AURORA | There’s a lot of meaning behind the colorful mural depicting life as a day laborer going up on the 1500 block of Dayton Street, where the city has made improvements for those hoping to catch work for the day.
“My grandfather used to be a day laborer when I was a child, so the minute I saw the request for proposal to do the artwork it immediately struck me,” said Bimmer Torres, the artist behind the mural, which is nearly halfway finished now.
Torres is no stranger to taking a massive blank wall and creating art. He’s done more than 200 murals across Colorado in the last 13 years. But this one is particularly connected to the community. It showcases a collage of jobs day laborers take, reflecting a typical perspective of the work the group of mostly Hispanic men that gather at the site do on any given day.
“I was really inspired by the laborers’ stories,” Torres said.
Before submitting the eventually winning proposal to the city, Torres took to the site to talk to the day laborers who gather there.
“They had a lot of perspectives,” Torres said. “It’s an unknown for them everyday. They don’t know if they’ll get somebody to pick them up for work. They may not get a job that day.”
Torres said his goal is that the mural will inspire those who congregate at the site everyday.
“I hope they see the story permanently painted on the wall and they are inspired and it pushes them through their week and work day,” he said.
The mural is also serving double duty by beautifying the neighborhood in the northeastern portion of the city. Mateos Alvarez, executive director of the newly-formed Aurora Economic Opportunity Coalition which manages the Dayton St. lot, already sees that happening.
“This has inspired our neighbors to the north and south of us to come over and (now) we’re meeting each other,” Alvarez said. “We’re sweeping the sidewalks and picking up trash. The pawn shop across the street already asked the city (if they can) put a mural on their wall, too.”
The project has truly been about the community, Alvarez said, noting that Torres allocated some of the budget to have the day laborers help paint the mural, which adds even more meaning to the art.
“They (the day laborers) are excited to be working on something, and to have a place to go that will look the way it will when we’re done,” Torres said. “They’ll have that ownership of it.”
The city spent two years negotiating and repairing the land for the day laborer site at East Colfax Ave. and Dayton Street to ease safety concerns.
It wasn’t uncommon to see men darting from one side of the street with hopes of getting a job for the day. Prior to the city’s involvement, the area was just a gathering spot.
“They bake in the summer, they freeze in the winter, there are no bathrooms, there are occasionally people who come in and give them sustenance, but that’s sporadic at best,” said Aurora City Councilwoman Sally Mounier earlier this year. Her ward encompasses the site.
The city purchased the northwest Aurora lot in 2016 for $400,000, repairing the roof, upgrading bathrooms and removing asbestos at the small building at 1521 Dayton St.
Most recently, Mounier said she’s asked Aurora Congressman Mike Coffman’s office if there is anything that can be done about updating the post office near the site.
Because the artwork is so noticeable from the street, Torres’ mural has been a good mechanism to education the community on the day laborer site, Alvarez said.
“It inspires people to get involved and ask questions,” he said. “The mural has been a huge help in creating these opportunities to start a conversation.”