AURORA | There’s nothing like a fresh coat of enamel to liven up a building, even if it paints an old story.
At the Aurora Fox Arts Center, which itself is an historic landmark, Yulia Avgustinovich painted four separate murals on the exterior walls of the Fox, which she started in the beginning of July. The murals, all part of one total piece, depict various historic uses for the iconic building.
The wall art was a collaboration between the Aurora History Museum, Art in Public Places and the Fox. The museum provided the historical context, the Fox provided the “canvas” and Art in Public Places selected the artist and provided the $18,000 commission.
This is not the first time that Avgustinovich has done commissioned work for Aurora. In 2016, she painted a mural nearby at the Stanley Marketplace. The mural was painted directly on the street stretching two blocks with the help of more than 350 volunteers over a two weekend span.
Her past work with the city had no bearing on her being selected for this project, according to city officials.
To find a preferred artist, Art in Public Places compiled a list of narrative style muralist and from this list, a selection panel narrowed it down to three candidates. Those three were charged with coming up with a design to represent the history of the Fox.
“Yulia really did a knock-your-socks-off job in her proposal,” said Roberta Bloom, Public Art Coordinator for the City of Aurora. “Not only did she include the history of the Fox, but theatrical history as well. She really throws herself into every project.”
The history of the Fox begins in 1946 with the construction of the iconic Quonset-style building. It was, at the time, Aurora’s only “movie palace,” becoming increasingly popular with the city’s residents in the 1950s and 1960s.
When the 1970s began, the city saw an influx of shopping centers and improved cinemas, resulting in a decline of interest in Colfax and the storied cinema.
In 1981, the Fox fate seemed sealed when a fire and water damage seemed to doom the old building.
The community rallied and the city funded a restoration project, turning it into a theater in 1985. The Fox is now primarily used for performing arts.
“The mural is a beautiful celebration of the arts in Aurora,” said Helen R. Murray, Executive Producer for the Aurora Fox Arts Center. “It tells the story of the Aurora Fox’s history. From its time as a movie palace during the latter part of the golden age of cinema, to the fire that destroyed it in the 1980s, and finally to its rebirth as the award-winning live theatre and arts center that it is today.”
You don’t have to look hard to find public art in Aurora. There are currently 287 total public art works in the city, nine of which are murals.
That figure is not including the number of murals on private property, of which there is no count. Despite these private pieces not being commissioned through the city and Art In Public Places, they are more than celebrated.
“There have been a lot of private murals popping up in the city, and we really applaud that,” Bloom said.