The subject of one of Liese Chavez's next paintings is a fable. In the story, a girl is cursed to hold a covered platter, and no one can see what's inside: a white snake that regenerates, and that she must consume every day. It's this kind of grim and unusual idea that is the hallmark of Chavez's work, dedicated to fairy-tale or storybook narrative.
Depending on the mood or feel Chavez gets from the idea, she'll execute it in ink, acrylic or oil paint. "Since my paintings tell a story," she says, "different stories sometimes require a different look, a different style, in order to tell a story the way that it should be told. If I don't have the tools, or the voice to do that, then I think it would be to the detriment of the idea."
Chavez, 37, creates her art from home and works 2½ days a week as gallery manager and resident artist at Mountain Living Studio in Manitou Springs. She'll have a show there this month, and shows sporadically elsewhere around town.
In both jewelry-making (which she's long done) and other artistry (which she started in earnest in 2004), she's largely taught herself. She's still studying new techniques and gaining skill and experience; currently, her focus is creating delicate flesh tones in oil paint, an effect she enjoys for the vulnerability it bestows. "I still don't feel like I have a handle totally on the media," she says, "so I just want to keep going with it."
Ultimately, she hopes to expand on what's she's already doing. That means growing into painting large-scale scenes with heavy ornamentation and detail, an endeavor that would take a long time and fetch a higher price. To get there, though, she needs to continue to establish herself and be practical by working smaller, at least for a little while longer.
"I have never been down about the art market; I have always taken an optimistic approach," she says. "The way that things work for you [has] largely to do with how you go at it, and not [being] willing to give up is a good place to start." — EA
With The Broadmoor's sale this month to Philip Anschutz, the AAA Five-Diamond and Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star resort is now at least owned by someone in-state, making it more appropriate to this category than it's been for its past five wins. Regardless, The Broadmoor has been, and is still, the place to get away, for an overnight or just drinks and dinner. It encouraged a lot of community excitement this year, hosting the Women's U.S. Open and celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Golden Bee with parties, scavenger hunts and a caramel-y, classic English ESB created specially in its honor by Bristol Brewing Company. — KA
Old Town GuestHouse may attract guests from as far away as Japan and Australia, but the three-story brick building is very much a part of Old Colorado City. Minnesotans Shirley and Don Wick fell in love with the location, a short walk from the area's restaurants, galleries and boutiques, and bought the B&B in July 2005. "It's been fun," Shirley says. "We do it because we like the people." And where does the happy couple stay when they, themselves, travel? Not in B&Bs, Shirley admits. "When I'm on vacation, I need a break from business, and B&B owners want to pick my brain." — RVP
Breaking Picnic Basket's stranglehold on this category, your favorite local 3G service provider (get it?) continues to expand its programming far beyond catering. Monthly community dinners give back to nonprofits; cooking classes spice up your routine; a "Dinner with our Chef in the Kitchen" series brings you into the fold; a remote tasting room for Two Rivers Winery and a market stock your shelves; and a deli offers delicious dine-in options. But the big news that co-owner Sandy Vanderstoep is excited to share: the opening of The Carter Payne, a historic events center located in an old church at 320 N. Weber St. It's available for booking as of late October, catering to parties up to 300. — MS
The Double Eagle is the place to be in Cripple Creek. While having fun and providing the latest table games and slots are certainly priorities for the casino, they want their visitors to think of themselves as family. In fact, they want you to tell them about yourself when you visit, and get to know their amazing staff. "There are people who come here regularly," says the casino's Leslie Harris. "We know about their lives, their dreams, their families, and if we don't see them for a while, we start to worry." With giveaways, games, rooms and food, a reunion with this member of the family is sure to be memorable. — BW
Really, what could compete with a park "fit for the gods"? Whether it is the giant, rock camels that kiss above us mere mortals, or the trails that weave through the looming, natural formations, or the little nooks and crannies for picnic lunches, the Garden draws locals, out-of-towners and animals of all types. "It acts as a crossroads so plants and animals from various life zones are interacting and living together," says Bret Tennis, programs coordinator for the park. "What's really special is there are so many little special parts about it, that it can really connect to a wide diversity of people." — EC
CorePower, winner for the past five of six years in this category, is a great, diverse studio with a welcoming environment, says Lora Lantz, the regional manager for Colorado Springs. "People were intimidated for a while," Lantz says. "They thought it was just sitting and chanting and being in the lotus position. Now, they are starting to realize that there are so many benefits." Not only are the facilities beautiful and the instructors talented and smart, but there is a consistent experience when entering into the calming building of a CorePower Studio. "People come," Lantz says, "and just don't want to leave."— EC
Say "Phantom Canyon," and thousands of people think of the first-floor restaurant. For others, it's the second-floor pool room, where specials are offered nightly. But apparently, a third group envisions the third-floor banquet facility. "We do 50 to 60 events in just the first three weeks of December," says assistant GM Heather Robinson, who served as banquet director between 2001 and 2008. Parties of up to 200 are welcome (though the cap is 170 for weddings) for either family-style meals or buffets at brunch, lunch and dinner. Food for thought: Phantom plans to roll out new banquet menus by mid-November, but Robinson promises that many favorites will remain. — KW
You want arcade games? Mr. Biggs has Pac-Man, and Mortal Kombat, and Time Crisis. You want go-karts? Let me introduce you to the indoor Nightrider Speedway. I know you love bowling, and guess who has it? Mr. Biggs — exactly. But we're just getting started with this list of joy incarnate: BattleTech simulator pods, mini-golf, bumper cars, pool and the Xtreme Challenge Gladiator Arena. If you have ceiling-swinging needs — or spinning, or climbing needs for that matter — then the latter's got you covered. And if you want anything else ... well, you know who to call. — BC
No big surprise that Kimball's, the theater that serves beer, wine and coffee with its independent flicks, wins this category — it's done so every year but one since 1994. Manager Matthew Stevens says the most popular movies this past year were The King's Speech and Midnight in Paris, but when asked which film was least attended, Stevens shows his protective side: "Next question." He will say, however, that the theater's popcorn "is made with love," and that he's stoked to be receiving The Descendants in December. He predicts the film, starring George Clooney as a Hawaiian dad reconnecting with his kids amid family turmoil, will win the Oscar for Best Picture in 2012. — LJ
Martha Graham Dance Company at the FAC
Anything taking place in the next couple months will have to work hard to beat what we see as the pre-eminent cultural event of 2011: April's performance by the Martha Graham Dance Company at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. Graham herself performed at the grand opening of the FAC 75 years ago, making the company's return a milestone for both institutions (see "Mostly Martha," April 7). The show itself was magical; it included three Lamentation Variations (new choreographers' takes on Graham's famous solo piece) as well as a suite from Appalachian Spring, which Graham executed with composer Aaron Copland. And as if to round out a banner year for dance, one Variation was choreographed by Larry Keigwin, whose dance company performed in Green Mountain Falls this summer. — EA
Art on the Streets(Downtown Colorado Springs, downtown80903.com)
Public art is one big crapshoot. It can come off as too ugly, too pretty, too highfalutin, too pedestrian (sorry). But Art on the Streets has not only grabbed this year's award for Art Exhibition, it's won previous Best Ofs as well. Organized annually by the Downtown Partnership, using private grants, this juried affair adorns downtown streets with new pieces by artists both local and international. Occasionally, you'll find one purchased for permanent installation, helping give Colorado Springs an ongoing collection of artwork for all to see. — EA
