Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Biennial of the Americas will fill McNichols with ideas -- and it could use a few of its own

The last time any member of the public was in what's now known as the McNichols building, the old Carnegie library on the edge of Civic Center Park, it was to pay an overdue property tax bill. But the city's finance offices long ago moved into the Wellington E. Webb Municipal building across the street, and the once-stunning space settled into uneasy obsolescence.

No more. Last night, the stripped-down, classical guts of the circa 1910 structure were unveiled during a Hard Hat Gala that was also a kickoff of the Biennial of the Americas, which will fill McNichols and the park outside with art and ideas through July.

McNichols will be the Main Stage of the inaugural event, serving as both a community gathering place and the site of The Nature of Things, "an exhibition-centered project dedicated to presenting contemporary artistic practices," according to the Biennial website.

And after a month of big ideas about issues in the Western Hemisphere, maybe Denver will finally have a good idea about what the next incarnation of the old Carnegie library should be. A first-floor restaurant that would draw tourists and residents alike? A revolving gallery/events space on the third, with its amazing view of the Greek Amphitheater and the library and art museum beyond? (And, yes, maybe a few drug deals below.)

No need to wait for the Biennial to start the ideas flowing.

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun