Art Review


A lot of hype has been thrown around about the creation of an arts district in old downtown Aurora, an area that's been seriously declining for the past couple of decades. So far, though, all the talk has been little more than a lot of hot air. True, quite a bit of development has been under way over there for the last year or so, but very little of it has to do with the arts. Apparently that's about to change, with the Aurora City Council considering a proposal to turn over two vacant city buildings to two arts organizations.

If the plan goes forward, The Other Side Arts, now at 1644 Platte Street in Denver, will purchase the old Aurora police station at 1400 Dallas Street for the reasonable price of one dollar, and Red Delicious Press will lease the former Martin Luther King Jr. Library, at 9901 East 16th Avenue, for the somewhat higher price of a dollar a year.

This is good news, surely -- so why do I have a knot in my stomach? Because I'm worried about insensitive changes being made to the old library. The jewel box of a building is part of a larger complex that was once known as the Aurora Municipal Center, designed by the late Victor Hornbein, a master of mid-twentieth-century architecture in Denver and the preeminent local follower of Frank Lloyd Wright.

Both the library and the municipal center are worthy of being listed on the National Register of Historic Places; if that were to happen, then the renovation project, if planned sensitively, could qualify for state historic-preservation grants. Before any work takes place, Red Delicious Press needs to get some preservation consulting, and the city, which still owns the place, needs to ensure that these Hornbein-designed buildings are protected. After all, they are among the finest structures in the entire metro area.

I wait with bated breath to see the outcome of all of this, and as usual, I'm keeping my fingers crossed. Let's just hope they don't paint over that wonderful woodwork.

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Michael Paglia is an art historian and writer whose columns have appeared in Westword since 1995; his essays on the visual arts have also been published in national periodicals including Art News, Architecture, Art Ltd., Modernism, Art & Auction and Sculpture Magazine. He taught art history at the University of Colorado Denver.
Contact: Michael Paglia