Planned Mural Paints A Blurry Picture For Some Aurora Artists

Sep 2, 2020

The Aurora City Council recently approved a special sign district that has been under review for the past month. This came after controversy arose over the painting of a proposed mural. 

Some local artists and other residents took to social media to express their disappointment in the process for assigning the artist for the mural.

The work, featuring the word “Aurora” in capital, brightly-colored block letters, is to be located on a wall of Tortas Guadalajara located at 5 S. Lake street. This restaurant is on the western edge of the city’s downtown.

Image of planned mural.
Credit https://www.aurora-il.org/

The online conversations started in late July.   

Aurora Downtown funded the project. This organization is financed by Aurora’s Special Service Area (SSA) #1.

Kim Woodin is the chairperson of the group. She explained that the artist was picked during a committee meeting.  

“The background and the history of it," she said, "was really they wanted it to kind of be a gateway to downtown. It was supposed to represent, you know, kind of vintage Aurora, some of the old logos that we used to have some of the old colors.” 

Artist Joshua Schultz  was chosen for the task. Woodin said the committee was familiar with his work and knew he could get the job done.  

Woodin said she first heard that there were issues during a city council meeting last month. She said she isn’t on social media that much, but after the meeting, someone sent her screenshots of some of the posts.

Once Aurora Downtown found out there was controversy, they asked the city council to postpone the vote. They did this so they could have a listening session with some of the artists. This took place Aug. 20.   

The artist known as Javi is the curator and art director for the ArtBar in Aurora. He posted his feelings on Facebook and later reiterated his message. He explains how he thinks the process should have gone. 

“There should have been a bid. There wasn't. This is a no-bid contract, for a permanent public piece of art, using public funds. That's the issue,” Javi said. “And that's what I want people to focus on.” 

He expressed that his distaste isn’t with the artist or the design.

Wall at Tortas Guadalajara, future location for the "Aurora" mural.
Credit Yvonne Boose

Javi was not able to attend the meeting but he did write a letter that was read on his behalf.

Woodin said by the time the controversy started it was too late to change the course. Schultz signed the contract last year around October. She said it’s not in the group’s best interest to start over. 

Javi said he is not thrilled with the final decision.     

“The burden and responsibility to make this correct fell on the shoulders of Aurora Downtown," Javi explained, "because they were the one that created the problem in the first place, by not offering a no-bid contract."

He said they could have created a more equitable solution. He said the sign will, instead, represent inequity for him. He suggested it will also remind him that people who are marginalized are never going to get a seat at the table.

Woodin shared that Aurora Downtown did hear the artists during the listening session and they are working hard to partner with the community.  

She said there are some things that the organization will change going forward.  

Woodin said, first, Aurora Downtown will support and lobby for a change to the sign ordinance so that it is not used for murals. They will also advocate for a separate ordinance for murals detailing the process as directed by the Aurora Public Art Commission

Woodin continued with the list. 

“Aurora downtown will publish an open call for artists when a public art project is anticipated,” Woodin added. “Which, I think this was not done in the last one. Which, I think was one of the main concerns from Javi that that was not done."

She also said Aurora Downtown will seek guidance from the Public Art Commission for any future review processes, in order to ensure equity.

  • Yvonne Boose is a 2020 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. It's a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms like WNIJ. You can learn more about Report for America at wnij.org.