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Murphy steps up to lead Reading past Barnstable

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Big second half leads Springfield Central to road win at BC High

READING — When Reading needed him most, James Murphy delivered.

Murphy threw for 257 yards and two touchdowns to go along with a crucial late third-down completion as No. 12 Reading outlasted 10th-ranked Barnstable, 18-14, on a mist-filled Friday night in Reading.

Murphy compiled 134 yards in the second half, 57 of which came on the Rockets (2-0) go-ahead drive at the start of the fourth quarter.

“This was one of the better games I have been part of as our guys played the full 48 minutes,” Murphy said. “The offensive line gave me more time in the second half so all I needed to do was put the ball where it needed to be.”

After tailing the Rockets 12-7 midway through the third quarter, Barnstable grabbed the advantage using its physical style of play to seemingly wear down Reading. Eugene Jordan capped off the 10-play, 55-yard drive with a seven yard plunge into the end zone to put Barnstable on top 14-12.

Murphy and the Rockets responded. The junior quarterback led the offense on a 15-play, 75-yard drive highlighted by a five yard touchdown reception by Jesse Doherty to put Reading back in front 18-14 with 8:48 remaining.

After the two sides traded turnovers, Barnstable found itself with an opportunity to take the lead with less than five minutes to play. The Reading defense, however, forced a turnover on downs with Alex DiNapoli making a key pass breakup on fourth down to turn the ball back over to the Rockets.

Barnstable had one last chance after forcing Reading into a third and 12, but Murphy stepped up in the pocket and fired a perfect ball to Doherty for the first down that sealed the win for the Rockets.

“Hats off to Barnstable, they came out with a great game plan,” Reading coach John Fiore said. “James was fantastic. Our receivers came up big. We had some physical matchups but our guys kept going after it.”

Reading opened the scoring on its second drive of the game. On first and 10 from his own 27, Murphy dropped back and fired a quick wide receiver screen to Ryan Strout who navigated traffic and took off down the far sideline for a 73 yard touchdown and a 6-0 Rockets lead.

Barnstable jumped in front to begin the second quarter as on its first frame of the stanza Henry Machnik rolled left and heaved a ball to the back of the end zone where Colin Fay made a miraculous catch for a 29 yard score that, coupled with the point after, gave the Redhawks a 7-6 advantage.

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Speed limits on Denver’s neighborhood streets would drop to 20 mph if councilman’s push succeeds

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Speed limits on Denver’s neighborhood streets would drop to 20 mph if councilman’s push succeeds

Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post

Contractor Tracy Barker installs a warning beacon on a speed-limit sign in Denver on Wednesday, May 27, 2009.

Denver drivers could soon see speed limits on every neighborhood street drop from 25 mph to 20 mph if an upcoming City Council measure is successful.

The proposal, which Councilman Paul Kashmann plans to introduce in the next month, follows more than two years of campaigning by a local advocacy group to reduce speeds in Denver’s residential areas and an effort by the city to eliminate traffic deaths.

The change to thousands of Denver’s streets could be implemented as soon as next year.

“We get neverending calls from neighborhood residents that cars are going too fast,” Kashmann said. “Part of what we can do is encourage people to slow down.”

City data shows that the per-capita rate of traffic deaths has grown steadily from 5.7 deaths per 100,000 residents in 2012 to 8.4 deaths per 100,000 people n 2019.

Fewer people died or were seriously injured in traffic crashes last year than the previous year as people stayed home at the beginning of the pandemic, but the rates of injuries and deaths have rebounded in 2021, data published by the city shows.

Sixty-six people have died in traffic crashes so far in 2021 and 296 more people have been seriously injured. That’s an average of 36 people injured or killed every month, which exceeds the rate seen in 2019.

Reducing speed limits is a relatively easy, cheap and effective way to quickly prevent traffic injuries and deaths, said Jill Locantore, executive director of Denver Streets Partnership, which has pushed for the speed limit reduction since 2019. But the speed reductions need to be followed by additional infrastructure, like speed humps and raised intersections, she said.

