LAKEWOOD —The Lakewood Cultural Center offers citizens a chance to experience the arts right in their own backyard.
With dozens of dance and art classes, an array of theater performances
and rotating art galleries, the center continuously tries to provide something that will suit various interests.
"This place is pretty special," said Allison Scheck, marketing and community relations manager for the city of Lakewood. She said that last year, more than 95,000 made use of the center's offerings in some way. "What's cool is that there's a lot for the community. It's exceptional for performers, but also for other community members."
She added: "We really think 'How can we help introduce our audience to something new?' "
The center, which boasts a 316-seat theater, is in the Lakewood City Commons at 470 S. Allison Parkway.
"The theater is an intimate space and allows the audience to be in touch with the performances and actually see the performers' faces," said Susan Martin, cultural center administrator. "It's just more intimate than downtown venues."
The center's budget is about $1 million annually; it largely pays for itself through ticket sales, facility rentals and other revenue, Scheck said. It also receives funding from the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District tax through Lakewood's division of Heritage, Culture and the Arts.
This year, Martin said that there is an "eclectic mix" of things going on in the theater. Some notable performances include Sean Jones Quartet, Adonis Puentes and the Voice of Cuba Orchestra, "Ragtime" the musical, and BalletBoyz, for which Martin is particularly excited.
"It's an all-male contemporary dance group from London," she said. "They work with each other and lift each other with the same fluidity as if they were lifting a small dancer."
Lakewood is one of 11 U.S. cities that landed the group this year. They will perform at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 8.
For budding dancers, the center offers classes including Beginning Belly Dancing, Latin Dance Blast, Swing and Beyond, and Salsa Babies.
Littleton resident Maliha Chowdhry decided to take the belly dancing class based on the instructor's qualifications.
"Once I found out how qualified she was — she trained in Egypt! — I wanted to try the class," said Chowdhry. "I'm from Pakistan, and I saw her technique and saw that it was traditional."
The instructor she's speaking of, Dianne Losasso, has been teaching at the center for more than 10 years. Her classes include belly dancing, adult ballroom, Latin and swing dance.
"I stay here because there's a real concentration on the arts," said Losasso. "It's wonderful to have a place with so much music and art."
Another belly dance class regular, Sally Foster of Buffalo Creek, has been attending since last spring. In addition to liking the class for the workout, she also says the center is convenient.
"It's a daytime drive for me," said Foster. "I live in the mountains, and I like it better than having to drive into the city."
Although belly dancing is the only class Foster is currently taking, she's interested in trying others.
"There's just so much variety in the classes they offer. They meet a lot of different needs," said Foster.
Examples include Expressive Charcoal Drawing, Beginning Jewelry Making, Manuscript Review, Introduction to Digital Photography, Introduction to Ukulele, Exploring Watercolor and Introduction to Pottery.
Additionally, there is always artwork on display from local, national and international artists.
"It's just neat to be able to offer that to the community members without them having to go downtown," Martin said.
Going forward, the center will continue to try to appeal to the mixed audiences in the area, and to encourage them to learn something new.
"It's really a place meant for everybody," Martin said. "It's a comfortable space just meant for local residents to come and explore."