Aurora theater shooting memorial underway


Photo/ Nicole Elizabeth

In February, organizers from the 7/20 Memorial Foundation narrowed down their selection of artists for the Aurora theater memorial to four candidates.

The 7/20 Memorial Foundation consists of survivors and relatives of victims of the 2012 Aurora theater shooting who wanted to set up a memorial for remembrance and reflection. While a makeshift memorial was set up in the theater, it was only temporary, so the 7/20 Memorial Foundation was formed to create a permanent one.

In the beginning, the fundraising effort set their goal at $400,000 before they lowered it to $50,000 when they realized how slowly donations were coming in. The significant cut raised some doubts within the community about the feasibility of the project. “We think $50,000 might do a nice memorial,” Aurora City Councilwoman Barb Cleland said in an interview with The Denver Post. “We’ll just have to see if that’s enough. We don’t know yet.”

After that, help came in two forms. The City of Aurora decided to donate 2,500 square feet to the 7/20 Memorial Foundation in the middle of Aurora Water’s Xeriscape Demonstration Garden at the Aurora Municipal Center. It incorporated the memorial into part of the Reflection Garden, a planned expansion of the Xeriscape Garden.

Aurora’s Colorado Community Church also managed to collect and donate $115,000—approximately the same amount of money that the 7/20 Memorial Foundation had collected themselves.

With around $230,000 and a space to build its memorial, the 7/20 Memorial Foundation announced in August 2016 that they had garnered enough resources to hire an artist to design the memorial garden. Near the end of January 2017 the 7/20 Memorial Foundation called for artists to apply to help create the memorial. 

“The public art process is going to take some time, so any money raised beyond our initial milestone will go toward funding the final product, which includes artwork, benches, and other decorative elements, and will simply enable them to do more than initially planned,” Heather Dearman, a 7/20 Memorial Foundation member, said to The Denver Post.

Interviews have been scheduled with Ted Clausen of Massachusetts, Douwe Blumberg of Kentucky, Jim Gallucci of North Carolina, and Nobuho Nagasawa of New York. The 7/20 Memorial Foundation hopes to finish the interviews by May and collect the final proposals by June.

None of these artists are native Coloradans, but their applications demanded a personal statement on why the project was important to them. Other parts of the application required a résumé and eight former projects the artists were responsible for. “We didn’t ask them to submit any proposals on what they would build,” Dearman said to The Denver Post. “We wanted to commission something unique and didn’t want to have any preconceived notions—for us or them—until they met some of the community and survivors.”

Other members of the Foundation expressed similar sentiments about the selection process. “A special kind of artist is really needed to pull off something this complex, multi-layered, and nuanced,” Roberta Bloom, Aurora’s Public Art Coordinator, said to The Denver Post. “We’re really looking for an artist who is receptive to engaging in that kind of thoughtful and meaningful research.”

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