“It’s a statement of values, saying we value safety and human life over the convenience of driving,” Locantore said.

The proposal comes four years into the Denver government’s five-year plan to eliminate traffic deaths in the city by 2030. The plan, Vision Zero, states reducing speed is a priority and cites a study that shows there is a 13% chance a pedestrian will be seriously injured or killed if struck by a car traveling 20 mph. That chance increases to 40% if the car is traveling at 40 mph.

If Kashmann’s proposal is successful, it will take the city between three and five years to swap out the more than 2,700 signs stating the speed limit is 25 mph, said Nancy Kuhn, spokeswoman for the Denver Department of Transportation and Infrastructure.

The department does not have an estimate on how much it will cost to replace the signs, nor does it have money earmarked to do that. Neighborhood streets are typically smaller streets without any yellow center lines.

Kashmann said reducing the speed limit is not a silver bullet and that further changes to street design are necessary.

Reducing speeds is the best way to reduce the risk and severity of injury on roads, said Wes Marshall, associate professor of civil engineering and affiliate professor in urban and regional planning at the University of Colorado Denver.

“Changing the speed limit is a baby step, but the reality is people drive the speed the road is designed for,” he said.

Factors like road width and whether there are cars parked along the street have a greater impact on how fast drivers go, Marshall said.

“We need to make it difficult to drive 20 or 25 mph, and that’s where we get the impacts,” he said.

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For artist Jonathan Saiz, things are looking up

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For artist Jonathan Saiz, things are looking up

A successful art career requires two crucial skills: the ability to think up new things and the drive to make them real. It’s not about creativity; lots of people have that. It’s more about owning the capacity to see ideas through to the end — to produce fresh objects, over and over again, and then to present them to the public.

That stamina sustains Jonathan Saiz and keeps him in the top-tier of Denver artists. He’s an art adventurer who stays in the spotlight by constantly surprising. One day, he’s presenting miniature paintings at the Denver Art Museum, the next he’s applying an oversized mural to a bare concrete wall downtown. He’s been known to paint giant waves or intimate portraits or antique furniture. He’s illustrated a best-selling tarot deck and is now working on a children’s book.

It’s part showmanship, part substance and fully experimental — things don’t always work out. But, as a critic, he’s one of those creatives I always watch to see what arrives next. I recently came across a social media post with photos of a large-scale, and very complicated, mural that he painted on the ceiling of his own living room.

It looked impossible, and so I asked him some questions.

Artist Jonathan Saiz at his downtown Denver home on September 15, 2021. Said spent nearly a month using paper board and balsa wood to create a piece of art for his home that he shares with his partner. The ceiling piece is inspired by temples and Moroccan art. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post)

Q. I have a lot of questions about your work, but I have to start with the ceiling mural because it is a wonder — delicate and monumental at the same time and, no doubt, very difficult to pull off. Can we begin by getting some specs so people know just how grand it is?

A. The mural is 350 square feet in a two-story atrium of a condo, located 14 stories up in the Uptown neighborhood. It’s painted with regular house latex on thick paperboard panels, nailed to the ceiling with hand-cut balsa wood trimming. It’s not my biggest mural to date, but it is my first ceiling creation!

Q. And how did you manage to create a piece so high off the ground? Sounds a little dangerous, to be honest.

A. It was a scary, stressful ordeal to install. I mostly created the panels on the ground to minimize the dangerous install periods up on the 25-foot-tall scaffolding. My trick to avoid focusing on my fear of heights was to hum and sing made-up songs to my dog Oscar while I worked.

Q. It’s a very orderly mural, full of symmetry and strict geometry. But within that there is quite a bit of free, artistic expression, a mix of styles and historical references and probably some personal moves.

