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ArtPlace America

Of Rabbits and Hares

Update #2 for ArtPlace America

We never want for things to do at Wonderbound (formerly Ballet Nouveau Colorado), but Junction Box is proving to be an exceptional catalyst for possibility, productivity and connectedness -- which has kept our dance card quite full. Here is a rundown of what we have been up to this past month.

A packed house at Junction Box for The Forum: of Rabbits and Hares. Photo by Michelle Christiance.
A packed house at Junction Box for The Forum: of Rabbits and Hares. Photo by Michelle Christiance.

The Forum: of Rabbits and Hares - On June 19, Wonderbound hosted The Forum -- a platform started by community leader Samuel Pike to share stories from Denver visionaries, entrepreneurs, artists, advocates, and trend setters. That evening, Junction Box was filled with art by Tom Varani and Andrea Pliner, photography by Michelle Christiance, and Bistro Colorado’s food truck (we pulled it right through the front door).

Wonderbound Artistic Director Garrett Ammon and Restauranteur/Author Daniel Landes tell their stories during The Forum. Photo by Michelle Christiance.
Wonderbound Artistic Director Garrett Ammon and Restauranteur/Author Daniel Landes tell their stories during The Forum. Photo by Michelle Christiance.

I had the pleasure of sharing the stage with my friend Daniel Landes - owner of Watercourse Foods and City, O’ City restaurant, and author of Joonie and the Great Harbinger Stampede -- a myth set in the South Platte River Valley (where Denver now stands). We discussed our journeys as artists and leaders, our respective obsessions with lagomorphs (rabbits and hares), our current projects and our enthusiasm for the creative renaissance that is afoot in our community. 115 of our fellow Denverites enjoyed a frosty beverage from Great Divide Brewing Co. and food from the BICO Food Truck while we talked.

Musician Laura Goldhammer plays, Author Daniel Landes reads and Wonderbound Artists Julie King and Corbin Kalinowski dance during The Forum at Junction Box. Photo by Michelle Christiance.
Musician Laura Goldhammer plays, Author Daniel Landes reads and Wonderbound Artists Julie King and Corbin Kalinowski dance during The Forum at Junction Box. Photo by Michelle Christiance.

Interspersed through our musings, Daniel read three excerpts from Joonie while Wonderbound Company Artists improvised with the multitalented musician/artist Laura Goldhammer.

Here is the full collection of photos by Michelle Christiance: Facebook -- The Forum photos .

Wonderbound performing its Hares’ Parliament at RedLine’s opening of The Reality of Fiction for Month of Photography in March. Photo by Kristen Hatgi.
Wonderbound performing its Hares’ Parliament at RedLine’s opening of The Reality of Fiction for Month of Photography in March. Photo by Kristen Hatgi.

Art Vault Fundraiser - Wonderbound supporters Jim, Peter and Marian Taylor generously hosted a fundraiser for our organization on June 26 at Jim’s Art Vault, which is just a couple of miles down the road from Junction Box. Surrounded by a stunning collection of contemporary art, the Wonderbound Hares performed their signature spontaneous performance, which we call a Hares’ Parliament, to two tracks by Denver’s Flobots for a gathering of 80 generous humans. We then had a chance to share a bit about all of our exciting goings on, including Project: Generations -- a program we are developing with our elders who reside in assisted living facilities.

Here is a story about Project: Generations by Jennifer Kelly: The Denver Post -- Wonderbound: Artists give back to the elderly in Colorado.

Wonderbound Artists Colby Foss and Julie King perform Garrett Ammon’s Disintegration at Arvada Center’s DanceFest. Photo by Stan Obert.
Wonderbound Artists Colby Foss and Julie King perform Garrett Ammon’s Disintegration at Arvada Center’s DanceFest. Photo by Stan Obert.

DanceFest - Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities hosted an evening of dance as a part of Summer at the Center on June 27. Wonderbound Company Artists Julie King and Colby Foss joined Hannah Kahn Dance Company, 7dancers, Fiesta Colorado Dance Company and Kim Robards Dance for a night under the stars.

Wonderbound performing in Nick Cave’s Soundsuits at the Denver Art Museum. Photo courtesy of the Denver Art Museum.
Wonderbound performing in Nick Cave’s Soundsuits at the Denver Art Museum. Photo by Christina Jackson.

Nick Cave Performance Lab - On June 28, Wonderbound joined Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, Third Law Dance/Theatre and 15 community dancers for Denver Art Museum’s Untitled #58 (Getup) where the dancers donned Nick Cave’s famous Soundsuits for a workshop performance and conversation with Nick that was live streamed throughout the museum and online.

