From Alcohol to Art: Abandoned building hosts local talent in Aurora
An abandoned building that operated as a liquor store for decades has been repurposed. The new East Colfax Art Gallery & Studio celebrates creativity in the neighborhood while giving local artists a place to shine.
The Aurora Cultural Arts District celebrated the gallery's grand opening at 10201 E. Colfax Avenue. It's another step in the revitalization of the Colfax corridor between Peoria and Yosemite.
"There are liquor stores and pawn shops up and down this corridor. To take a place that really profited off misery and addiction and turn it into a place that offers healing and culture and joy is amazing," said Stephanie Hancock, chair of the Aurora Cultural Arts District.
Some artists go from fingerpaint on fridges to their work on a buyer's wall, but the journey isn't easy. It can take years to get art displayed in a major venue. For many, it happens after they've died.
Hancock says she wants to celebrate living, local artists.
The gallery is currently giving six artists a new platform and they're all from Aurora.
"They speak with different voices and languages that really exude their perspective on life, on culture, on history, on beauty. The best part about it is these artists are from here. With over 90 spoken languages in this particular zip code alone, it really exemplifies the voice of this area," Hancock said.
Aurora native Tex Neila says she's addicted to art. Her wall in the gallery is full of art that incorporates upcycled materials and features stories of real people.
The space allows her to make a living doing what she loves.
"When I got out of the military, I decided to go back to my roots here and go back to art instead of going to the security field. In the military, I was an MP. But I would rather paint," said Neila, who says she once got into trouble for bringing art supplies to basic training.
Neila often uses local models for her work and pays them a commission on the work she sells. Some of her pieces on display have already been purchased.
"Working with them has been extremely beneficial. It's helped me make money. It helped me build my team. It's also helped me give my team more opportunities," said Neila. "It's had such a huge impact on people that I know. I'm really grateful that we're here."
The gallery has already received the donation of a kiln.
Hancock says the goal for East Colfax Gallery & Studios is to have low-cost and even free art classes for the community. They want to make art accessible.
"What we're trying to do is invite the community to come in and inspire the artists that lives inside them," Hancock said.
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