Arts and Culture

Ten Not-to-Miss Events at the 2015 Biennial of the Americas

So much Biennial, so little time. The 2015 Biennial of the Americas, which begins today, is so rich in programming that it's hard to decide what to do and see. You can go with the dependable: There will always be something happening at the Biennial Pavilion at 1550 Wewatta Street. Or you can go big, with events and opportunities like these:

Taste of the Americas
Through July 31

You can’t really experience the nuances of Latin America’s diverse cultures without tasting its food, and to that end, nine Denver restaurants specializing in dishes originating everywhere from Mexico to Peru have partnered with the Biennial by offering food or drink specials throughout July. Prime yourself and put a little spice in your life, too: Participating eateries include Adelitas, Buenos Aires Pizzeria, Leña, Limón, Lola, Los Chingones, Maria Empanada, Rodizio Grill and Tamayo.

Biennial of the Americas Opening Night Street Party
Biennial Pavilion
8 to 11 p.m. Tuesday, July 14

Denver's third Biennial of the Americas celebration is big and bright and filled with activities and exhibits exploring the hemispheric crossover of art, politics and economic trends in the Americas. The Opening Night Street Party will not only introduce the hordes to the new hub at the Biennial Pavilion, where the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art’s Poetry & Performance Cafe will host readings, performances and talks throughout the Biennial; on opening night you can get a first look at the art exhibit Oíd el Sueño de una Palabra / Listen to the Dream of a Word, a collaboration with Museo Comunitario del Valle de Xico and Colectivo Xico Arte, also housed at the Pavilion. And the fun will spill over into the Union Station neighborhood, where Denver's Flobots and the pan-American combo Making Movies will rev up the action.

Now? NOW!
MCA Denver
July 14 through August 30
Opening reception: 9 to 11 p.m. Tuesday, July 14

As part of the July 14 street bash, a marching band will lead partiers over to MCA Denver for the opening of the Biennial’s central art exhibit, Now? NOW!, an international group-artist take on contemporary visions and mediums curated by Lauren Wright and curatorial assistant Anya Pantuyeva. “Now? NOW! represents the intellectual core of the Biennial,” Wright notes. “We’ve gathered artists from across the hemisphere to address elements of the present condition in imaginative ways.” Those works, she explains, include a mixture of site-specific installations and new works created just for the Biennial, ranging from Robert Longo’s powerful image of St. Louis Rams players raising their fists in solidarity with the people of Ferguson, Missouri, to Mariana Castillo Debal’s floor installation mapping the history of Mexico City. “We want this to be an event for everyone,” Wright adds. “I don’t like to think of contemporary art as alienating.” And you won’t at this exhibit. Now? Now! invites viewers into the Biennial discussion while wowing the senses.

Biennial of the Americas Symposia Series
Ellie Caulkins Opera House
7:30 p.m. nightly, July 14-16
Admission: $25 nightly, $60 three-day package

Think of BotA 2015’s three-session symposia series as the backbone of the Biennial. While the overall festival is filled with art, performance and the pure taste and colors of culture, the Biennial is also about the exchange of intercontinental ideas. Attend one or participate in them all for a clearer picture of what’s happening across the hemisphere. Over the course of the series, international panels will bring modern civics (Generation NOW! New Leadership for a New World on July 14), business trends (Business NOW! The Case for a New North-South Vision on July 15) and even the Denver-sensitive issue of drug legalization (Community NOW! Legalization: The Next Phase in the War on Drugs?, moderated by journalist Tina Brown on July 16) into the spotlight of Now!  Reserve tickets at the Biennial website
Vis-à-Vis: Biennial Ambassadors Residency Exhibition
McNichols Building
July 14 through July 26
Opening reception: 8 p.m. to midnight, Wednesday, July 15

The Biennial Ambassadors Residency program got started early this year as four artists — Denver’s Melissa Furness and Matt Scobey and Mexico City’s Daniel Monroy Cuevas and Cristóbal Gracia — traded places for a series of ten-week residencies, embedding themselves in one another’s communities to create new work informed by their experiences. Vis-à-Vis, curated by residency facilitators Adam Gildar of ArtPlant in Denver and Carla Herrera-Prats of SOMA in Mexico City, takes stock of the results. Meet the artists Wednesday, July 15 at the McNichols Building, and see how their host cities inspired their work.

