Free Songwriting Workshops in the spirit of “Once” this May at Aurora Public Art...

In preparation for its upcoming production of “Once The Musical,” Paramount Theatre, in partnership with the Fox Valley Music Foundation and Aurora Public Art, invites songwriters of all ages to attend Be a Builder of Worlds: A Two-Part Songwriting Workshop, Tuesday, May 8, and Tuesday, May 15, both at 7 p.m. at Aurora Public Art, 20 E. Downer Place in downtown Aurora. Chicago area singer-songwriter Andrea Dawn and actor/musician Larry Tobias, who portrays “Da” in Once, will spend two evenings sharing their songwriting process and helping songwriters find their own process and songwriting voice. On Tuesday, May 8, Dawn and Tobias will host an intimate evening that will include performing their own music, sharing their experiences as songwriters and offering some tools and techniques they’ve used in their songwriting process. There will be ample time for questions and work to be done on current or new pieces. On Tuesday, May 15, it’s show time! Participants are encouraged to come prepared to share a song they’ve been working on, and Dawn and Tobias will offer individual feedback to continue to inspire growth as a songwriter. Not quite ready to share your piece? That’s okay; just come be part of a supportive community celebrating each other’s songwriting journey. Be a Builder of Worlds is presented as part of the new Dive Deeper series of workshops being introduced to the community by Paramount’s new education department. Both events are free, but space is limited. Reserve in advance at paramountaurora.com/education/#dive-deeper-programs. “Songwriting can be a lonely pursuit. These workshops will allow for beginning and professional songwriters to grow together, learn from each other and build a community,” said Shannon Cameron, Paramount’s new director of education and community engagement. Paramount Theatre’s Once, directed by Paramount Artistic Director Jim Corti with music directed by Tom Vendafreddo, is the first Chicago-area regional staging of the...

Downtown Taste expands, moves to last Tuesday in July to debut downtown restaurant week...

For the last 15 years, the second Tuesday in May is reserved for enjoying a taste of restaurants in downtown Aurora. This year, the Downtown Taste is moving to the last Tuesday in July and will kick off a new restaurant week within downtown. Downtown Taste offers diners the opportunity to visit a variety of participating restaurants in downtown Aurora. Started by Aurora Study Circles, the popular event has grown under the direction of the Exchange Club of Aurora in recent years. The event will now be run by Aurora Downtown, a nonprofit organization of business and property owners within downtown’s Special Service Area, and continue to benefit the Exchange Club and contribute to scholarships for East and West High students. Tickets for the evening cost $30 and can be purchased online at www.eventbrite.com/e/downtown-taste-tickets-45147065087 through July 31. Tickets can be purchased in person, cash only, from 4 to 6 p.m. on July 31 at the welcome table at Santori Public Library, 101 S. River St. One ticket includes four ticket passes to any participating restaurant. Ticket passes can be used at one restaurant or multiple restaurants to get a taste of downtown offerings including appetizers, small plates, and desserts. Free trolley rides and entertainment are also part of the evening. Exchange Club of Aurora proceeds contribute to scholarships for East and West High students. More at www.exchangeclubofaurora.org. For more information on downtown events and an updated list of Downtown Taste participants, visit www.auroradowntown.org or the Facebook event...

Mural unveiled in downtown Aurora during Fox River Arts Ramble on April 21...

The first piece of public art to go through Aurora’s new public art  ordinance is being unveiled this Saturday. The mural will be unveiled behind Aurora Fastprint, 54 E. Galena Blvd., from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the inaugural Fox River Arts Ramble. Aurora Fastprint owner Kim Granholm commissioned artist Cheryl Holz to create a piece of art for the back of building that is adjacent to the Fox River and faces New York Street in downtown Aurora. Holz, of Aurora, is a longtime collage artist working upstairs in Aurora Art Studios, so it was a natural collaboration. “This will not be a mural in the traditional sense, painted directly onto a wall,” Holz said. “Kim wanted to employ some of the newest printing technology to wrap the back of the building,” she added. Holz said she was originally daunted by the challenge of trying to create a beautiful piece of art on a wall covered with pipes of every material, vents, a fire escape, etc., but Holz, whose mixed media work is often sculptural, came up with a concept of making another layer of panels and sculpture to cover a majority of the chaos. Granholm was on board to try it out and the work began. The completion of the mural took many local resources including the Paramount Theatre’s set shop, Aurora Sign Company and Lite Construction. Holz describes the mural as a contemporary piece of art that incorporates references to Aurora’s rich cultural artistic, musical, and literary history, and the beautiful river that runs through it. Painterly splatters and washes represent the art-making happening inside the building, and all throughout Aurora. There are nods to the blues history, and the text running through the center is a poem called “Aurora” by...

