Mile High Culture Comes Alive in Denver This Summer with New Exhibitions, Beloved Events and Inspired Performances
This summer, Denver’s vibrant creative community is on display through a multitude of events, blockbuster exhibitions and art walks and series at many of the city’s galleries, cultural attractions and art districts. The lively cultural scene is a not-to-be-missed part of any summer stay in the city, with days full of street art and curated exhibitions turning into evenings of innovative theater experiences, art walks and after-hours events at some of Denver’stop museums.
“Denver is a city dedicated to the arts, and the most prolific arts city in the region” says Richard Scharf, president and CEO of VISIT DENVER, The Convention & Visitors Bureau. “We are home to world-class art museums (among numerous niche museums and cultural centers), incredibly talented local artists and – with everything from our free First Friday Art Walks to public art to renowned traveling exhibitions – plenty of opportunities for everyone to experience and appreciate the inspired cultural scene we have here.”
The Cherry Creek Arts Festival takes place July 2-4 in Denver, CO.
Below are just a few of the exciting things happening in Denver in the coming months; for a full list of events, exhibitions, two-for-one ticket deals, Mile High Culture Passes and hotel deals, go to the VISIT DENVER website.
Blockbuster Events & Exhibitions
Cherry Creek Arts Festival, July 2-4
Cherry Creek North
Cherry Creek Arts Festival is a world-class and award-winning celebration of the visual, culinary and performing arts, and enjoys an attendance of more than 350,000 visitors over three days. The event gives patrons the unique opportunity to meet and talk with international visual artists, sample fine cuisine, visit special exhibits and artist demonstrations and entertain their families with interactive art activities and exciting performing arts.
Underground Music Showcase (UMS), July 28-31
One of the most popular music festivals in Denver, UMS features more than 400 local and national acts at more than 15 venues and stages all around the city. The 2016 lineup features headliners Thee Oh Sees, Allah Lahs and Policia, as well as local bands The Yawpers, The Bright Light Social Hour, Strawberry Runners and more.
Sweet & Lucky, through Aug. 7
RiNo Arts District
Sweet & Lucky, a commissioned work by Brooklyn-based Third Rail Projects and put on by the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, sold out all 48 of its originally scheduled performances and has extended the show through August 7. The show invites guests to enter into a mysterious antique store and plunge into a labyrinth of dreamlike encounters, following performers through intricately designed environments, into intimate engagements and a series of seductive and haunting flashbacks. It is a 360-degree, multi-sensory experience, including cocktails custom designed by Williams & Graham’s nationally recognized mixologist Sean Kenyon.
Women of Abstract Expressionism, through Sept. 25
Denver Art Museum
The Denver Art Museum has curated a collection of paintings by largely unknown women working on the East and West coasts during the 1940s and ’50s, expressing their lives in abstract form. This groundbreaking, Denver-curated exhibition is the first of its kind, and it premiered at the Denver Art Museum in mid-June. On view now are more than 50 major paintings by artists including: Mary Abbott, Jay DeFeo, Perle Fine, Helen Frankenthaler, Sonia Gechtoff, Judith Godwin, Grace Hartigan, Elaine de Kooning, Lee Krasner, Joan Mitchell, Deborah Remington, and Ethel Schwabacher. This will be the first presentation of works by these artists together at one time.
Dance!, through Sept. 4
Denver Art Museum
The Denver Art Museum will showcase Dance! – a campus-wide celebration of creative expression through movement-featuring dance-focused exhibitions, programming and local artist collaborations, as well as interactive installations, to create an immersive and whimsical experience that explores how artists express and are inspired by movement through different mediums and techniques. There are also several exhibitions in connection with Dance!: Why We Dance, presenting the motives behind Native American dance; Rhythm and Roots, showing how artists, dancers and choreographers helped from the American artistic identity of dance; and Performance on Paper, featuring graphic works of acclaimed designers announcing dance performances.
Stories in Sculpture: Selections from the Walker Art Center Collection, Apr. 29 – Oct. 2
Denver Botanic Gardens
Organized by the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Stories in Sculpture: Selections from the Walker Art Center Collectionfeatures works from the institution’s renowned permanent collection. Thirteen seminal modern and contemporary sculptures will make an unprecedented move to Denver while the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden undergoes the first major reconstruction project since its opening in 1988. Artists in the exhibition include Henry Moore, Louise Nevelson, Isamu Noguchi, George Segal,Saul Baizerman, Deborah Butterfield, Barry Flanagan and Judith Shea.
Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre 75th Anniversary & Summer Concert Series
Recently named to the National Historic Register and celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2016, Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre is a world-famous outdoor concert and recreation venue located approximately 30 minutes from Denver. The only naturally-occurring, acoustically perfect amphitheater in the world, Red Rocks is recognized for its star-studded concert roster, natural acoustics and ambience, as well as its awe-inspiring hiking and biking trails. Headliners for 2016 include Thievery Corporation, Bob Dylan, My Morning Jacket, Avett Brothers, DeVotchKa with The Colorado Symphony and many more. The park and amphitheater are open daily; Summer Concert Series and event schedules can be found online.