A. The inspiration started with a rose motif from the Bahia Palace in Morocco, but quickly evolved into a mashup of my personal loves of Art Deco, Native American textiles and sacred geometry. Without a client to please besides myself, I was able to experiment — even adding rose oil, rose petals, love notes and other secret magical ingredients into the paint and behind the panels to give it some extra ritualistic energy. I wanted it to become the calm, glowing heart of our home.

Q. I wonder how you view it? Is it decorative to you or is it a painting, a work of art?

A. Decorative art sets the tone for a shared space — design calibrates our energy. This mural is decorative and so much more.

1635165261 648 For artist Jonathan Saiz things are looking up

AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post

DENVER, CO – SEPTEMBER 15: Artist Jonathan Saiz at his downtown Denver home on Wednesday, September 15, 2021. Said spent nearly a month using paper board and balsa wood to create a piece of art for his home that he shares with his partner. The ceiling piece is inspired by temples and Moroccan art. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post)

Q. OK, last question about the piece: What is it like to live with it, to have it over your head all day? We think of artists as making objects to sell, but this one is for you, no?

A. It’s wonderful to see it every day and night, to share it with my partner, Dean Prina, and to finally have something for myself that can’t be sold or removed. Living with it also reminds me that it’s possible to create whatever we imagine we can, (that) we could still build epic temples if we wanted to.

Q. I was looking back at your work over the past few years, and I think the piece you are best known for might be the tower of 10,000 tiny, 2-inch square paintings that you created for the Denver Art Museum in 2019. And you have done many, many of these small pieces in various configurations.

A. Working in multitudes of small pieces to create a larger whole is liberating for me. The pieces can evolve in unexpected ways, and I get to use a much higher diversity of materials. I love working with multiple elements that interact with each other to create a multifaceted whole.

Q. I just saw this new piece you did, taking an old, ornate, antique cabinet, painting it and filling it with mysterious objects. What is that?

A. I found this 19th-century cabinet, dusty and forgotten, in an antique store and I felt I could connect with its history like a time machine. I wanted to preserve it by collaborating with it, creating new clay and gemstone objects within it to activate its theatrical personality and to fill it with 21st-century curiosities. I plan on collaborating with more found historical objects and artisans like that soon.

Q. Another avenue you’ve explored: the tarot deck. Can you tell us about your deck of cards?

A. The Fountain Tarot deck is made up of 79 of my paintings to create a larger interactive world, and its history is deeply connected to our global metaphysical past (a lot like the mosaics and cabinets). It’s a dream to have created something that is now used in multiple languages around the world and was just added to the library at the McMurdo Research Station in Antarctica this month. It’s part of the history of tarot now. It was a random passion project that changed my life.

For artist Jonathan Saiz things are looking up

Provided Jonathan Saiz

Jonathan Saiz created 79 paintings to illustrate “The Fountain Tarot.” The deck, co-created with Jason Gruhl and Andi Todaro, is sold at bookstores across the country.

Q. We’ve seen you create big things and small things, portraits, tarot cards, and I hear you are now illustrating a children’s book for the Clyfford Still Museum. That leads to the existential question: What are you? Most artists describe themselves as painters or sculptors or photographers.

A. I’m a creator who likes to stay busy to keep the existential demons at bay. I’m the type of artist who will dive fully into any type of project or medium if it sparks my curiosity or presents a worthy challenge.

Q. So many artists want to work at it full-time but few manage. Many other talented artists have a hard time making a living from their work. Why are you able to do it?

A. A wide diversity of projects keeps me afloat. And it also helps for me to look at the commerce of being an artist as a game. Some free projects really do pay something more valuable than money, and some projects are worth taking just to survive.

Q. One last big question: You recently pledged to reduce using materials in your art that might be harmful to the environment.  Is that a personal choice? Or do you think that as an artist you have unique social responsibilities?

A. I think 21st-century artists can be powerful agitators for important social causes or they can bury their heads in the sand like past generations. I’m having fun finding creative ways to inspire solutions and making resolutions that create a more sustainable planet. I believe artists must honor that responsibility in order to access the higher creative muses.

