By: Rachel Chaparro Issue: Collaborative Women Section:Jewel Of Collaboration
The Biennial of the Americas, taking place in Denver, is more than a month-long celebration of the culture, ideas and people of the Western Hemisphere. It’s also an unprecedented opportunity for connection and collaboration among the 35 countries participating.
Building on the Biennial’s themes - innovation, the arts, sustainability and community – the event will work to nurture the global community by bringing together some of the Americas’ emerging and leading thinkers in politics, science, the arts and other fields.The themes and the people invited to create this extraordinary collaborative event make up the Biennial’s three programs: McNichols at Civic Center Park, citywide exhibitions, and the Americas Roundtables. The Biennial’s cultural and arts exhibit in the McNichols building at Civic Center Park, “The Nature of Things” will bring together artists, filmmakers, musicians, scientists and philosophers from throughout the hemisphere. A daily speaker’s series will punctuate live concerts, dance performances and exhibits of contemporary and experimental art across a variety of media.
Through this exhibit and the hundreds of diverse events that make up the citywide exhibitions, the Biennial will deepen our connection and understanding of the people, traditions and rich cultural contributions of our neighbors within the Americas. In addition, seven Americas Roundtables and one transnational summit aim to promote a hemispheric call to action on common challenges, joint opportunities and shared issues through North and South America. Some of the Roundtable participants include former Mexican President Vicente Fox, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Rigoberta Menchu Tum and U.S. Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States Ambassador Carmen Lomellin. Roundtable topics will include education, poverty reduction, energy and climate change, health, trade, philanthropy and women in leadership.
Behind the scenes there is a team of dynamic women who bring unmatched skills and passion to this historic collaboration, which the State Department has declared the largest international event of the year in the United States. Here are their stories...
Dr. Erin Trapp
Breaking New Ground
Dr. Erin Trapp, Director of Cultural Affairs for the City and County of Denver, is inspired by women who “have broken new ground.”
And she’s breaking new ground herself, taking the Biennial from an idea sitting on a shelf to an event unprecedented in its scope and reach.
“The idea of pulling together a Biennial with a broader appeal that can be threaded into our lives, as it relates to art and culture and the various populations, is what pursued me to move forward with the Biennial,” said Trapp.
Trapp has been a key contributor to helping arts flourish in Colorado and the Western Region for more than a decade. As the Deputy Director of the Western States Arts Federation, a non-profit organization dedicated to the creative advancement and preservation of the arts, she created new programs to engage youth in arts and provide strategic vision for several new technology initiatives that help artists find jobs, sell their art, apply for grants and get their work into prestigious art shows.Trapp hopes that through the Biennial’s combination of arts, culture and substantive policy discussions, “people will associate us with the kind of city where the cultural energy is unparalleled and puts us on par with other cities around the world known for art and culture; and that Denver is the kind of place where we can have open-minded, forward looking conversations.”
Experience counts, especially if you are charged with leading one of the largest international events in the world. Biennial President Donna Good has overseen seven international events over the years, including two in Denver: Pope John Paul II’s visit for the 1993 World Youth Day and the 1997 Summit of the Eight, which brought the heads of state from the United States, France, United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Canada, Japan, European Union Commission and Russia.
Good’s background in putting on international events, her experience running Denver’s Department of Human Services and her leadership role in an international organization that enhances entrepreneurial opportunities for women made her a natural choice when Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper was looking for someone to lead the Biennial. She’s raised nearly $2 million for the event and embraces the opportunity to welcome the world to Denver, and show off her city. “While the Pope’s visit and the Summit of the Eight were certainly exciting, the Biennial is the most interesting,” said Good. “What drew me to this incredible event is the variety it will offer to the people of Denver and the Western Hemisphere. The Biennial will honor art, world leaders and some of Denver’s finest cultural institutions.”
Good hopes the event will “take people’s focus off the negative that is often highlighted in the media about our neighbors and show the great strength that the Americas have and see it as something we can all draw from.”
Paola Santoscoy leads the effort at the Biennial’s signature artistic exhibit, being held in the newly-renovated McNichols Monument in the heart of Denver at Civic Center Park. The young, emerging Mexican curator is transforming this long dormant, 28,000 square foot former Carnegie library into a place where the America’s spirit of friendship and collaboration can be felt by sharing something beautiful we all have in common - art and culture.
“By bringing different voices from different countries to a single space, I hope to connect the thematic branches to the topic of the Americas, what it means to live in the Americas and how to see the world from different latitudes,” said Santoscoy. “The goal is to have the artists both illustrate and participate in the definition of the Biennial’s four themes and connect themes to the topic of the Americas.”One example: a neon sign attached to the ouside of McNichols illuminated by solar panels that reads, “Vivo en América (I live in America).”
“It will make a comment on the theme of sustainability, since the brightness of the sign will depend on how much light the solar panels get. The inconsistency of energy will make the sign go on and off, making it seem like it’s always on the verge of extinction, which the artist believes connects to the topic of the Americas,” said Santoscoy. “The works picked for McNichols will open a lot of questions, that’s the hope and aim and is how I am selecting artists.” This former Fulbright scholar, who has curated exhibitions in some of Mexico's largest cultural institutions and worked on projects around the world - the Art Fair in Madrid, the Goethe Institute in Germany and Americas Society in New York, to name a few – is sure to curate a world-class exhibit that expands perceptions of the Americas.
