Colorado - Cultural Destinations

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smithsonian.com

In Colorado, art awaits around virtually every street corner, as evidenced in John Villani’s book, The 100 Best Art Towns in America, which features more Colorado towns than any other state in the nation.

A headline-grabbing addition to Denver Art Museum, which Time magazine dubbed "the most captivating new [building] to appear in the U.S. in a while," has propelled the renowned museum onto the world’s art stage. Designed by celebrated architect Daniel Liebskind, the new 146,000-square-foot wing is a jagged titanium-clad showplace for the museum’s impressive collections of Western and American Indian art. The museum also features the only Asian art collection in the Rocky Mountain region and dozens of other collections and exhibits.

Modern art aficionados are eagerly awaiting the debut of the permanent home of the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver. Set to open in October 2007, the David Adjaye-designed building will provide an innovative forum for contemporary art.

Denver’s Colorado History Museum is the work of the Colorado Historical Society, whose in-depth exhibits include Tribal Paths: Colorado's American Indians, 1500 to Today and Ancient Voices: Stories of Colorado's Distant Past.

Visiting art aficionados will appreciate the Aspen Art Museum, where world-class exhibits of contemporary art make it a must-see. Housed in an historic brick building on the scenic Rio Grande Trail, the museum offers stimulating year-round programming that includes educational workshops, gallery tours by prominent artists and art talks.

In Colorado Springs, the Fine Arts Center features works by renowned artists such as Georgia O’Keefe, John Singer Sargent and John James Audubon. Its brand-new FAC Modern, which opened in April 2006, is entirely devoted to contemporary arts; collections include the work of renowned glass sculptor Dale Chihuly. Nearby, more than four thousand mining artifacts make up the collection of the Western Museum of Mining & Industry.

At the Fort Morgan Museum, the life of Big Bander Glenn Miller is captured through historical photographs, concert movie footage and sheet music. Other exhibits relate to the town’s military past and Native American history.

Visitors can glimpse Colorado’s cultural diversity in a variety of locales. Through its extensive collection of art and artifacts tracing the history of pioneering black cowboys, Denver’s Black American West Museum & Heritage Center opens the door to a little-known dimension of the Old West.

The state’s Latino/Hispanic culture comes to life at the Museo de las Américas located in the heart of Denver’s Santa Fe Art District. Through innovative exhibitions and collections, bilingual programs, educational activities and special events, the Museo educates visitors in the vibrant complexity of Latin American arts.

The annual Longs Peak Scottish/Irish Highland Festival in Estes Park celebrates the area’s deep-rooted Scottish and Irish heritage. The low-key festival brings together locals and visitors who share a passion for pipe bands, as well as Irish step and Scottish highland dancing.

The Meeker Classic Sheepdog Championship Trials bring the centuries-old British tradition of sheep herding to life. Border collies and other breeds gather in September for qualifying trials in preparation for The National Finals. The tradition dates back to Colorado’s early mining days, when herders on horseback and their hard-working dogs moved large numbers of cattle and sheep to the west.

American Indian heritage is the focus of the Council Tree Powwow in Delta. American Indian dancing, singing, arts, crafts and food create an unparalleled showcase for visitors to immerse themselves in the passion and pageantry of this spirited culture. There is also a Northern Colorado Intertribal Powwow in Ft. Collins, which was created in 1992 to provide opportunities for the Northern Colorado communities to share and participate in Native American cultures. Similarly, the Denver March Powwow, which marks its 34th year in 2008, is a showcase for fine American Indian singing and dancing, as well as storytelling, arts and crafts and more.

In Pueblo, the annual Chile & Frijoles Festival in September celebrates the city’s famed chili, the homegrown fire pepper known as Mira Sol. A requisite chili cook-off keeps local cooks at the top of their culinary game.

The state also boasts a number of highly qualified Mexican folklorico dance troupes, such as the Greenley Rodarte Dancers, which express the diversity of Mexico through the costumes and dance steps of 16 distinct cultural regions.

The state’s Asian heritage takes center stage in summer with the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival, which celebrates Denver’s many thriving Asian Pacific American communities. Festivalgoers gather for performing arts, dining, shopping and dragon boat racing that showcase the city’s Japanese, Chinese, Laotian, Vietnamese, Filipino and Indian cultures.

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