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Downtown Aurora Visual Arts

July 9, 2018

Amazing work

The Americans for the Arts Education Council members visited and took a walking tour led by Karina Banuelos in the neighborhood of the Downtown Aurora Visual Arts (DAVA). Twenty five years ago an artist from Aurora, CO started a project with young kids in the community creating a mosaic. After two years of work the mosaic was installed on the side of a building in the heart of Aurora. The students asked if they could continue visiting the artists’ studio and the Downtown Aurora Visual Arts was born. From day one they’ve been evaluating this creative youth development program and the data has been aligned with a bump in the test scores in the nearby schools. Consequently the program is supported by the school district. The positive impact has been continuous on young people and the community. They are doing cutting edge work in multiple programs from drawing classes to an engaging job training program.

Aurora is only a 25 minute car ride from Denver and the arts community successfully meets the needs of young people and families. Working with teaching artists and a dedicated staff it is a fine example of not just surviving but thriving. The Americans for the Arts Education Council members visited and took a walking tour in the neighborhood.

The art center was alive with students from young elementary through high school. Creative Youth Development at it’s best. We saw an amazing exhibit that was created in connection with many science topics; nutrition, the body system, parasites, bacteria, microbioms.

Their programs build upon each other starting with young children, ages 2-6, and their parents two days a week. The after school programs services 100 kids a week and the program continues throughout the summer with even more learners. The clay program had 30 students of all ages – learning from and with each other. This summer they will mix their own glazes so students can be introduced to chemistry.

The Job Training program had students solving a murder mystery while creating a plaster skeleton learning about tissues, bones, and the anatomy of a human. They combined science and art to help solve the identity of the person. In addition they were learning about how to take care of their own body.

For the past nine years they’ve had a film program which partners with the Colorado Film School located close by.  They’ve had students receive recognition at the state and national Scholastic awards program for PSA films that they’ve created.

Their creative youth development program continues to move young people forward in the experiential learning environment filled with student choice and voice. Originally their goal was to get kids to and through high school. Their success has raised the bar and now they are getting into college and some return to give back by working at the art center.

Info below is from a handout provided to us:

Downtown Aurora Visual Arts (DAVA) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening the Aurora community through the arts, with a primary focus on youth engagement. By providing a safe learning environment for youth ages three to 17, DAVA programs reinforce 21st century life skills, build self-esteem, and connect youth to the community. DAVA represents a unique combination of arts education and youth development, demonstrating how quality arts programming during after- school hours forms a critical framework for long-term youth success. DAVA reinforces the message that youth are an integral part of community cultural development and in 2016 received the National Arts and Humanities Youth Programs Award (NAHYP) for providing a solution for urban communities through its model of creative youth development, combining excellence in the arts with positive youth development. DAVA “taps the untapped potential” in young people by providing access tocreative programming year-round.

In addition, DAVA takes a lead role in organizing the Colorado Alliance for Creative Youth Development (http://cocreativeyouthalliance.org/). We regularly meet with 10 community-based arts organizations to share best practices and evaluation methodology, as well as advocate for creative youth development opportunities across the state. Members have benefitted from the use of a common survey—to track youth outcomes both in terms of arts skills and youth development, use data for improvement of programs, monitor feedback from youth, share results, and advocate for dedicated support for young people who benefit from experiential learning with an emphasis on equity and access.

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