Music and Theater
Riot Fest, Sep. 2-4
National Western Complex
Riot Fest is a multi-day metal, rock, punk, hip-hop and alternative music festival that started in Chicago in 2005. It has since been such a success that it expanded to have stops in both Denver (no Toronto this year). This independent music festival is full of the best of the best in each genre, from well-known artists to new artists and everything in between; headliners include Death Cab for Cutie, Ween, Jane’s Addiction, Nas and more. The festival also features food, carnival rides and more entertainment.
Westword Music Showcase, June 25
Golden Triangle Museum District
The Westword Music Showcase is the largest festival celebrating the local Denver music scene. The 22nd annual festival will be bigger and better than ever, with national headliners including DJ and moombahton/electro producer Dillon Francis, amped-up indie-pop duo Matt and Kim, L.A. noise band HEALTH, Black Pistol Fire and Chef’Special; soulful indie-rock band Cold War Kids, Danish rockers New Politics, indie electro-punks Brick + Mortar, Grizfolk and Hometown for the Holidays winner 888; and 100 of the best bands and artists from metro Denver performing at a dozen venues in the Golden Triangle.
Central City Opera Summer Music Festival, Jul. 9-Aug. 7
Central City Opera House
Central City Opera is the nation’s fifth-oldest opera company, located just 35 miles west of Denver in one of Colorado’s official National Landmark Historic Districts. The company continues to present excellent professional opera in its annual summer festival where visitors can escape to the intimate Central City Opera House for Colorado’s quintessential love story, The Ballad ofBaby Doe, celebrating its 60th Anniversary, followed by Puccini’s powerful thriller, Tosca. Also, for the second year, Central CityOpera will present two one-act operas with performances in Colorado Springs, Denver, Boulder and Central City –Mozart’s comedy about a pair of squabbling divas in The Impresario; and artist Edward Hopper’s work as five of his paintings come to life in Later the Same Evening.
SeriesFest 2016, June 22-26
Sie FilmCenter and Red Rocks Amphitheatre
SeriesFest is an international celebration dedicated to showcasing the best new pilots from established and emerging content creators, and it takes place in the birthplace of cable television. As trailblazers in independent content development, the annual event aims to create a global marketplace for episodic storytelling by bringing together industry luminaries, emerging artists, and passionate audiences to advance compelling and creative content as well as celebrate television history and engage in meaningful dialogue. This year, SIA will perform on the Red Rocks stage for opening night; and pilot premieres include Supreme Tweeter, created by and starring Game of Thrones actor Harry Lloyd and featuring Maisie Williams and George R.R. Martin, also of Game of Thrones fame; “Dropping the Soap,” starring comedienne Jane Lynch; and “Hart of America,” starring Amber Nash, best known for her work on Archer.
Colorado Black Arts Festival, July 8-10
The 30th annual Colorado Black Arts Festival will showcase the rich and creative talents of local, regional, and national African Americans in art and culture. The three-day, family-friendly event will feature three performing stages filled with dance, jazz, blues, soul, reggae, gospel, traditional African drum and dance. Festival highlights include visual artists, Watu Sakoni Marketplace, Art Garden, Children’s Pavilion, Health Highway, Food Court and Friday’s YouthFest. The Saturday morning Boogaloo Celebration Parade, a colorful and exciting street celebration, is a crowd favorite.
Colorado Dragon Boat Festival, July 30-31
Sloan’s Lake Park
The Colorado Dragon Boat Festival is a free, family-friendly festival highlighting Colorado’s rich Asian Pacific American heritage. A window to the Pan Asian world, this diverse festival is the only one of its kind in the United States. It showcases an array of traditional and contemporary performing arts, cultural customs, cuisine and a marketplace of unique and hard-to-find arts, crafts and vendors, in addition to two days of action-packed dragon boat racing.
40th Annual Colorado Renaissance Festival, through Aug. 7
Flash back to the 16th Century and journey through a medieval city. Visitors will enjoy full-armor jousting, turkey legs and mead, music and a marketplace featuring more than 200 artisans in authentic costume working throughout the village and performing continuously on the festival’s seven stages.
First Fridays in Denver’s Art Districts
Denver has several exciting neighborhoods and arts districts, each with its own lively personality and attractions to discover – from the Golden Triangle Museum District featuring world-class museums to the up-and-coming RiNo (River North Art District), which is home to bold, colorful street art and chef-driven restaurants. Denver’s vibrant creative communities stay open to the public on the first Friday of every month in The Mile High City’s art districts, including Art District on Santa Fe and the Tennyson Street Cultural District. Galleries stay open late as art lovers enjoy live music, food and drink — and, of course, plenty of great art.
Free First Saturdays and After Hours at Denver’s Museums
Denver’s museums truly have something to appeal to everyone’s tastes. For families and daytime visitors, many of the museums feature free days, and the Denver Art Museum offers free admission to kids under eighteen every day and to all patrons on every first Saturday of the month.
Many of the museums and cultural attractions also have exciting after hours events – from Evenings al Fresco at Denver Botanic Gardens to Lawn Concerts at the Clyfford Still Museum to Untitled Final Fridays at the Denver Art Museum, Denver’s arts scene brings a whole new meaning to nightlife.