Erick Meyenberg, I Am the Future
Great Hall, Jeppesen Terminal, Denver International Airport
7 to 8 p.m. Thursday, July 16

The Biennial is hosting two major installations in 2015: One is Mexican artist Marcela Armas’s Implant, a real-time, two-city exploration of place through geological studies, and the other is Mexico City-based artist Erick Meyenberg’s I Am the Future, which culminates on July 16 with a rousing performance by the Montbello Drill Team at Denver International Airport. Inspired by the journey through change in the Montbello and Green Valley communities precipitated by the closing of Stapleton and the opening of Denver International Airport, Meyenberg made a film and sculptural installation featuring the drill team marching from the past into the future. The chance to see this group perform live under the tent of DIA will bring the project into perspective.

Fútbol Friday
Biennial Pavilion, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 
Civic Center Park, 1 to 4 p.m.
Friday, July 17

On the heels of the U.S. women’s soccer team’s World Cup victory, the international sport’s recognition level is off the charts. What better time, then, to showcase soccer as part of the Biennial of the Americas? BotA 2015 turns Friday over to a two-part salvo of soccer-related events hosted by the Colorado Rapids on July 17, beginning with discussions at the Biennial Pavilion and wrapping up with Soccer in the Park event at Civic Center Park, with a hands-on clinic, youth-skills course and adult drop-in soccer.

Biennial Night
Civic Center Park
5 to 11:30 p.m. Friday, July 17

Biennial Night brings everything the Americas have to offer culturally to a free, family-friendly public party in the park. The outdoor festival begins at 5 p.m. July 17 with an armada of food trucks and all-ages activities (try Davey B. Gravey’s Tiny Cinema, a movie theater in a truck, on for size) before bursting out with live bicultural music beginning at 7 p.m. Performers include the classically trained hip-hop duo Black Violin (hosted by Levitt Pavilion), Denver cello-rocker Ian Cooke and the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, and the renowned Colombian group Bomba Estereo, as well as a dance collaboration between Denver’s Wonderbound and Brazil’s Companhia Urbana de Dança.

Performing Arts Day
Biennial Pavilion
10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, July 18

Flinching Eye Collective
Junction Box
4 and 8:30 p.m. Saturday, July 18

Performance is big at the 2015 Biennial, adding a whole new dimension to the event’s cultural lineup. Along with a greater focus on the international exchange of music and dance, an entire day is being devoted to the avant garde worlds of performance art and new music. Come to the Biennial Pavilion on July 18 for RedLine’s Performing Arts NOW!, a curated roundup of local performance artists at work, and New Music NOW!, an offering from Denver’s Playground Ensemble that pairs youth and professional composers for a performance of eight chamber music "postcards." Also on July 18, Colorado’s Flinching Eye Collective interdisciplinary performance artists will make their first Denver appearance at Wonderbound’s Junction Box space.

River of Fundament: Matthew Barney from Kampnagel on Vimeo.

River of Fundament
Ellie Caulkins Opera House
5:30 to 11:30 p.m. Saturday July 18
Tickets: $10 to $20

You might not know what hit you after sitting through a screening of River of Fundament, an art film by Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler, but you’ll find it an interesting and possibly harrowing ride: The six-hour, star-studded avant-garde spectacle loosely inspired by Norman Mailer’s 1983 novel Ancient Evenings will lead viewers through the seven stages in Egyptian mythology that follow the soul’s departure from the body as it passes from death to rebirth. Barney scatters elements of sculpture, opera and live action throughout the narrative for a film experience unlike any other.

Visit the BotA 2015 online or call 720-389-9463 for full schedule of Biennial of the Americas events.