Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Arts program helps Aurora youth, strengthens neighborhood

The Downtown Aurora Visual Arts (DAVA) organization offers free, after-school art programs weekdays for youth from low economic levels and high crime areas. DAVA serves approximately 700 students per year.


When DAVA was created 12 years ago, the area had no after-school programs. Executive Director Susan Jenson, MA ’98, taught art for classes for several years before assuming the director position in 2001. Under her leadership, DAVA added two programs and doubled its number of participants.

Jenson has sustained her connection with DU, taking on interns from DU’s art history program who are interested in teaching. Three DU alumni have worked full-time for DAVA, helping Aurora youth.

“Students who join the program get better grades and have better school attendance,” Jenson says.

DAVA has established progressively advanced programs for middle school students. The most advanced program gives art based job training, communication and social skills needed in a professional environment.

“We focus on kids in middle school because we find it is when many begin developing future plans,” Jenson says. “One of our students is going to higher education, but three years ago, when he first started the program he didn’t think that would be a possibility for him.”

A gallery, which is open to the public, features artwork created by DAVA students and community artists.

“Art develops specific skills and the ability to set goals and complete a project,” Jenson says.

Besides giving students an outlet to express themselves through the arts and enabling them to become creative problem solvers, Jenson says DAVA helps connect youth to their community.

Aurora, like many communities, is interested in using the arts to spur economic development. The city’s support of the program includes placing three clay murals and two sculptures created by DAVA artists.

“The children have had a visual impact on the community through the murals they have created,” says Mark Franzen, City of Aurora Urban Renewal Project Manager.

DAVA is located at 1405 Florence St., Aurora, Colo. Visit or call 303-367-5886 for more.

Comments are closed.