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TO GIVE, TO INSPIRE | How Aurora Public Art Commission Helped Keep Aurora Positive


As hundreds of people peacefully rallied in many of our communities following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, vandals and looters also took to the streets wreaking havoc on several businesses in our downtown areas. Aurora was one of the towns that was hit hard with the violence, and some small business owners, like Maria de los Angeles Saltijeral who owns I of the Angeles, found themselves protecting their stores with baseball bats and boards on their windows.

Early the next morning, volunteer clean-up crews were busy clearing away debris and broken glass, showing their support of their community. By the time opening business hours arrived, all was cleared away, but many of the stores’ windows remained boarded. Then came the beautifiers.

“It all started with a call from Sherwin-Williams offering to donate mistinted paint and some paint supplies,” says Jen Evans, Public Art Director of Aurora Public Art Commission. “Then Home Depot donated plywood, and the donations started coming in from everywhere.” A call went out on social media to reach out to as many artists as possible for help in painting pictures of hope, beauty and community on the boarded-up windows. “We had so many artists come down that there were more artists than walls,” says Jen. “The compilation of artists from town with all different backgrounds has been beautiful.”

One of the volunteer artists, Gin Ingram and her daughter, Nadia, based their painting off of the theme “Love 1 Another”, found in many of Prince’s songs. Another volunteer, Cherilynn Gnadt, wanted to depict a community coming from darkness to grow stronger and filled it with cocoons bursting into color.

Regarding the artwork, Maria explained, “It took me out of a dark place. You focus so much on the negative, and it drains your energy. When you find how caring others can be, it fills you back up.” Mary Garcia, her neighboring business owner that runs My Daughter’s Dress, said the efforts brought her to her knees in tears of joy. “Honestly, it made me feel like I was not alone, and this community is going to be here for me every single step of the way.”

And what will happen with all this beautiful art when it comes down? There are no concrete plans, but Jen’s hope is they will be able to collect the boards and hire local artists to put it all together as a permanent sculpture somewhere in the city. Watching these communities coming together as one, reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Ernest Hemingway that currently hangs in my writing office, “We are all broken; that’s how the light gets in.”