Art and nature at high altitude

In and near Denver lies plenty of beauty, both natural and human-created

Jeffrey Bouley
DENVER—Maybe being roughly a mile above sea level—well,between 5,130 feet and 5,680 feet up depending on where you are in thecity—just isn't enough for you. Maybe you want to enjoy art and nature in aplace that looks down on Denver. Literally.
 
If so, Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater might be just theticket. Located near Morrison, Colo., just 15 miles west of Denver, the868-acre park is anywhere from about 6,200 to 6,450 feet above sea level,depending on where you are. Red Rocks Park is a transitional zone where theGreat Plains meet the Rocky Mountains, and this unique environment allowsvisitors to see plants, birds and animals of both regions. More than that, theRed Rocks Amphitheatre is said to be the only naturally occurring, acousticallyperfect amphitheatre in the world, and it has hosted artists from Sting and theBeatles to opera stars and U2.
 
 
At press time, there were no events scheduled at theamphitheater, but you can still visit for the scenic vistas and hiking, amongother activities. You can enjoy trails both for walking and biking, as well aspicturesque picnic spots and a visitor center that includes the Ship RockGrille, the venue's on-site restaurant open for lunch and weekend brunch. TheTrading Post Trail is 1.4 miles in length, and goes through spectacular rockformations, valleys and a natural meadow. Some of the terrain is rough, sohiking boots or shoes are recommended, and hikers should be prepared foradverse weather conditions, as the weather can change very quickly. The trailis narrow, though, with some drop-offs, steep grades and road crossings atvarious points. Rock climbing is prohibited. The Red Rocks Trail, on the otherhand, is a multi-use trail for hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking.The trail splits with one segment going north to connect to Jefferson County'sMatthews-Winters park and the other segment goes east to connect to the DakotaRidge Trail.
 
The Red Rocks website lists various stops as "areaattractions," among them the Bandimere Speedway in Morrison, for motorsportsentertainment from funny cars to jet-powered dragsters; the Buffalo BillMemorial Museum in Golden, Colo., which is home to the grave of William F."Buffalo Bill" Cody; the Coors Brewery in Golden, which offers a 30-minuteself-paced tour followed by sampling of its products for those 21 or older;Dinosaur Ridge in Morrison, with its Trek Through Time exhibits and simulateddinosaur dig; the Lariat Loop Scenic Byway, a 40-mile route in the foothills westof Denver; and The Fort in Morrison, which is a replica of Bent's Old Fort, an1830s fur trade post in Southern Colorado and a restaurant featuring fine beef,buffalo, game and seafood.
 
 
However, not all of you will be willing or able to trek outof the city, so here are three other options for enjoying nature and art closerto the convention center.
 
 
Denver Art Museum
 
 
The museum goes back a ways—all the way to 1893—and sincethen has gathered more than 68,000 works of art, counting itself "one of thelargest and most comprehensive collections of world art between Chicago and theWest Coast." The museum is known in particular for its Native American art andan extensive group of pre-Columbian and Spanish Colonial art objects. Themuseum is also home to various European and American paintings and sculptures,Asian, African, Oceanic, Western American and textile art and more.
 
 
In 1971, the museum opened the 24-sided, two-tower NorthBuilding, and in 2006 its Frederic C. Hamilton Building, situated directlysouth of the North Building—which added 146,000 square feet and nearly doubledthe size of the museum.
 
 
Current exhibitions that will still be running during all orpart of the ASCB meeting include "Western Horizons: Landscapes from theContemporary Realism Collection," which runs through Dec. 4; "Robert Adams—ThePlace We Live: A Retrospective Selection of Photographs," which runs throughJan. 1; "Dirty Pictures," which runs through Jan. 8; "American Indian Art,"which runs through April 29; "Blue & White: A Ceramic Journey," which runsthrough May 27, and "Texture & Tradition: Japanese Woven Bamboo," whichruns through July 29.
 
 
Denver Museum ofNature & Science
 
 
The big draw right now at this venue is "T. Rex Encounter:You vs. Sue," and it won't be ending until after Jan. 8, so you still have timeto, as the museum puts it, "Come face-to-face with a prehistoric icon in thisimmersive bilingual (English/Spanish) exhibition. Through advanced robotics andcutting-edge face recognition technology, T. Rex—along with raptor dinosaursand Triceratops—will react to your every move, sizing you up as friend, foe ortheir next meal."
Along with that is the DinoMAX 3D double feature in thePhipps IMAX Theater, which includes "Dinosaurs Alive!" and "Waking the T. Rex:The Story of Sue."
 
