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Biennial of the Americas starts today

Mayor John Hickenlooper keeps pushing Denver into the ranks of America's leading urban centers, with his biggest push yet starting today: The inaugural Biennial of the Americas.

On Tuesday, Hickenlooper and the Biennial team were all smiles as they announced final plans for the Biennial, the centerpiece of what city boosters are calling "Denver's blockbuster summer."

Additions include the just-extended Body Worlds at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, the King Tut exhibit at the Denver Art Museum and the Henry Moore installation at at Denver Botanic Gardens.

With its ambitious goal of strengthening the cultural, economic and ideological ties between the nations of the Western Hemisphere, the Biennial will echo the Democratic National Convention in its significance for Denver, Hickenlooper said, but on "a larger stage and a broader scale" that will "introduce Colorado to a whole new spectrum" of global thinking.

Hickenlooper said he's viewing the start of the Biennial -- an event he conceived five years ago -- with equal parts "relief and exultation." Other organizers echoed his words, calling the Biennial a labor of love, an exhausting but worthwhile step in positioning Denver as the "epicenter of the Americas." And the hundred-year-old McNichols building, renovated for this event and open to the public for the first time in decades, is at the center of this epicenter.

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The Nature of Things, an exhibit of artists from nine countries across the hemisphere, now fills the McNichols building, which will also host special performances and seminars throughout the month of July.

Another series of roundtable discussions on education, climate change, poverty reduction and other subjects will take place at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, starting with a July 6 discussion of the growing achievement gap in global education moderated by Cecilia María Vélez, the Colombian minister of education, and ending with a discussion on how to meet the challenges of energy and climate change on July 28.

For more information on Biennial roundtables and other events see www.biennialoftheamericas.org.

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