Art Review


Last month, I made some comments about the Original Aurora Arts District ("In Black and White," August 25) that struck a nerve with Kim Harrell and Lani Sloss, owners of East End Applied Arts. In response, they sent Westword a letter, which was published last week.

I described the area, which runs between Dayton and Havana streets along East Colfax Avenue, as being among the meanest streets in the area. For some reason, Harrell and Sloss believed my statement proved that I had not been out there to see it. I guess I should not be surprised that people who open a Cherry Creek North-style boutique in Aurora would be given to flights of baseless fantasy. You see, it's only by having gone out there that I realized the full measure of the arts district's failure.

It would make more sense to call it a pawnshop district or, better yet, an empty-storefront district. Why, there's even a vacant former King Soopers at Colfax and Havana. I have nothing against the idea of making old Aurora an arts district; I was just delivering the bad news that it hasn't yet become one. However, I do have something against the inept planners in Aurora who evaluated the buildings in this area.

The dim-bulb bureaucrats consigned most of the Aurora Municipal Center (a masterful '50s Usonian-style complex) to the junk heap while declaring the Fox Theater (a Quonset hut with a cool sign) a landmark. Victor Hornbein, Denver's preeminent follower of Frank Lloyd Wright, designed the AMC, and from an architectural standpoint, it is definitely in the top 1 percent of the built environment on the Front Range. Imagine how many other buildings in Aurora could be described in this way. (Surely not the Fox.) The library portion (left) is the only part of the AMC that will not be demolished, because it's being converted into a print shop for Red Delicious Press.

I'd love to see downtown Aurora become an arts district. I just can't imagine why it would, especially when those in charge make stupid calls, like the planned destruction of Hornbein's AMC.

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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