The Local newsletter is your free, daily guide to life in Colorado. For locals, by locals. Sign up today!
Since 2010, Denver has been home to the Biennial of the Americas, a four-day festival that aims to address local problems with international solutions by bringing together cultures from across the Americas. This year’s theme, “Empathy in Action,” emphasizes the importance of building relationships with those closest to us, whether between countries that share borders or neighbors who share the same zip code, says festival director FloraJane DiRienzo.
This year’s Biennial, which takes place from Wednesday, September 25 through Saturday, September 28, is packed with events—from “clínicas” featuring leaders and activists discussing timely social issues to musical acts, provocative art exhibits, and even an epic closing party at Civic Center Park. Not sure where to start? We picked eight events from the extensive schedule that you won’t want to miss.
Empathy Museum: A Mile in My Shoes
Artist Clare Patey’s interactive and emotional exhibit takes the well-known idiom “to walk a mile in someone’s shoes” and makes it tangible. Visitors are prompted to put on a pair of stranger’s shoes and walk in them while listening to the stories of the shoe’s owners. The voices come from all over the world, connecting people and experiences that may never before had the chance to come together. August 9 to September 27, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Tail Tracks Plaza, 16th Street between Wewatta and Wazee streets; free
Wednesday, September 25
Clínica: Turning off the Ignition–Discussions on Mobility and Access Equity
Denver’s Public Works has 450 miles of bike infrastructure planned, but has a long way to go before the city is as bike-friendly as Amsterdam. Hear from a swath of journalists, bicycle activists, planners, and academics as they critically discuss equity in transit and urban planning, moderated by Eugene Howard, Denver’s senior city planner. 2–4 p.m.; McNichols Building, 144 W. Colfax Ave.; free
Latin Beats: Sonidos de las Américas
To celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, the Colorado Symphony, conducted by Bertie Baigent, will collaborate with four musical acts to share the sounds of Latin America. Performances from Boulder’s Las Dahlias, Mexico City’s Silva de Alegría, members of Ozomatli, and Aurora’s La Fiebre del Sabor will be augmented by the Symphony, as each performance represents their culture and heritage. 7 p.m.; Boettcher Concert Hall, 1000 14th St.; free
Thursday, September 26
Clínica: Slow Down Your Fashion–Trends in Sustainable Clothing
As the era of “fast fashion” continues, join three sustainable designers as they reveal how we can all become more responsible textile consumers, and help make eco-friendly styles the next major trend. 2–4 p.m.; McNichols Building; free
Americas Symposium: The Business of Empathy featuring Sir Richard Branson
Sir Richard Branson, founder of the the Virgin Group, will recount his career path to becoming a successful entrepreneur, as well as how he continues to run empathy-driven businesses by focusing on the well-being of his employees. Joining him as moderator is Emmy-winning correspondent Jorge Ramos of Noticiero Univision. 6 p.m.; Buell Theater; $35
Friday, September 27
Conversations with Gen Z
Not only do the issues addressed at Biennial of the Americas span nations, but they span generations, as well. Guests can listen in as high school interns from the PlatteForum ArtLab interview civic and business leaders on issues of equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility. Visitors are free to roam from topic to topic and help themselves to a catered lunch. 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.; McNichols Building; free
Black Americas Project Dinner & Ozomatli Concert
Sit down for a soulful meal with Adrian Miller, food historian and author of the James Beard Award-winning book Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time and learn about how the African diaspora has influenced cuisine in the Americas. Following the sit-down dinner will be a performance by Ozomatli, a genre-fusing band hailing from Los Angeles. Dinner at 5:30 p.m., concert at 7:30 p.m.; Newman Center for the Performing Arts, 2344 E. Iliff Ave.; Ticket prices vary
Saturday, September 28
Empathy Through Film: Using Film and Story to Walk in Someone Else’s Shoes
Cinema has always been a way to better understand someone else’s experience. At this event, catch snippets from four documentaries, followed by commentary from each of the film’s creators. In Tribes on the Edge, viewers will learn about indigenous rights in the Amazon; in From Paris to Pittsburgh, viewers will see how Americans across the country are fighting climate change; in the Fundamental Films series, watch how five female activists are leading movements in five countries; and finally, in Pumas in Patagonia, get a sensory peak of how the cats relax and live in their natural habitat. 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Sie Film Center, 2510 E. Colfax Ave.; free
Starting Saturday afternoon, the culmination of the Biennial will begin in the heart of Denver at Civic Center Park. There, Colombia-based Sonic Design Studio will present Jaguara, a multi-sensory sound and light show experience, with the aim to raise awareness surrounding the deforestation of the Amazon, the jaguar’s natural habitat. Throughout the evening, food trucks will serve Latin American fare as musicians from all over North and South America perform. 4–10 p.m.; Civic Center Park; free