Here is a story and photos by Brandon Marshall: Denver Westword -- Photos: Nick Cave's Soundsuits take center stage at the Denver Art Museum.

A work by Gonzo and Laura Shill on display at the Redline exhibit Not Exactly: Between Home and Where I Find Myself. Photo by Audrey Potter.
A work by Gonzo and Laura Shill on display at the Redline exhibit Not Exactly: Between Home and Where I Find Myself. Photo by Audrey Potter.

ArtPlace Colorado Team Visit - When Arts @ the Feed & Grain, Oh Heck Yeah and Junction Box were all selected as ArtPlace America projects we couldn’t help but approach the exciting news in true Colorado fashion -- we all worked together to plan a press conference on the steps of Denver’s City and County Building. It was an honor to have both Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock and Loveland Mayor Cecil A. Gutierrez speak as well as ArtPlace’s Lyz Crane. Bonfils-Stanton Foundation generously hosted lunch afterward at Palettes at the Denver Art Museum where we all had a chance to begin getting to know one another. We quickly discovered, to our delight, that we are all irrevocably a part of each other’s lives now.

On June 29, the masterminds from the Feed & Grain (Felicia Harmon, Olivia Lowe and Megan Tracy) came down to Denver and we all met-up at Junction Box. My wife Dawn Fay and I took everyone on a little tour around the neighborhood and spent some time at RedLine (our next-door neighbors and regular collaborators) exploring their provocative exhibit, Not Exactly: Between Home and Where I Find Myself.

We continued on to 16th St and Champa, which will be ground-zero for Brian Corrigan’s crazy-cool project Oh Heck Yeah. He and Pauline Herrera shared their evolving plans for their immersive street arcade before we settled in for lunch at Pizza Republica. We all picked up our conversation right where we had left off a month earlier, brainstorming ways to get involved in each other’s projects… more to come on that front!

Here is television coverage of Colorado’s ArtPlace announcement by Eden Lane: In Focus -- show 535 "The $650,000 Episode" .

Company Artists Marian Faustino and Colby Foss work with Artistic Director Garrett Ammon and Photographer Kristen Hatgi during Wonderbound’s season photo shoot. Photo by Amber Blais.
Wonderbound Artists Marian Faustino and Colby Foss work with Artistic Director Garrett Ammon and Photographer Kristen Hatgi during Wonderbound’s season photo shoot. Photo by Amber Blais.

2013-2014 Season Photo Shoot - July 5 and 7 was filled with creativity as we worked with Denver artist/photographer Kristen Hatgi on images for our coming season. It was thrilling to get to incorporate the beautiful environment of Junction Box into the new season look. (We will share the final images soon!)

Wonderbound Artistic Director Garrett Ammon working with Colorado Conservatory of Dance students at Junction Box. Photo by Julia Wilkinson Manley.
Wonderbound Artistic Director Garrett Ammon working with Colorado Conservatory of Dance students at Junction Box. Photo by Julia Wilkinson Manley.

Colorado Conservatory of Dance Workshop - On July 6, we had the pleasure of hosting 23 students from Colorado Conservatory of Dance (formerly the School of Ballet Nouveau Colorado) at Junction Box for a workshop class. I spent the afternoon creating movement vocabulary with these talented young artists to music from Denver band Chimney Choir’s just-released album “Compass” while many of the student’s parents observed from our comfy couches.

Wonderbound artist Sarah Tallman (second from left) with three of her daring Dance Mixologists. Photo by Amber Blais.
Wonderbound artist Sarah Tallman (second from left) with three of her daring Dance Mixologists. Photo by Amber Blais.

Dance Mixology - On Wednesdays and Saturdays, throughout June and July, Wonderbound Company Artists Sarah Tallman and Damien Patterson have been leading free-wheeling choreographic workshops for adults with casual dance experience or equivalent life experience. What a pleasure it has been to share Wonderbound’s creative process with these daring individuals.

Here is a story by Erica Prather: 303 Magazine -- Dance Mixology at Wonderbound.

Sonny Lawson Ball Field with Downtown Denver in the Background. Photo by Garrett Ammon.
Sonny Lawson Ball Field with Downtown Denver in the Background. Photo by Garrett Ammon.

Sonny Lawson Ball Field - Though the opening has been delayed to allow the new sod to take root, the completed renovations at Sunny Lawson Park are stunning. This historic field, just three blocks southeast of Junction Box, was immortalized in Jack Kerouac’s 1957 novel On the Road.

What a wonderful sight to see Sonny Lawson Field standing proud in the neighborhood again -- it is a testament to what can be achieved when individuals, organizations, businesses and city agencies come together to see a project through.

Here is a story by Patricia Calhoun: Westword -- Sonny Lawson Field reopens Monday.

Recent Wins

Denver poet and Wonderbound collaborator Chris Ransick releases a new collection of poems: Colorado Public Radio -- Language for the Living and the Dead.

Colorado composer and Wonderbound collaborator wins The American Prize: Colorado College -- Ofer Ben-Amots' Composition Receives National Award.

Denver arts and culture advocate names new leader: Denver Post -- Gary Steuer is new president of the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation.

An empty vodka bottle found outside of Junction Box. A common sight and regular reminder of the heartbreaking realities in the neighborhood. Photo by Garrett Ammon.
An empty vodka bottle found outside of Junction Box. A common sight and regular reminder of the heartbreaking realities in the neighborhood. Photo by Garrett Ammon.

Challenges

Though we have a lot of great things going on, it is not all roses in our little corner of the world. As my wife and Associate Artistic Director Dawn Fay and I were headed to The Lobby, one of our favorite neighborhood restaurants, we were stopped by a gentleman who was doing truck deliveries. He asked if we were with the dance group. He told us what a really great thing we were doing, but that we chose a hell of a neighborhood to do it in.

During the conversation we learned that he was born and raised in the area and played football “better than O.J.” (He admitted maybe this wasn’t the best analogy). But he got caught up in crime and drugs and spent some period of time in prison. Now he works loading and unloading trucks, “zigging and zagging” through alleyways across downtown making deliveries to restaurants. He is also an artist and poet. He went on to say “That park is a horrible thing,” gesturing back to Triangle Park (which is directly across the street from Junction Box). “It just grabs on to you and squeezes everything good out. Those poor people can’t escape it. I’ve had to work so hard to get out of 80205 (our ZIP code), and now I’m just trying to do something good with the rest of my life.”

Two days before, a homeless women came past Junction Box while we were in rehearsal. She was hollering up and down the street, to anyone who would listen, that “somebody needs to do something… somebody needs to shut it down!” as she pointed at Triangle Park. When Dawn moved to the open garage doors to check on the situation, the woman asked if she was one of the dance instructors and said “You all need to do something about that park, you need to shut it down!” before continuing down the street.

Her circumstances were clear, she was deeply frustrated about the cycle of addiction that she is trapped in. Triangle Park (which is situated between the service organizations that are there to assist individuals like her) is beckoning her back -- over and over again.

We regularly step out of Junction Box to discover a drug deal going down next to our building… or even a transaction between a pimp, prostitute and john. There is not a lot to do in these circumstances; they would be gone long before the police arrive, and any information we could provide would be circumstantial. Also, we aren’t there to be activists or combatants, we are there to bring beauty and activity. But we don’t turn away or go inside, we stay present. This encourages them to move on, and in the long run will discourage them from using our sidewalk as their place of business.

There are no simple solutions; these issues have plagued this neighborhood for decades. For every perspective on the issue you will find its counterpoint. Every prospective solution has significant reservations that go with it. Politics, bureaucracy, commerce, laws, funding, religion and fear all play a role in the starts and stutters of the community’s efforts on this complex challenge. But one thing is clear, these problems cannot be turned away from or ignored. We must stay vigilant and present, and we must insist that each day can bring a brighter future in our neighborhood.

The convergence of the South Platte River and Cherry Creek at Confluence Park in Downtown Denver. Photo by Kent Kanhouse, Some rights reserved (CC BY-NC 2.0).
The convergence of the South Platte River and Cherry Creek at Confluence Park in Downtown Denver. Photo by Kent Kanhouse, Some rights reserved (CC BY-NC 2.0).

Insight/Provocation

In our discussion during The Forum, Daniel Landes talked about the important role the confluence of Denver’s South Platte River and Cherry Creek has played in shaping the personality of our community, particularly in regard to its collaborative nature. Having lived in Memphis, Tennessee for many years, I knew well that the fertile Mississippi River Delta is considered a catalyst for the rich music traditions of the area.

Does the natural environment of your community help to define its creative life and personality? Could your city/town take more inspiration from its natural surroundings as it works to be a more inclusive and creative community?

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