Aurora arts group looks to shine in D.C. tree event

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AURORA | For the second time in nearly as many years, instructors from Downtown Aurora Visual Arts will soon be making a pilgrimage to Washington D.C.

The local arts education organization on Florence Street, known colloquially as DAVA, was selected in October to represent Colorado at the National Tree Lighting Ceremony at the White House on Dec. 1.

Dozens of DAVA students worked to create 12 spherical ornaments that will adorn a satellite tree beside the National Christmas Tree. An arts organization from each state is chosen to decorate the respective 50 trees that flank the national tree.

Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet recommended that DAVA represent the state at this year’s tree lighting event, according to Susan Jenson, executive director at DAVA.

“We are so honored to represent Colorado as the creators of ornaments for our national tree this year,” Jenson wrote in an email. “It’s always fun to see what kids come up with when they describe Colorado.”

DAVA students ages 7-17 helped create the dozen ornaments, filling the decorations with small robots made of recycled electronics and myriad Colorado-centric figurines made of the clay-like material Model Magic. Designs included recreations of Denver Broncos football players, “The Blue Mustang” sculpture by Luis Jimenez near Denver International Airport, and Lawrence Argent’s “The Blue Bear” piece in front of the Colorado Convention Center in Denver.

Jenson said many of the students were incredulous when told their works would be on display at the White House.

“It’s a huge deal for children to think their work is traveling all the way to Washington D.C.,” she wrote in her email. “They asked me, ‘this isn’t really going to the White House is it?’  When I reassured them it was true, they were really excited.

“The President and Mrs. Obama are great favorites, so the idea that we’ll be at a celebration with them is huge.”

Jenson is planning on flying to Washington Nov. 30 with DAVA student-turned-staffer, Cruz Javier Torres, to attend the official tree lighting ceremony the following day. Organized by the National Park Service and the organization’s affiliated charity the National Park Foundation, the lighting ceremony will culminate the NPS’ year-long centennial celebrations, according to the organization’s website.

The event, scheduled to take place on the Ellipse at President’s Park just south of the White House, is slated to feature performances by Chance the Rapper, James Taylor, Kelly Clarkson, The Lumineers, Yolanda Adams and Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood.

Jenson last visited the White House on behalf of DAVA in November 2014, when the Aurora-based nonprofit organization received a National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award from First Lady Michelle Obama.

The Hallmark Channel is scheduled to broadcast the tree lighting event in its entirety Dec. 5 at 7 p.m.