Even at 75, the Fine Arts Center can whip the competition. And 44 percent of the vote is pretty much a whipping. Three-quarters of a century after benefactors founded the center, it remains a vital arts resource for the community and the region. "People who've never been here before are surprised at the quality we offer," says Sam Gappmayer, president and CEO. "And every once in a while, we do projects that raise eyebrows." This may not raise eyebrows, but he's excited about plans to combine a production of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men with an exhibit of rare, color Depression-era photos. That's part of Gappmayer's mission to mix art and theater, and to season it all generously with education. — RVP
We're lucky here at the Indy to have the Pioneers Museum right across the street. It's a great building to look at, has lovely grounds to stroll and plenty of nice spots to take lunch. It's even better on the inside. Gorgeously built in 1903, the museum possesses an astounding 60,000-piece collection, ranging from early photos of the Springs, artifacts like rifles, Native American objects, medical equipment and much more. Feel free (literally) to browse an exquisite mural by local artist Eric Bransby, ride the metal cage elevator, and wander through the beautifully restored courtroom upstairs. Many of the exhibits there are interactive, but guests can go a step further, and register for the Museum Experience, a course in which they help design and build an exhibition. — EA
'Pilates is an intelligence workout — a fluid, mind-body connection," says Trish Doyle-Stahl, co-owner of ReVibe. "A low-impact workout with high-impact results." Trish and husband Kenny Stahl, a licensed neuromuscular therapist, moved ReVibe from its West Vermijo Avenue location earlier this month; though their Spectra Drive spot is more spacious, they aim to maintain the personality and warmth patrons have grown accustomed to. ReVibe offers private, semi-private and group Pilates classes with individual exercise plans based on fitness level and the personal goal in mind. What sets ReVibe apart from its competitors? One thing, says Trish, are specially designed workouts for physically challenged clients. "We're helping our clients achieve a better endurance for life," she says, "so that they feel good about themselves." — SC
Mark and Dorrie Wexler share a passion for providing women with a supportive fitness community to help them feel beautiful and confident. Notches in their rhinestone-studded belt include credit for introducing Zumba and clothed pole-dance fitness to the Springs. Additionally, Springs Salsa & Dance Fitness offers "night club" salsa classes, a New York-style fusion of Puerto Rican and Cuban, which Mark says is "hot, hot, hot"; and TRX workouts, a suspended system of exercise using one's own body weight. In the works: Mark and Dorrie will be drastically slashing prices in October to thank new and old patrons for their loyalty. Now that's something to kick your heels up about. — SC
When I was about 7, I "took up" skateboarding. Sensing adventure, I laid my belly on someone else's board, pointed it down the biggest hill I could find, and let loose. The result? A bloody nose, an angry mother, and fewer brain cells to invest in this journalism career. (Who needed 'em?) In other words, I ran headlong into a parked car. Anyway, the kids at Memorial Park, even the 3-year-olds, have much better motor control. Good for them. It probably doesn't hurt that the million-dollar skate park they're playing on was professionally designed by Team Pain, and is competition-sized at 40,000 square-feet. — JAS
Jack Quinn's Running Club(jackquinnsrunners.com)
On June 7, Jack Quinn's Running Club hit record attendance: 1,482 members ran the Tuesday night 5K that begins at the downtown Irish pub, loops north through Monument Valley Park and back south on Cascade Avenue. And though the group took this year's Bar Event award in addition to the Running Club award, club president Jesus Jimenez says, "It's definitely not just a bar event. ... The drinking part's optional." The club's focus is on helping the community get healthy and allowing people to experience downtown Colorado Springs. Actually, their pets, too: Thanks to sponsor Peak Performance Veterinary Group, you can now check in your dog. And when you're shirted for your 10th run, your pup will also be recognized with his very own collapsible water bowl. — KA
It's your basic downtown alley: potholes, trash bins, graffiti ... until you get to the end that's home to the Modbo and its companion gallery, S.P.Q.R.
That's where, most weekends, owners Brett and Lauren Andrus pack so much art and music into the tiny buildings that colors and sounds just have to spill out into the alley.
