Annual arts fest a chance to celebrate Aurora’s creativity

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AURORA | Residents and visitors alike will be able to have their cake and eat it, too, in the Aurora Cultural Arts District this weekend.

The city of Aurora and the ACAD will be serving up more than 1,000 pieces of free cake starting at 1 p.m. Saturday in order to help kick off the fifth annual Aurora Arts Festival and celebrate the city’s ongoing quasquicentennial birthday festivities.

The cake will be provided compliments of Walmart and the Fax Aurora Business League, according to Tracy Weil, managing director of the ACAD.

“The cake will help us kick things off in good style,” Weil said. “Really what the festival is about is celebrating Aurora and who we are a as a cultural arts district and as artists.”

This year’s festival, slated to take place from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday, is set to feature a litany of entertainment offerings throughout the afternoon, according to Weil. Performers include Orquesta La Brava, a Bollywood flash mob and Grammy-nominated R&B singer Anthony David.

In total, more than a dozen performers and about 75 vendors will showcase their work in and around Fletcher Plaza on Saturday. A beer garden operated by nearby Mu Brewery will also be set up, according to Weil.

Utilizing the theme “Arts on the Block,” there was an effort to include  local community members in planning and organizing this year’s happenings, according to Weil. In that vein, festival organizers focused on attracting an array of entertainers with backgrounds from across the globe to reflect north Aurora’s wildly diverse population.

“We’ve got something for everyone because that’s how Aurora is,” Weil said. “We’re a big melting pot of cultures, and we want to reflect that.”

Bob Hagedorn, former state senator and president of the ACAD board of directors, lauded the festival’s uninterrupted, albeit short, lifespan.

“We’re now in our fifth year, and I think it’s great and important to be able to have that kind of stability in an event,” he said.

Hagedorn added that the Arts Festival is a valuable opportunity to let Aurora residents from outside of the city’s northwest pocket learn more about the ACAD.

“We certainly have a desire to try to be an asset to people outside of what most people consider to be ACAD,” he said. “We’re going to continue to try and do that outreach.”

Hagedorn pointed to bringing performances and exhibitions to Highpoint Chruch in southeast Aurora as a potential means of shrinking the distance between the ACAD and other regions of the city.

Satya Wimbish, owner of The Collection gallery and vice president of the ACAD board, echoed Hagedorn’s thoughts on the festival being an important showcase for people who may be unfamiliar with the neighborhood.

“I think it is helping us open up to a broader audience as far the performances and audiences we have coming in,” she said. “We are definitely bringing in newer, bigger and better things to the district.”

The district has continued to grow in recent years, according to Weil, who said that there are now more than 40 paying members in the ACAD catalogue — an all-time high. He said that in total, more than 400 creatives live or work in the district and more than 112,000 visitors passed through the area in 2015.

Wimbish added that this was the first time she had to turn away vendors who were interested in participating in the festival.

“All ships rise together,” Weil said. “However, we as creatives and artists can get together and band together to promote all the great stuff we’re doing collectively, it’s better for sure.”

A new exhibition at Downtown Aurora Visual Arts set to feature works by local students that explore the theme of peace will unofficially kick off the weekend with a reception at the DAVA gallery from 4 to 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 24.