Perception and reality are two concepts Colombian Ambassador Carolina Barco deals with on a daily basis. Often Colombia is perceived, through the help of media, as a county that is overrun by violence, kidnappings and drugs. While there is no denying this country has seen its share of these problems, it couldn’t be further from the reality of the country now.“Colombia has entered a whole new era within the last decade. Since President Alvaro Uribe took office in 2002, homicide rates have fallen sharply and kidnappings have dropped by 78%. Violence in Colombia has been halved. We had decreased our poverty by more than eight points. Tourism has increased 65% percent since 2002 and this year the New York Times listed Colombia as one of the 31 places to visit in 2010.” Colombia is in a new moment and Ambassador Barco sees the Biennial as a unique opportunity to share with the world her country’s success story and how some of this success might be replicated. "This event will give Colombia and other countries in the hemisphere a needed forum to exchange experiences and ideas on policies that are successfully working in our respective countries. Together we'll look at ways to replicate these successes and build more unity on issues we are all facing, like the economic downturn." Bolsa Família (Family Pouch) is just one example of how ideas can cut across country lines. Created in Brazil in 2003, Bolsa Família is an innovative social initiative that ties direct monetary transfers to commitments from families to keep their children in school and take them for regular health checks. With its statistical success, over 20 countries have now adopted similar programs including Colombia, Chile, Mexico, and more recently New York City.
The substantive policy discussions and transnational summit is what makes the Biennial of the Americas unique from other Biennials. In charge of the discussions is Marsha McLean, Senior Consultant to the State Department’s Western Hemisphere Affairs Bureau.
To prepare for the Roundtables McLean is traveling throughout the hemisphere gathering opinions, questions and themes on Roundtable topics. “We think it is important to bring the voices of the hemisphere to Denver to contribute to the dialogue, which is why the State Department is sponsoring inquiries throughout the hemisphere before July,” said McLean. McLean is hosting discussions in Denver, Argentina, El Salvador, Guatemala and New York City to prepare for Roundtables on Women: Drivers of the New Economy, Trade: Leveraging Partnerships for Sustainable Economies, Energy and Climate Change: Designing Answers for Today’s Challenges, and others.
“I will share what came out of each inquiry – the highlights, the connections – and collectively decide with each group what we want to put forth to the Roundtable moderators,” said McLean.
Marcela de la Mar
Since 1994, Marcela de la Mar has been a champion for Mexicans who live in Colorado. As the Director of Community and Cultural Affairs and most recently the Executive Director of the Mexican Cultural Center for the Consulate General of Mexico in Denver, Marcela works to engage Mexicans in the arts and connect Coloradans to her country’s rich culture.
“It is my passion to work for Mexico and a privilege to help change the perception of Mexico and Mexicans,” said de la Mar. “Mexico is more than mariachi or the common foods people enjoy.” Día del Niño (Day of the Child) is one great example of de la Mar’s work to expand understanding of Mexican culture. Under her leadership, she helped create this one-day celebration that honors youth and celebrates world culture. Every year the Denver Art Museum, Denver Public Library and Byers-Evans House Museum offer free general admission and an array of lively performances, interactive programs and hands-on activities for families. Each venue hosts different art-making activities, crafts and story time.
It is my passion to work for Mexico and a privilege to help change the perception of Mexico and Mexicans. Mexico is more than mariachi or the common foods people enjoy - Marcela de la Mar
In her daily work at the Consulate, de la Mar strives to find new ways to integrate and reveal the extraordinary depth of Mexico’s ideals, customs and beliefs. It’s also why she is such an enthusiastic supporter of the Biennial. “I think it’s important to acknowledge what the Americas bring to our society. The Biennial is a great platform to recognize Mexico’s positive influence on the Americas and the great array of cultural programs Mexico offers here, and all over the world.”
Biennial Board of Directors member, philanthropist and avid art collector Delisa Mayer envisions that “the Biennial will put Denver on the map and in a league where we won’t feel like the Pony Express is riding through our town. People will see we are not just about sports or skiing, but that we have a lot of cultural experiences to offer,” said Mayer.
Mayer’s own life is an example of the Biennial’s themes. “I live in a house that was built for the Biennial because our home is a marriage of sustainability, art, innovation and community,” said Mayer. The sustainable qualities include a geothermal system that heats and cools the house, a solar power system that provides electricity and spider insulation that improves the home’s energy efficiency. Art hangs on nearly every wall and there is no need for keys, since everything is electronically accessed with fingertips. The three huge courtyards are often used to entertain the community. Through the Anthony and Delisa Mayer Foundation and other selected giving, Mayer advances educational opportunities for youth and helps Denver’s art community thrive. The Anthony and Delisa Mayer Photography Gallery at the Denver Art Museum honors the couple’s dedication to the arts. Mayer’s experience in sustainable practices and the arts will be a driving force in shaping the first Biennial of the Americas.
Rachel Chaparro is the Communications Director for the Biennial of the Americas. Prior to joining the Biennial, she was the Communications and Development Director for the Latina Initiative, running a successful get out the vote effort targeting 70,000 Colorado Latinas. For three years, she served as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Colorado’s Manager of Education and Outreach. Ms. Chaparro was also the Field Director for the Colorado Women’s Agenda, Campaign Manager for Board of Regents candidate Michal Carrigan, and a political consultant for a ballot initiative. Ms. Chaparro has a Political Science degree and a Master's in Public Administration from the University of Colorado at Denver.