 
Other current exhibitions include "A Strange Beauty," aphotography exhibit that includes 62 large-scale works inspired by the DenverMuseum of Nature & Science's education, zoology and earth sciencescollections; "Egyptian Mummies," which features two mummies that teach modernscientists how the ancient civilization of Egypt regarded its living andpreserved its dead; "Expedition Health," which teaches how your human body isconstantly changing and adapting in ways you can see, measure and optimizethrough the choices you make; "Gems & Minerals," which is a tunnel beneaththe earth in a recreated mine that allows visitors to examine colorful crystalsand minerals found both locally and globally; "North American Indian Cultures,"which addresses diversity among Native American groups and the practicality andartistry of their everyday objects; "Space Odyssey," which allows visitors toexplore the universe and their place in it through a dynamic and interactiveexhibition; and wildlife exhibits in which, as the museum touts, "animals bigand small come to life in exquisitely detailed dioramas that transport youaround the world."
 
 
Denver PerformingArts Complex 
 
Housed within the various buildings of this four-block,12-acre arts complex are the Denver Center Theatre Company, Denver CenterAttractions, National Theatre Conservatory, Denver Center Theatre Academy, theColorado Ballet, Opera Colorado and the Colorado Symphony. As part of itsmission statement, the complex notes, "As the flagship theatre of the RockyMountain region, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts creates and presentsexceptional theatre that engages, excites, provokes and inspires both artistsand audiences."
 
 
Three shows are currently scheduled that would be playingduring the ASCB meeting: "The Lion King," which runs through Dec. 4 in theBuell Theatre; "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," which runs through Dec. 18 inthe Space Theatre; and "Girls Only: The Secret Comedy of Women," which runsthrough Dec. 31 in the Galleria Theatre.
 

 
I thought their team was the Broncos … 
 
One onlooker at the convention will loom larger than mostothers 
 
DENVER—So, we don't want to alarm you, but there is going tobe a very large bear peering at you from time to time when you're at the ASCBannual meeting. In fact, he's big enough to get Godzilla's attention, even ifhe'd ultimately lose the fight. Fortunately, chances are low that you'll be onhis menu.
 
 
While Denver might be known for its Broncos (as in thefootball team), there is another prominent animal—a giant blue bear perpetuallylooking through one of the windows of the Colorado Convention Center from thesidewalk area outside—forepaws and nose pressed against the glass of thebuilding.
 
 
The 40-foot-high bear is made of composite materials, withthe external surface coated in a polymer concrete that is colored lapis lazuliblue. The somewhat faceted look of the bear's hide owes to the fact that thedesign was extrapolated from three-dimensional laser scans of a tiny plasticchild's toy that were later modified to be more lifelike and then digitallyabstracted to provide the unique texture afforded by the more than 4,000interlocking triangles hung on a hidden steel armature.
 
 
The bear was erected in June 2005 and cost $425,000—just oneof nine pieces commission from the $2.4 million the convention center ownershad to set aside as part of Denver's public art ordinance when the center wasconstructed. 




Easy strolling, easy spending
 
 
Between the power of walking and a free bus line, you won'thave any problem getting around 
 
DENVER—You don't have to go far for your eating and shoppingoptions while in town for the ASCB annual meeting, given the conventioncenter's convenient downtown location. The task of letting you find your mealsand souvenirs is made even easier by the existence of the 16thStreet Mall, a tree-lined, red-and-gray granite pedestrian mall built in 1982.
 
 
Running right through the center of downtown Denver, itoffers various plazas, fountains, daily special events, entertainers and, ofcourse, outdoor cafes, restaurants and retail stores. Also in evidence arehistoric buildings that have been renovated and newer skyscrapers among them.
Every day of the week, you can take advantage of the samefree transit that the locals do—the MallRide of the Regional TransportationDistrict (RTD). Running more than one mile along the entire length of 16thStreet Mall, the MallRide has stops at every intersection between RTD's CivicCenter Station and Union Station. 
 

 
Present, learn and network
 
 
ASCB invites attendees to join it at "the world's leadingcell biology meeting," where the organization touts your ability to "Stayabreast of leading research, meet with colleagues and see the latest tools andtechniques—all in one place."
 
 
2011 ASCB AnnualMeeting Highlights
    Sequential symposia byleading cell biologists
     
    Mini-symposia highlightingresearch from submitted abstracts in core and new areas
     
    Thousands of postersfeaturing "fresh-from-the-bench-to-your-lab" findings
     
    Member-organized specialinterest subgroupsWorking groups that aim tounravel complexities and point the way to the future
     
    Networking opportunities,including Q&As with speakers, Saturday sessions and expandeddiscussion tables
     
    Career developmentworkshops for all career stages
     
    Assessment-driven programsfor educatorsInspirational talks byASCB awardees
     
    Workshops, exhibitorshowcases and tutorials demonstrating the latest technology and techniquesfor your lab


Jeffrey Bouley

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