As new businesses continue to roll out at the Stanley Marketplace in Aurora, the little town of curated retail, restaurants and services under one roof looks more than promising. But one can’t help noticing how Stanley is perched precariously between the upwardly mobile, planned neighborhoods of Stapleton to the north and the funky diversity of old downtown Aurora to the south.
Are they two wildly different worlds with nothing in common? Aurora Cultural Arts District director Tracy Weil doesn’t think so. Instead, he sees Stanley as a bridge between them, and Atown Art, a temporary ACAD pop-up gallery space in the bustling marketplace, is his way of connecting contrasting neighborhoods that lie only blocks apart. “Aurora’s got ‘perceptions,’” says Weil, with a smile, of the cultural gap separating neighborhoods. “We’ve been trying to help change that by calling it ‘A-town’ lately. It sounds a little more cool.” It’s always been his goal to raise awareness of Aurora’s multicultural charms, and this is a direct attempt.
For the gallery’s first show, the Atown Artists Group Exhibition, Weil reached out to several artists he knows who are working in Aurora, and a few from Stapleton reached back, too; the exhibit opens on Thursday, March 30, and will be open during dinner hours on Thursdays and Fridays, and all day on Saturdays and Sundays. Along with a large selection of artists reaching out across the Stapleton/Aurora boundary line, Corky Scholl’s Save the Signs Colfax will contribute one of its neon treasures: The “Crazy” portion of the refurbished sign that once adorned Sid King’s Crazy Horse Bar in Denver.
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In addition, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts’s Off-Center is currently presenting Travelers of the Lost Dimension, a theatrical comedy walkabout through the Stanley Marketplace, using the Atown as part of its roaming production through at least May 21, ensuring that the gallery space will be secured until the end of May. “We want to let people from Stapleton know that there’s great culture just nine blocks away,” Weil says, adding that he hopes to eventually expand ACAD, where exciting things are happening on Colfax Avenue (including the newly renovated People’s Building at Colfax and Florence Street, opening in April with theater and restaurant spaces to fill) to include Stanley on its outer edge.
In the meantime, Weil invites the public — from Stapleton and beyond — to view A-town culture from a front-row seat at Atown Art and learn to see beyond their limited comfort level. And the next time you head to Stanley for shopping and a bite to eat, be sure to explore that neighborhood to the south, where things are more down to earth but no less exciting.