DENVER – Mayor John Hickenlooper told the Colorado Independent that the Biennial of the Americas may generate as much as $30 million in additional spending in the city. The month-long celebration, which kicked off July 1, will host artists, speakers, musicians, and thinkers from around the world. It has been packaged with other cultural events in the city to help brand Denver as a cosmopolitan city poised for additional foreign trade and tourism.
“Some people are talking about a goal of $30 million of direct and indirect spending,” Hickenlooper said, stopping short of making an official projection. “The key is we have done all of this without using any tax money.”
Director of the Office of Cultural Affairs Erin Trapp explained that there is no basis to make a firm projection because of the newness of the event. “This is a first-time event so you hesitate to make that sort of projection. We are really going to use this year as a benchmark,” she said.
“This Biennial is clearly the most important national event that we have seen here since the Summit of the Eight. It allows us to highlight how important our hemisphere is to us,” Hickenlooper said. “Most people don’t realize that we import more oil from this hemisphere than we do from the Middle East.”
Noting that Denver was already a multicultural city, he said, “We believe [the Biennial of the Americas] will allow us to introduce Colorado to a whole new spectrum of businesses, cultures, ideas and innovations from throughout the Americas.” Thirty-five nations are participating in the Biennial.
Hickenlooper said the cultural exchange will help to show there are more similarities between nations than differences. “We have a chance with this to fight against the prejudices that result from a lack of understanding,” he said.
Many other organizations and venues are centering themselves around this event, said Rich Scharf, President of Visit Denver. He stressed that the event was a tool to brand Denver as an international hub. “Even in the convention business, we find that the growth today is in international attendees. So this is really kind of highlighting our brand. We are innovative, and we are fun. This event is doing the job of promoting Denver to the world.”
Ted White, Boettcher Foundation chair, said that at first the event did not look like a good fit for Foundation funding. He said organizers were asked for a $2 million grant for an event that was not established. “Our average grant size is $50,000,” he said.
He went on to note that the Foundation does not generally sponsor events, and only works with established projects. However, he said the mayor’s vision to make Denver the host of “a world’s fair of ideas” eventually won them over.
Hickenlooper said that the idea and vision were not his, but that of the Department of Cultural Affairs, although he said he would take credit for some of the energy that went into ensuring it happened.
Today’s events include a roundtable on education featuring U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet along with representatives from Chile, Columbia, Guatemala, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago. That is at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House from 9 to 11:30 am.
For the rest of today’s events and a full schedule, see www.biennialoftheamericas.org.