AURORA | No matter how many times the ritual is performed, it’s always difficult to conquer those pesky butterflies.
“Your boy’s nervous as a mother,” says the soft-spoken performer at the front of the room in the Aurora Cultural Arts District studio, snuffing his comments before arriving at a more explicit destination.
Beads of sweat flirt with falling from his well-illuminated brow as he adjusts the microphone stand Friday, Dec. 18, in northwest Aurora. He nervously chuckles before explaining the purpose and meaning behind the piece he’s about to perform. Entitled “The Forest,” it’s a riff on the idiom of seeing the forest through the trees.
But upon launching into the first syllable of the first bar, any whiffs of pre-performance jitters are quickly and immediately forgotten.
A sea of nodding heads, snapping fingers and closed eyes swells with approval as the performer, introduced as Enoch, works his way through a beautifully break-neck assault of rhymes, phrases and tongue twisters.
“It’s a flash bulb; a portrait of our day and time,” he says with staccatoed elegance. “A time when most of us are aimless, nameless, faceless, solitary and brainless…It’s the Instagram fiends, souls only boasted by the gleam from the blips on the screen, neutralized dreams.”
Stephanie Hancock, an observer sporting a honeycomb of thistle-colored hair, digests the words in the back of the room.
“Stop it,” she says in pleasurable disbelief, as if what she’s hearing is too good to be true.
Thankfully, it’s real, it’s true and it’s good — very good.
That potent cocktail of feigned disapproval and awe permeated the packed ACAD studio space Dec. 18 as several amateur and professional poets took the stage during a new poetry event that’s regularly been taking place at the Dallas Street studio for the past four months. Deemed House of Poetry, the gathering was an open mic reading hosted by the building’s newest creative tenants, 5280 Artist Co-op.
“We wanted to create an opportunity for artists of all disciplines to come together and work,” said Hancock, the vocal observer and co-founder of the Aurora-based co-op. “Denver has such a great poetry community that has ebbed and flowed over the years. And poets do a lot in Denver, but not in Aurora, so we wanted to bring something here and give A-Town some love.”
The co-op is the fruit of the many partnerships Hancock has formed with fellow creatives while acting and singing in productions across the metro area for nearly 30 years. She met co-founder Adrienne Martin-Fullwood through working with the Denver-based Athena Project, and first met another co-founder and last Friday’s MC, Kenya Fashaw, during a 2010 production of “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf,” in which they both performed. Martin-Fullwood had previously met Fashaw in a 2009 production of “Christmas of the Angels” with Shadow Theatre Company, which was formerly based in Aurora.
The group decided to set up shop in the ACAD following a tip from fellow neighborhood creative Satya Wimbish, owner of The Collection Gallery, who regularly attends Potter’s House Church in Denver with Martin-Fullwood.
“Satya told us that there was a space open across (from The Collection), and we were like, ‘where is it? That old police sub station?’” Hancock said. “I had no idea it had been re-purposed.”
Wimbish said that inviting the group to the district seemed like a natural fit.
“They’re very well into the arts and I just figured they would be a good fit,” she said. “I wanted to … try and keep them around to be a part of the district.”
Since moving into a small office space in the basement of the ACAD studio late this summer, Fashaw said that the facility has been ideal for spoken word performances.
“Everybody that comes here has great things to say about it,” she said. “They like the ambience of it being intimate and they love the art.”
For now, the group said that it is committed to hosting one open mic each month with a featured poet, musical guests and food. Going forward, Hancock said that 5280 has plans to partner with other ACAD members and potentially put on some original stage productions.
“We’re taking small steps toward partnering with other groups — we’re still pretty fledgling,” Hancock said. “But we’re looking to become more active with the district, and we really want to bring more spotlight to what’s happening in Aurora. We want to bring more poetry and more music, so people know that we’re doing it big — they need to see it.”
Tracy Weil, executive director of the ACAD, said that the group has been a quick and passionate ambassador for the district, attending and performing at both the Aurora Arts Festival this summer and the holiday tree lighting sponsored by the district earlier this month.
“They really have a great energy about them,” Weil said. “Stephanie and Adrienne are so into what they’re doing and so excited about it, frankly, they bring that to the surface and make a party wherever they’re going. It’s infectious and people want to know more and be a part of it. It’s a movement and that’s really what we’re all about.”