Downtown Aurora Visual Arts started small in 1993 in a vacant storefront, eventually taking over the rest of of the building as other tenants emptied out. The initial space was one where they had to make do, notes DAVA director Susan Jenson, and that’s what they did: The organization’s free art-education and job-training programs for kids in all stages of development now serves hundreds of students annually.
But Jenson is aiming even higher as a new, improved DAVA, expanded to 8,600 square feet through the combination of renovation and a new buildout, debuts this week. “This is a whole new day for us,” Jenson says. “We were having to turn away kids for lack of space.”
Those days are over, she adds: “We now have a whole job-training wing, a clay studio, a media-arts room and a new entrance, lobby and reception area.”
The end-product of an extensive fundraising campaign, the buildout gives DAVA some room to move — and grow. “We now have to learn how to inhabit our new space,” Jenson says. “We hope to add another layer of multidisciplinary programming, with a multi-purposing space for movement and dance, big sunny spaces for classrooms, and a place for people to meet.”
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For all of this, Jenson gives big props to the designer, Shubhra Raje of Built Environments, who created a flexible and beautiful space. “She was familiar with our programming, and designed the building around that,” she says. “We can stay relevant now. We have a building created with kids in mind — inspired by young people. She took a 1950s retail space with a problematic design and created an open-learning environment.”
Tour the improved facility at 1405 Florence Street in downtown Aurora and learn more about the youth programs at DAVA’s grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony from 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday, January 14 in downtown Aurora. If you can’t make it, visit DAVA online for information, and mark your calendar for the DAVA gallery’s next opening — featuring the annual Aurora Public Schools Art Educators Exhibit — from 4 to 7:30 pm. Wednesday, February 3.