Comment: Biennial of the Americas? What was that?

The city's first Biennial of the Americas, a mashup of art exhibits and installations, cultural events and international dialogue strung together by a thread of hemispheric cooperation, came to an end Saturday after its full inaugural month of programming.

Organizers say they made it through July in the black, with startup funds in place for two years from now, but what's odd about it to me is that there are still a lot of people in Denver who don't know exactly what was going on during the Biennial or why it even happened. As a journalist covering cultural events in Denver, I should feel completely informed about an event of the Biennial's purported magnitude -- but like many of you, I still don't have a clue.

I know it was meant to be something big, something that would give Denver a more sophisticated, international face. But there was a lot more going on under the surface. Local artists felt underappreciated by the Biennial machine, and from my point of view, the lack of concerted promotion on the Biennial's part proved that they were right: Local folks were expected to provide Biennial-related programming without any ballyhoo or even a pat on the back. The overall effect was one of confusion. Whatever word got out was diffuse, seat-of-the-pants, rather than a bold and bright message. People came out and attended Biennial events, but what made those events unique when compared with the wonderful events we have going on all the time in Denver? This city has many rich layers without a Biennial.

Still, I'm hoping the Biennial will come back. Not everyone feels that way, but I think it deserves a second chance, and the first step toward a better success story is figuring out what the Biennial should look like, how it should present to the public and what its message really is. Forget about giving Denver a new face. Give the Biennial one to begin with, and then take it from there.


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