Art-to-Heart Talk

Somewhere in the world, there's a place where neighborhood kids can go after school to create art and receive skills training as well as participate in open discussions about such looming youth issues as drugs and alcohol, a place that's open every day during the week, is free and welcomes attendees, their cousins and their friends. Such a place does exist — in downtown Aurora.

Downtown Aurora Visual Arts provides an after-school haven for students from nearby West Middle School and the rest of central Aurora. And once a year, DAVA — through funding by the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division of Colorado — hosts a show of student works dealing with substance abuse.

"It's always one of our most powerful shows," DAVA executive director Susan Jenson says of the student-curated exhibit. "They choose the themes, come up with the poster designs and even decide how the work will be installed in the gallery." The kids, she stresses, never fail to produce a clear-eyed exposition propelled by the kind of unsullied, open-minded vision unique to young people.

This year, almost fifty youngsters took part in Risk. One group researched 52 toxic ingredients found in cigarettes (including ammonia, arsenic, butane and numerous other icky items) and created a wall installation of drawings and clay objects to illustrate each one; another built a cigarette-pack piñata filled with facts about smoking; another made realistic, fact-exposing labels for alcoholic beverages; and one enterprising group created side-by-side vending machines stocked with either clay junk food or healthy veggies. These and other works go on display at a reception (and piñata party!) today from 4 to 7 p.m. and remain on view through June 24. DAVA is at 1405 Florence Street in Aurora; call 303-367-5886 or go to for more information.
May 4-June 24