Monthly Archives: October 2013

“Just Like Us” – Compelling Story on Stage


Helen Thorpe and DCPA John Moore at the Tattered Cover Bookstore, Lodo, September 2013.

 I had the good fortune of being at the Tattered Cover bookstore in September for The John Moore Theater Talk. He had invited Helen Thorpe, author of the book,  Just Like Us, and Karen Zacarias who turned the book into the play, Just Like Us, that is playing at the Stage Theatre at the DCPA as I write.

Thorpe is an accomplished writer (and still the wife of Governor John Hickenlooper). Her endearing journalistic journey took her down a long and interesting road. She spent years documenting the lives of four Denver Latina women who were best friends. She befriended them while they were in high school and continued knowing and observing them through the college years. That in itself was an amazing journalistic feat.

What grips the audience and gringos in the audience is the fact that there is a social status among people of Mexican heritage who live in America. The dividing line is who is legal and who is not. I may have known that, but in this context, no.

Of the four women chronicled, two had papers, two did not. Just Like Us is the story of how that particular status impacts a life, a future, education, career and ultimately the well-being of the off-spring.

Regardless of one’s stand on immigration, this is a story that should be told and heard.  It is real. It is beyond many American’s radar or understanding. And while it publicizes the dire state of living as an illegal in the United States, it is also heartbreaking to know that children are the true victims of the immigration system. The story is an eye-opener about the perils of life without papers.

Just Like Us is potent entertainment. The four women are excellent actors who portray the Denver characters with youthful enthusiasm and skill.  Karen Zacarias did a marvelous job of bringing the book to the stage. Mary Bacon, was Helen Thorpe. She portrayed her with the class and kindness that is emblematic of the First Lady of Colorado.

Helen Thorpe has brought to life a remarkable story that is both  powerful and important. It is this season’s must see.

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Hickenlooper @ Pop-Up Gallery



Works by other gallery artists will also be on exhibit in the space:
Mark Sink, Kristen Hatgi-Sink, Richard Peterson, Jeffrey Keith, Mark Amerika, Evan Anderman, Julia Fernandez-Pol, Paolo Cirio
October First Friday, October 4, 2013
Few cities promote and support an art community like our curious, creative and fascinating FOD (Friends of Denver) do. One outstanding appeal is our vibrant First Fridays, known to art lovers as the best night-out of the month.
Giving Denver’s, let’s see, four? distinct art districts, it goes without saying it’s never boring.  You’ve got the regulars who never miss a FF, and the new generation of art lovers who love the rowdy social gathering especially along Santa Fe.
My October FF started across the street from the MCA with an opening at the Carmen Wiedenhoeft Gallery which was a huge 8,000 sq. ft. slick, concrete and glass area.  Everyone was commenting on how great the Pop-Up gallery trend is because it’s an economic and temporary way to spice up your art career without being locked into a long, expensive lease.  I think this is how it works. Gallery owners/artists rent space in an empty, new building; finagle a short-term lease, set up an art show, sell art, hire a PR person, then at the end of 1-3 months, take down the portable walls and art, then, move on to another affordable hot spot, with another new, hopefully hot, artist. It’s brilliant.
The featured artist at the Carmen Wiedenhoeft Gallery was Tania Dibbs, an Aspen artist who lives and works there. No one was particularly familiar with her work. She either has a  great PR person or, she knows a lot of people in Denver who know a lot of people. Two big names showed who typically do not attend FF gallery openings. Seen were Adam Lerner, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, and Governor John Hickenlooper, who was on crutches after hip surgery.

Dibbs’ work is contemporary painted on mostly large canvases. Her technique expressed a controlled, modern and calculated approach that didn’t reveal much about the artist. Her palette was conservative. I got the feeling she had little interest in experimenting with color.  Unlike a large pastel block canvas of say, Richard Diebenkorn, with an eye catching contrasting color added for interest, Dibbs took the ethereal approach.  Hers were large semi-muted expressionistic images in pale yellow, gray, green. Dibbs veered into a few encaustic works using the same muted color scheme with dainty Pollock-esque managed drips.IMG_4108 IMG_4109 IMG_4104

Artist Tania Dibbs, Governor John Hickenlooper, Lauren Dibbs


Mark Amerika, also showing at the Carmen Wiedenhoeft Gallery

Tagging on South Pearl = Session Kitchen

Hang on to your boots Denver, there is a new restaurant about to open at 1518 South Pearl Street in the former Izakaya Den.

From the concept director for the Breckenridge|Wynkoop brewery, Lisa Ruskaup spent days and nights conjuring  the perfect globally inspired restaurant. She had one recurring phrase from which she worked, from beer lingo “sessioning beer” meaning to share more than one beer.    With that, Ruskaup ran with her envisioned synthesis of eastern and western energy, art, culture, music, food, and spirits into one meeting place. The brain storm and conceptual reality is called Session Kitchen.

When I went to visit Session Kitchen I was confused. I thought it was a gallery or maybe a restaurant since the word kitchen was part of the name. On arrival the enormous space was bustling with activity. Workmen, architects, carpenters, electricians. They were in the midst of morphing this space, literally. I discovered it is a restaurant in a gallery.

Lisa did her homework.  She knew the synergy she was looking for – create an international space where people would gather after a day well lived, surrounded by the calm of eastern culture and the hip side of western life. Instinctively, art would be the reasoning. She was an art lover with little or no idea where to find the tangible imaginary art she envisioned. On her nightly web search she discovered Pinterest. That’s when the fun began. Going through page after page of artist’s pins was an awakening. Here was a plethora of new, edgy, street artists from all over the world whose work spoke to her concept for Session. Not only did she find the art she had in mind but she made use of one of today’s most addictive and curious social media outlets. So yes, artists out there, start pinning your work.

Scheduled to open to the public October 25, 2013, this is an interesting destination for enjoying art and food. Chef Scott Parker from Table 6 is taking charge of the Session Kitchen, and the art is international and edgy with a street art theme of vivid, bright flat red, black, blue, white, a la tagging.


Christina Angelina, Fin Dac


Nigel Penhale


Ben Eine


Jen Lewin


Lisa Ruskaup

The artists came to work.  Ben Eine, an internationally known street tagger, famous for ‘Alphabet Street in London arrived in Denver. Other guests arrived including tattoo inspired artists Fin Dac (London) and Christina Angelina (Venice, CA). The floor to ceiling, two sided curved wall they painted – his side blue, hers red – juxtaposed into stark symbols of street art.  Other artists invited were Mear One, Los Angeles. Check out the south side of the building for his brightly painted fusion of eastern ideas with graffiti-style fine art.  The list is long – Abner Recinos Meija, Guatemala, Chris Sessions, Boulder, Andy Gregg, Michigan, Emi Brady, Denver, Jen Lewin, Boulder, as well as architect Steve Perce from the Bldg. Collective, Boulder, who incorporated the essence of Lisa’s Session Kitchen with elements of movement, music, light, art, sound and repurposed materials that are seamlessly tied together.

Stay tuned. Session Kitchen. It’s going to be fun.

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