Q. Bonus question: What is your dream project?

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The “magical unicorn” behind Camp Christmas and other immersive fare in Denver

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The “magical unicorn” behind Camp Christmas and other immersive fare in Denver

On a recent autumn afternoon, Charlie Miller was walking around the Heritage Lakewood Belmar Park pointing out the various buildings that will soon host Camp Christmas.

The dilapidated Peerless Gas Station will hold pounds of gingerbread creations. Down the pathway, in a red barn, a flock of fabric sheep will graze metaphorically and blaze with lights. A “glampsite” is where the kids will be able to visit with Santa, yes, from a healthy but engaged remove.

The fourth installment of installation wizard Lonnie Hanzon’s immersive extravaganza of lights, holiday memorabilia and more opens Nov. 18 at this outdoor site just west of Wadsworth Boulevard and a few blocks south of Alameda. The city of Lakewood has been relocating little landmark buildings from Colfax Avenue as well as other structures to this gently sloping expanse of acreage that was once legendary philanthropist May Bonfils Stanton’s hobby farm. It’s a perfectly zany location for a rather mad installation, one that came out of a collaboration between Hanzon and Miller, who heads the Denver Center’s wild-child, Off-Center.

A gift with creatives

“Impresario” is a little too imperious a description of Miller, who has grown in his role as the curator of Off-Center. Catalyst, to be sure. Nurturer, absolutely. It’s not so much his sensibility that is shaping Denver’s immersive scene as it is his gift with creatives — and a growing reputation, local and national, as a champion of immersive work.

When a friend saw David Byrne and Mala Gaonkar’s installation “Neurosociety” at an art gallery in the San Francisco Bay Area, he gave Miller a call, knowing it was just the kind of work that would excite him. It did.

Andy Cross, The Denver Post

LAKEWOOD, CO – OCTOBER 08: Charlie Miller, curator of Off-Center’s Camp Christmas and associate artistic director at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts at the Heritage Lakewood Belmar Park, site of this year’s Camp Christmas October 08, 2021. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

Thanks to patience, timing and the relationships that Miller and Off-Center have been cultivating since 2016’s blockbuster production “Sweet & Lucky” — created by Third Rail Projects and former Denverite Zach Morris — Miller made contact. DCPA Off-Center and Byrne had plans to premiere what has become the show “Theater of the Mind” in 2020. Then, COVID-19 hit and it was postponed.

The production is back on track for a 2022 world premiere, with an announcement of a ticket on-sale date and venue in the offing.

Miller has a measured delivery, even as he talks about the things that thrill him. He’s no huckster. He’s a thoughtful enthusiast. So, when he recalls meeting the former Talking Heads frontman, his voice doesn’t give away the pleasure of that evening when Byrne visited a potential location for the piece before heading to Red Rocks — his smile does. “And that night I got to see ‘American Utopia’ at Red Rocks … at like the fifth-row center,” he recalled. “Shortly after that, we were able to figure out how to make it work.”

For his part, Byrne told Rolling Stone magazine “The Denver Center for the Performing Arts have done immersive things like this before — not quite like this — but they’ve cultivated an audience in Denver.”

Figuring out how to make the artistically wild, logistically tricky experiences that draw audiences in has been an aim of Miller’s even before Off-Center got its clever brand name in 2010. At the time, Miller and assistant company manager Emily Tarquin were a couple of millennials eyeing the Denver Center’s under-utilized Jones Theatre for less traditional theater, more experimental work. Having sharpened his multimedia storytelling skills as an undergraduate in Harvard’s Visual and Environmental Studies department, Miller wanted to create a lab. And Tarquin was keen to present edgier theater.

“Often in ‘traditional theater,’ the exchange with the audience is passive and transactional,” Tarquin wrote in an email. “The production team creates a beautiful production, the audience buys a ticket, doesn’t unwrap any candy, and watches.”

