Tracy Weil is a master at the art of breathing life into ideas. He calls it branding, and that's the business end of his skill, but it's also about being engaged in the community, which is what makes it so special. An artist, urban agriculturist, designer and Westword MasterMind, Weil is part of the brain trust behind the booming RiNo art district, an area he pioneered before it had a name. He helped put a face on the Denver County Fair and shared his acumen again as a consultant when Lakewood created its 40 West Arts District.
Last month, he took the reins as managing director of the newly formed Aurora Cultural Arts District. It's a part-time gig, he's quick to note, but one close to his heart: Weil grew up within walking distance of the East Colfax Avenue drag that is Aurora's old downtown, and continued to live and work in the area after graduating from Fort Lewis College.
Now it's his job to rebrand a district that's lost some of its punch in the last couple of years, with some long-time artist-residents leaving for other neighborhoods and the dissolution of The Other Side Arts, which previously offered classes and studio space at 1400 Dallas Street (the space still houses studios, but is in the middle of restructuring).
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"Being here again brings back great memories for me, but the neighborhood has changed over the years," Weil says. "I'm working with the board to determine our common goals, and they're a lot farther along than I thought they were, with Vintage Theatre moving in and the Aurora Fox going strong." And there are other pluses: "My work with RiNo was more grassroots - there was no city involvement at all. Here, I'm working with the board of directors on the district's goals in marketing, and the City of Aurora is very much involved."
Other developments? With the aforementioned Vintage and Aurora Fox theaters successfully bringing performing arts to the Colfax drag, could there be a glimmer of a theater district in the future? Kim Robards Dance is already moving in at Colfax Avenue and Florence Street, and at least two theater companies are also reported to be looking for spaces in the area. that's just one option for Weil and Aurora to explore.
"Aurora is trying to reactivate the area and working to help fund paying for staffing and properties like the old TOSA space," Weil continues. "I'm all about image. I want to help them rebrand themselves. Everybody wants to be like Denver, but the people who enjoy this district are the people who live here -- the people of Aurora. I'm seeing a triangle developing between Stapleton, Lowry and the Fitzsimons campus, and the Aurora art district is smack dab in middle of that triangle."
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The job of bringing people in from all over that urban triangle is just starting, but Weil's on the job, and already amping up for the district's Aurora Arts Festival at the end of June. "I call it Tracy's Art District Takeover," he says with a chuckle, but Weil might be just the shot in the arm needed in downtown Aurora.