Prarie Light and Color is the installation art piece at the Fitzsimmons station, along the R Line. This piece is a part of the Art-N-Transit program. Photo by Philip B. Poston/Sentinel

AURORA | Hopping on a train along the R Line in Aurora means you’ve likely seen some award-winning art that was thoughtfully placed, even if you didn’t take the time to absorb it like you might in a traditional gallery.

This week the city of Aurora and Regional Transportation District were honored by the Colorado Business Committee for the Arts for their partnership in facilitating all of the art along the R Line.

Lindsey Smith, an RTD director and former public art administrator, said working with Aurora to place different installations across the route was relatively simple, as Aurora already has staff that specialize in public art. 

RTD’s Art in Transit program was established in 1994. Since, there have been dozens of pieces added all over the metro area. But the R Line, which opened in 2017, is the only route to have its own art theme so far. It’s what really sets the line apart from the others and made the award from CBCA special, Smith said.

“It’s really interesting if you ride the light rail to each station and think about the idea of color, light and motion and how each individual artist interpreted that,” said Roberta Bloom, the city of Aurora’s public art coordinator. She didn’t hold the coordinator position when the partnership was esbalished, but added that the funding from the city for the art has been a way to welcome people into the city as they step off a train.

Each station explores color, light and motion through art in a different way. The installment at the Aurora Metro Center station features the literal meaning of “Aurora,” which is a latin word for sunrise. Passengers can spin the 6-foot-tall story wheel of sunrises. That piece was created by artist John King and dedicated last year.

Down the line at the 13th Street Station is “Bike-nado,” a massive, colorful twister-shaped sculpture that seems as if it swept up a path of bicycles in its way. Artist Chris Fennel created it with the help of RTD. They donated abandoned bikes that went through the lost and found process and were never claimed.

A series of 24 windscreens that stretch along the line from station to station feature silhouettes of people from all different backgrounds — which artist George Bates describes on his website as a way to represent the diversity of Aurora. The title of the project, “Omnes Aurora, Omnes Mundi, Omnia Movens,” translates to “all Aurora, all the world, all moving.”

Pieces such as “Bike-nado” and the windscreens help create a sense of identity for each station, Smith said. People might not realize where 13th Avenue Station is, but they’re sure to remember where they saw a dozen or so bikes caught up in a steel pipe twister.

The art also serves a deterrence for vandalism, Smith said. Stations with artistic wind screens are less likely to be damaged. Smith said she believes it’s because the community and riders take pride in the beauty of the station. It’s no longer just a boring place to wait on a commute.

“People respect it more than you think,” she said.

Stanley Marketplace in northwest Aurora also received an award for its innovative art partnerships.