1635164650 604 The magical unicorn behind Camp Christmas and other immersive fare

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David Byrne (center) and the creative team for “Theater of the Mind.” Not pictured, co-writer Mala Gaonkar.

Tarquin left the Denver Center in 2016 to become artistic producer of Actors Theatre of Louisville.

“We knew that to break this barrier, we had to build narratives that centered the audience and welcomed their full participation. Off-Center was immersive from the beginning, and I still reference the recipe we created over a decade ago!”

That “recipe” had five ingredients that each of Off-Center’s projects had to contain. “Ingredients that I still feel are very relevant,” said Miller, sitting on an aged glider on the porch of one of the buildings at the Heritage Lakewood. “Immersive for us was about the audience having a more active role in the inference, not just being passive viewers. Convergent, which was about bringing together different art forms and technologies. Connective, which was about being in conversation with the community, bringing people together. Inventive, which was about innovation and experimentation. And ‘now’ was about being relevant to the moment.”

The pair had the support of the Denver Center Theatre Company’s producing artistic director at the time, Kent Thompson. And Miller enjoys a similarly encouraging relationship to the Theater Company’s current honcho, Chris Coleman. A good thing, since, said Miller, “I think we’re still in the rise of immersive and experiential in town and nationally, and it will be interesting to see what happens as we reemerge from the pandemic and whatever form that is going to take.”

1635164650 691 The magical unicorn behind Camp Christmas and other immersive fare

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A scene from the immersive blockbuster Third Rail Projects’ “Sweet & Lucky,” with Meredith Grundei.

Kind of a “magical unicorn”

“Thought partnerships” is a Miller phrase that gets at the heart (and mind) of the type of collaborations he continues to champion. While he has reached beyond the Denver area to find new works, he is dedicated to raising the profile of local talent.

“He’s kind of a magical unicorn because he is an artist himself,” says Amanda Berg Wilson, who is co-founder of the Boulder-based, experimental theater company the Catamounts.  “He comes from an artist’s background. So he has this unique perspective of understanding what artists need and how they tick, but really wanting to be a facilitator of artists’ visions. I always get excited when his name comes up on my caller ID because I know that it’s going to be some kind of new idea or opportunity.”

In 2017, Wilson directed Off-Center’s “The Wild Party,” a 360-degree production of the musical by Andrew Lippa, which invited audiences into the bathtub gin-soaked, quite naughty soiree of the title. In 2019, Miller tapped Wilson and local director Betty Hart to be assistant directors on “Theater of the Mind.”

Hart produced the Arvada Center’s Amplify, a series of video performances that put Black artists front and center in the wake of the George Floyd protests. She’s directed a number of area shows, including Vintage Theatre’s searing production of “The Scottsboro Boys,” one of the last shows in town before the pandemic shuttered in-person theater.

1635164650 349 The magical unicorn behind Camp Christmas and other immersive fare

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Erin Miller and Emily Van Fleet in 2017’s 360 production “The Wild Party” at Stanley Marketplace.

“Charlie introduced me to Andrew Scoville (“Theater of the Mind” director), and then he left, and it was just Sco and me in a room,” recalls Hart. “(Charlie) took the time to bring a diverse group of people before (Scoville). That was intentional. I think he has a fundamental belief that if you have a quality product with quality people and you create a setting and an atmosphere of belonging and creativity, you’re going to get something wonderful. And I think that’s what (Miller) does. He does his part to ensure that a culture of belonging and genuine curiosity can be fostered.”

Long before they embarked on Camp Christmas together, Miller and Hanzon had been having lunch routinely. “At first, I would take lunch with a lot of different artists to get to know them. And we really hit it off,” Miller said. “Lonnie’s very meticulous and was a real student of immersive. He was feeding me information that wasn’t on my radar. And I was encouraging him to just start trying some things.”

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