By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
Dawan, who, at 21, is the oldest and shortest of the group, points to a couple of Lil' Wayne wannabes by the escalators and explains that the pair are loitering, because they look like they have nothing to do. "That's what you'd do when you were a kid," he says. "Now that I'm older, I'm able to go places that I want to go, but I come over here and buy stuff."
"We buy white T-shirts and black shoes. Over and over," Devon laughs. "Shoes, shirts. That's it."
But in between purchases, a man needs to relax, sometimes with friends, sometimes for hours at a time. Hence the lounge. The mall has changed a lot since Dawan first started coming here in his early teens, back when it was known as the Aurora Mall and many of the storefronts stood empty. A 2004 shooting near Champs Sports that killed nineteen-year-old Krystal Martinez was thought to be the death knell for the indoor mall, which had been losing business to the Cherry Creek and Park Meadows shopping centers. But a $100 million renovation spruced the place up with high ceilings, lots of tile and lick-and-stick flagstone built into the walls.
"It looks more professional," Dawan says.
"It doesn't look so beat," Devon, age seventeen, agrees.
"My mom, she didn't even used to come in here, that's how bad it was," Dawan says. "Now she comes in here all the time. My grandmother comes in here."
The fact that this mall is the most heavily secured in the state, with at least five private security guards and several Aurora police officers patrolling the interior at all times, does seem to bother them a little.
"You can feel them looking at you," Jaciani points out. "You can see their eyes just follow you around."
"That's why they got a police station in here," Devon says. "It's not a little security guard stand; it's an actual police station. After that happened, after that girl got shot, they put it in."
There's also the policy that prohibits anyone under sixteen from being in the mall without an adult on weekends. "To tell you the truth, the people, you've got to think about the people that live in this area," Dawan adds. "Because that's where their business is coming from — who's going to come in here. The way it was before, no one would come in here. I'm not saying that you got to get out of here, you sixteen, you got to get out is a bad thing or a good thing. But at the same time, it's sort of good because then they don't have to worry about it. To tell you the truth, when I was that age, we was bad. BAD."
"I'll tell you what the problem is, right there," Dawan says, pointing to a man, a white guy in handcuffs, being escorted out the door by police. They all laugh. "AAWWWWW!!!" yells Jaciani. "Damn, there he goes!" — Jared Jacang Maher
10955 East Exposition Avenue, Aurora
The border between Denver and Aurora is a mass of jigs and jogs that, taken together, essentially runs along a roughly north/south axis. On Alameda, the dividing line is Galena Street, and a few blocks east is the 57-acre Expo Park. Its location, just inside the city limits in what city planners call the "Alameda corridor," makes Expo Park the perfect spot for a gateway monument welcoming people to the city.
It's an idea that's just taking shape, as a huge sculptural composition is erected south of Alameda at the north end of the park.
The piece, a cycle of interrelated sculptures, is titled "Aurora Akimbo," and it was created specifically for this particular spot by well-known Denver artist David Griggs. Over the past twenty years, Griggs, who earned his MFA at the University of Colorado, has made many sculptures and installations that are on permanent view — at DIA, on the viaduct near Coors Field and in other locales throughout Denver and across the country.
"Aurora Akimbo" is a massive conceptual piece made of molded and painted fiberglass. It's 22 feet tall and sixty feet long, and it takes the form of a giant tumbling letter A depicted in three separate monumental vignettes. The A's are surrounded by hoops further suggesting that the A is rolling away down the lawn, despite the fact that all the elements are permanently affixed to the ground. For Griggs, the A doesn't simply stand for "Aurora," but for a set of free-association words that start with A, including "Achievement," "Aspiration" and, though the artist doesn't say so, "Alameda."
Griggs is just the latest prominent regional artist to be awarded a commission in Aurora. The municipal government here sees public art as a vehicle for some badly needed city beautification, as well as a way to inspire some sorely lacking civic pride. And though she definitely has her work cut out for her, public art manager Deana Miller has done her part by recruiting the best local talent for the job. — Michael Paglia
Red Rocks Amphitheatre
18300 West Alameda Parkway, Morrison