Denver prepares for Latin America cultural event
Associated Press Writer
Vail, CO Colorado
DENVER – An aging Greek-revival building known to most residents only as the place to pay property taxes is coming into bloom – thanks to a lush makeover from a Mexico City artist among those bringing exhibits to Colorado in an experimental cultural exchange that starts next month.
The McNichols building in Civic Center Park, built to be the city’s first library in 1909, will be the main stage of the inaugural “Biennial of the Americas” beginning July 1, an event that will feature artists from 35 Latin American countries throughout the Denver area. Roundtables around the city to discuss poverty, health care, energy and education will feature Former Mexican President Vicente Fox, U.S. Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, and U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper has said he hopes the city will host the event every even-numbered year.
Jeronimo Hagerman, 42, the Mexico City artist decorating the outside of the building, said his goal is to create a “tropical experience” for the people visiting the neoclassical building. This week, workers started setting up rings around the top of the Greek columns in front of the building to hold plants with long, showy green leaves. The plants are meant to complement the leafy, concrete designs at the top of each column, Hagerman said.
He calls it a plant “intervention.”
“The only thing I’m doing is showing off what’s already there,” Hagerman said in Spanish. The courtyard at the front entrance of the building will have beach chairs below strands of the pink cloth used at street markets in Mexico, creating a “pool of pink light under the plants,” he said.
McNichols will be the site of musical performances three nights a week and have art from Latin American artists, including works from an Argentinean who fashions murals out of vinyl and a Peruvian who specializes in video and animation.
The last time the building was open to the public to this extent was in the 1950s, before the library moved and the Denver Water Board remodeled the space for offices in 1955. The city’s treasury department later moved in.
By the time organizers of the biennial decided to use it, the building looked nothing like it did when it was first built, said Mike Moore, design principal at the Boulder-based Tres Birds Workshop, the firm that undertook the remodeling of McNichols.
The high ceilings and natural sunlight that flowed into the open spaces of what used to be the library changed into boxed-in rooms with low ceilings to accommodate offices.
“Over time the integrity of the building was destroyed,” Moore said. “When we got a hold of it November, it was offices that were depressing.”
Moore said remodeling the inside of the building has meant stripping it down to its original form, creating more space with higher ceilings and allowing more natural light.
The remodeling inside the building is expected to be complete Thursday, Moore said.
Admission into the building will be $9 for an individual one-day pass and $20 for a family, said Rachel Chaparro, a spokeswoman for the biennial. Students, seniors and military personnel will pay $5. A monthly pass will cost $35.
Exhibits will also be shown at other places around the city. The Museum of Contemporary Art, for example, will have a large-scale reproduction of the first-ever particle accelerator and a light display mapping the migration of people from Mexico into the U.S. The Denver Botanic Gardens and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science will also have exhibits.