And you, dear culture-loving readers, love to partake of the smorgasbord they offer. A recent "weeklyish" e-mail blast previewed art shows in each gallery, live music and a theater production, plus an art show Lauren helped curate for Ormao Dance Company — all in the space of about nine days. Brett also curates art exhibits for four other venues around town.
It's worth noting that both Andruses have other jobs: She's a piano accompanist; he's a mortgage loan officer by day, and a painter and painting teacher by night.
Where do they get the energy? It helps that they're still young: Lauren is 29, Brett is 33. But much of it is simply fueled by a love for and belief in the work they do.
"I just really have a passion for art and feel the necessity to encourage people," Brett says. "It's really cool, too, because we're seeing people doing more collecting."
They started Modbo in summer 2009 and S.P.Q.R. in late 2010, and the galleries are already "pretty self-sustaining," he says. They may never get wealthy pursuing this dream, but they're richly rewarded when they see a classical music aficionado standing next to a Mohawked kid at a concert, or when they watch people fall in love with a painting and realize they can afford it.
"We undeniably feel great about what we're doing," Lauren says. "I feel that, whenever one of us feels crappy about how things are going, we'll buoy each other up."
Adds Brett with a laugh: "I think we're both bull-headed enough to make it work." — RVP
Springs denizens usually like a jolt of caffeine when looking for love. Or maybe a big red rock. But for the first time ever in 2011, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo edged out Starbucks and Garden of the Gods in the Blind Date category.
Even though this is the zoo's first win, the wildlife abode is no stranger to romance. Countless weddings have taken place on the grounds, and several marriage proposals have been popped there, too.
Animal care manager Roxanna Breitigan remembers a man whose girlfriend doted on penguins. He worked with the staff to set up a special "backstage" encounter with his love's beloved birds. "He started asking why it wasn't cold in the penguin area," says Breitigan, who notes that the birds are warm-weather African penguins. "He asked me, 'Don't they like ice?' When I said no, he pulled out a ring and said, 'Not even this kind of ice?' And right on cue, all the penguins came to the door to see what was going on."
The giraffes and grizzly bears have also observed (successful) proposals, says public relations manager Katie Borremans. One intrepid wooer, she notes, went down on one knee while on the sky ride, in full view of dozens of critters.
Now, when it comes to first dates, it's easy to see how, say, feeding lettuce to a hungry giraffe can spare you some awkward conversation and help break the ice. But it's worth noting that the zoo's magic often works on love-hungry animals themselves.
Accredited zoos and aquariums use the Species Survival Plan to determine which animals (especially endangered ones) should mate, and Breitigan likens the system to match.com for our furry and feathered friends. The database stores genetic information and characteristics on all the animals and recommends a match.
The "dating service" has successfully introduced many couples at the zoo, most recently a pair of Mexican gray wolves and a couple gorillas. The course of animal love does not always run smoothly, however.
"The beavers had a love spat," Breitigan admits. Luckily, after having "a vacation from each other," their hearts grew fonder. Now they're reunited, and "all is well in beaver land."
Let that be a lesson to us all. — LJ
I'm sore in places I haven't felt in years, and bruised a bit around my ankles. Let's just say it took me a while to get the swing of the very basic Fireman's Spin at my first hour-long pole dancing class at Fit Body & Pole. But I'm also giddy. I haven't had this much fun exercising in years. And pole dancing is just that — a sweat-beads-down-your-back, tired-abs-and-legs kind of workout routine. Taught by either owner Michelle Teehan or one of her four instructors, these all-women classes make you realize just how much strength is involved in vaulting your body around one of the studio's 12 slippery silver posts and shaking and shimmying everything from your head to your toes in moves with names like "booty up" and "sexy squat." — KA
Chain championsCongratulations to these big businesses that locals love:
4 S. Cascade Ave., 955-5600, antlers.com
1892 Southgate Road, 633-2442; 7720 N. Academy Blvd., 244-9532; 3630 Austin Bluffs Pkwy., #190, 262-0024, 24hourfitness.com