At the tender age of 6, Mark Cafiero received his first camera. Though it was broken and filled with cartoons his father had drawn of Mark and his sisters, that camera sparked an early interest in photography. Since then, that spark has erupted into a full-fledged passion, leading Mark to become a professional photographer who has snapped photos for hundreds of clients, including celebrities and professional athletes. To share his spark with others, Mark founded Chimpsy, an resource that helps photographers of all experience levels calibrate their skills with casual in-person and online classes.
Available in more than 30 cities across the nation, Chimpsy's two-hour crash course features a hands-on shooting session and campfire-style presentation on topics ranging from camera anatomy to photo composition. For home study, online classes help photographers—beginners and aspiring pros alike—get more from their pictures through two-hour video tutorials that cover photo-editing software, shooting tips and techniques, and steps on how to build a photography business. From the comfort of their bedrooms, students can watch these professional photographer-led tutorials live or replay previously recorded sessions. Along with instructional classes, Chimpsy offers shutterbugs a place to submit photos for contests with monthly prizes or for feedback from peers, pros, and sentient picture frames.
John Hand had a theory: for any problem a person might have, someone in their local community has a solution. To that end, he founded Colorado Free University, continuing a tradition that began with the Denver Free University of the 1970s and early '80s. Whereas the Denver Free University was created as a political move to make education more accessible, the Colorado incarnation sets its sights on simple personal betterment, becoming more of a learning network than a school. All of its teachers are independent contractors culled from the local community, and together they helm skill-based and enrichment classes for adults, spanning a range of artistic, humanitarian, and business disciplines.
Students can receive training in foreign languages or ASL, business or digital marketing, or acting, visual arts, or woodworking. The school's facilities also accommodate CompuSkills computer-training classes, which progress from basic sessions in computer operation to advanced sessions in photoshopping a ghost out of a family portrait. There are cooking classes, foreign language courses, and style classes, all of which turn out well-rounded pupils. The campus's 89-seat John Hand Theater, meanwhile, hosts intimate performances from local Firehouse Theater Company and Spotlight Theatre Company.
FastFrame of LoDo's showroom houses more than 2,000 frame samples. Wood and metal boarders wait to enclose artwork, photographs, and 3-D items, from sports jerseys to musical instruments to Abe Lincoln's stovepipe-hat polish. The showroom also houses thousands of matte samples—including fabric, suede, and genuine leather.
All these options are on display to help customers find the exact frame and matte combination they want. But FastFrame of LoDo's professionals also recognize that not everyone can make a final decision without seeing what the finished product will look like. So they rely on Frame Vue, a computer program that snaps a photo of the client's artwork and then shows what it will look like with different frame and matte combinations.
Services like this earned FastFrame of LoDo the title of Best Custom Framing by the Denver A-List in 2010, 2011, and 2012. And people like Jarrod Perrott earned it 5280 magazine's Top of the Town award for customer service. The magazine's editors said: "The finished products FastFrame of LoDo puts out are spectacular—and, as a bonus, after picking up your wall-hanging, Perrott will send you a handwritten thank-you note (a wonderful, thoughtful touch). ..."
Julia Blackbird's New Mexican Café is the culmination of two of chef and owner Julie Siegfried’s deepest passions: cooking and New Mexico. To this day, her mother recalls Julie standing on a step stool, trying to peer into a soup pot and giving her grandmother directions about what to put in. And on her first trip to New Mexico, she used up 10 rolls of film snapping pictures. She fell in love with the region's unique vibe—the people, the artwork, and, of course, the food.
Today, she shares both of her loves with diners at Julia Blackbird's New Mexican Café. Her kitchen is stocked with New Mexican ingredients such as blue cornmeal, goat cheese from the San Luis valley, and piñones. For her signature dish, the Tres Hermanas, she stuffs a trio of blue-corn enchiladas: one with chicken and green chile, one with beef and red chile, and one with cheese and chile caribe. To make sangria, the staff soaks seasonal fruit in rum, then splashes the mixture with wine and sparkling water. The menu also features beers, mojitos, and top-shelf margaritas, which encourage diners to linger in the warmly lit space, admiring brightly colored artwork or arguing about whether red should be added to the list of primary colors.
Reflecting on this childhood, Chris Keating sometimes feels as if he didn't exist. His parents' divorce left him with very little tangible evidence of his formative years, so he's spent his adult life as a photographer making sure children can look back fondly at warm family memories. Chris Keating and his Calgary staff have made this a reality for more than 3,000 families since opening the doors to Towne Photography in 2006. There, the professional photographic crew shoots posed and candid shots of families, children, couples, and babies at picturesque parks or against their studio backdrops, and they also snap triumphant graduate portraits, intimate prenatal shots, and provocative passport pics that make border crossing a breeze. Their ironclad guarantee allows unsatisfied clients to request reshoots, reprints, or resizing on all photographs, and they vow to remake or recapture any artwork that sustains damage over the years. Chris also takes his photographic knowledge on the road to conduct Betterphoto Workshops across the United States and Canada, teaching novice photographers how to artistically preserve their most precious memories.
Spanish Is Fun founder Silvia Cubillos Velez knows that learning Spanish will be of great practical use in her students’ lives and careers, but the school’s goals don’t stop there. "We want people to be enchanted with the classes so they, too, can love the language and the culture," she told Viva Colorado. Though she traveled to Spain to complete her language education, Velez retains a deep love for the traditions of her Colombian homeland, and accordingly makes sure to weave Latin American literature and culture into her classes.
No matter what age or ability level they teach, the school’s staff of native Spanish speakers focus on communication rather than just conjugating verbs and memorizing vocabulary. Their formula has now been bringing students toward comprehension and fluency for more than a decade. Instructors immerse language learners in Spanish through techniques such as leading them in discussion groups or dunking them in a replica of the Alhambra fountain. They’ll also often swap classes to familiarize students with an array of accents and sounds, making full use of backgrounds that range from South America to Europe.