Public art mural in downtown Aurora encourages local artists to collaborate

An artist from Uganda discusses mural possibilities in the basement of Endiro Coffee in downtown Aurora with artists Sam Cervantes and Graham Wilkin and community activist Uly Diaz.

In the last week there have been some busy bees in downtown Aurora and they weren’t working on the highly anticipated Harry Potter Festival (sold out by the way). Rebekah Axtel, Joshua Schultz, Tim Frederick, Sam Melton, David Lewis, and others have been scurrying around to try to make the most out of an impending deadline for an RFP for a public mural in downtown Aurora.

If you don’t know what an RFP is, then join the majority of society. It’s pretty much an exclusive and small group that is schooled in the business of Request for Proposals (RFPs). Local artists are most likely not in the group that does business regularly with the city, so it was great when they were invited to Holbrook Mill in order to break down the pieces of how to be part of a public mural.

A few dozen showed up at the historic, limestone building on Benton to learn about the process. Some were artists. There were also community members and Adrienne Holloway, a member of Mayor Irvin’s transition team. The night had a list of speakers who are involved in both the former and current art scene in Aurora. Sam Cervantes was a favorite. Cervantes is well-known for a mural on the East Side in the 1990s.

Cervantes said that art saved him. “This isn’t negative. It’s a positive thing,” he said about allowing murals in Aurora. “I’m excited about the way the city is moving,” he said.

In the early 1990s, Cervantes painted a mural at Claim and Union that urged youth to think about gun violence. He was 19 and had a son on the way. He said that they got ladders and funded the mural themselves. “That mural was respected,” he said.

Cervantes has continued as an artist. “Art has an impact on youth,” he said.

Realtor Vicki McCoy, who is part of the Aurora Mural Project that led the charge for an updated mural ordinance in Aurora, spoke about urban revitalization and the arts having a positive impact on housing prices. McCoy said that every thriving city has murals. “We will have more people wanting to move to our town,” she said.

The evening welcomed Alderman Mike Saville who spoke about the Fox Walk Overlay that oversees esthetics in downtown Aurora. Tim Frederick, owner of If These Walls Could Talk in downtown Aurora, presented a slide show of various possibilities for mural locations in downtown. Artist Joshua Schultz shared his mural proposal for the Downer Place Wall with attendees, and Rebekah Axtel led a discussion on how the local artist community can collaborate on the opportunity.

Part of the group them met up the following Saturday for a tour through downtown Aurora including stops at La Quinta de los Reyes, Endiro Coffee, David L. Pierce Art and History Center, and Leland Tower.

The community is coming together. And it all started with an email on May 9 from Dan Barreiro, chief community services officer for the city of Aurora:


“I am pleased to announce that the 2017 City Budget includes $15,000 for a City Commission Mural.  With the assistance of the Procurement Division, the Public Art Mural RFP has been posted on the City Website and published in the paper.  I have attached the RFP for your reference.  Please share with any artist or interested downtown building owner.  RFPs will be accepted until noon on June 16, 2017.”

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