentence is immediately carried out by a masked and hooded executioner.

Coleman takes credit for inventing this perverse spectacle.

"It's not that we want to destroy any art; we just want to raise money and have fun. But it's like NASCAR -- you don't go to the races to see a crash, but there's nothing like a big pileup where nobody gets hurt." Nobody gets hurt here, except possibly an artist's ego.

Coleman's cell phone buzzes constantly, as she deals with artists, with performers, with the plodding city departments who can't quite figure out what a fire spinner is, with insurance companies, all during the first 15 minutes of our interview.

Expect to be highly entertained at Art Wars. Expect to see lots of people. Expect to have a lot of fun. Bring the kids. And bring a few bucks -- remember, only you can save that beautiful painting from the Wheel of Death.

The festivities start at 5 p.m., with an artists' reception followed by dance and poetry from 7:30 to 9:30. The art auction begins at 9:30, and stay to enjoy music from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m.

-- John Hazlehurst


Art Wars II

The City Auditorium, 221 E. Kiowa St.

Saturday, April 2, 5 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Admission: $10 (under 10 free); all ages welcome


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