Rhonda Wheatley show opens at Aurora Public Art...

  “At Your Soul’s Discretion, Assemblages and Experiences by Rhonda Wheatley,” opened at Aurora Public Art at First Fridays on April 6. Rhonda Wheatley’s work is grounded in the speculative, metaphysical, and spiritual. Imbuing the work with meditative focus, she explores healing, consciousness expansion, and transformation. Combining such diverse materials as moss, crystals, and vintage electronics, Wheatley arrives at new tools for the contemplation of energy and meaning. Accompanying each sculpture are written works that inform the viewer of the objects’ uses as shamanic tools.   Sam Trump joined the art opening with two musical sets. Trump, a multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter is heavily involved in Chicago’s live music scene and is a long-standing member of hip hop, soul, jazz band, Sidewalk Chalk. The art show runs through May 19 at Aurora Public Art’s third floor gallery at the David L. Pierce Art and History Center, 20 E. Downer Pl. in downtown Aurora. The gallery is open Wednesday through Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. Admission is...

First Fridays on April 6: Renewal, Games & Youth...

First Fridays is a monthly offering of arts and culture in downtown Aurora. Visit participating venues and explore downtown on the first Friday of the month. First Fridays is art, music and more! Join us for FIRST FRIDAYS on April 6. Free trolley rides from 6 to 10 p.m.See you at First Fridays! Pick up a map at any venue. A R T 1 If These Walls Could Talk, 32 S. Stolp Ave. World Through My Eyes: Rupali Kumbhani* 7 to 10 p.m. 2 Gallery 1904, 1 E. Benton St. Renew, Recycle & Rebirth into April^ 6 to 9:30 p.m. 3 Aurora Public Art’s Third Floor Gallery, 20 E. Downer Pl. Rhonda Wheatley: At Your Soul’s Discretion* 6 to 10 p.m. 4 The ArtBar @ Two Brothers Roundhouse The Arcade Show^ Lauren Schmidt @ The Lounge Bar^ 7 to midnight 5 Fox Art Studio, 9 S. Stolp Ave. Community Youth Art Show* 6 to 9 p.m. 6 The Web, 134 W. Downer Pl. Fat Guy Yoga Club feat. Alfredo Castil, Jason Arthur & Joshua Schultz^ 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. 7 Community Christian Church, 78 S. LaSalle St. Holy Art* 6 to 9 p.m. 8 Oddlots Gallery, 121 W. Benton St. Bill Austin: Zendaddy and the false selves* 6 to 9 p.m. *Opening night ^One night only M U S I C 3 Aurora Public Art’s Third Floor Gallery, 20 E. Downer Pl. Sam Trump of Sidewalk Chalk 7 and 9 p.m. 9 Santori Public Library, 101 S. River St. Fox Valley Orchestra Chamber Series – Fox Valley Woodwind Quintet Performance at 6:45 p.m. 10 Waubonsee Community College Aurora Downtown campus library, 18 S. River St. Open Mic Night 7 to 8:30 p.m. 11 Endiro Coffee, 29 W. New York St. Live music upstairs: Jake Mack...

Staying local? Enjoy Spring Break in downtown Aurora...

If you’re not able to get away this month, it’s easy to enjoy spring break in downtown Aurora. You just need to look at the city from an outsider’s perspective and try new things that are outside of your normal routine.   I recently took a couple of local friends to The Riverfront Playhouse for the first time and they loved it. We then walked over to Leland Legends for dessert and had a great time being “local tourists.”   It’s always fun to visit downtown museums, and they’re all free for Aurora Museums After Dark from 5 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 29.   A real spring break treat is a signature coffee drink or a fruit smoothie from Endiro Coffee, 29 W. New York St. If you’re going for an afternoon snack, try their street sides like the veggie samosas or the grilled plantains. Yum.   I always feel like I’m on vacation when I stop by La Quinta de los Reyes, 36 E. New York St., and order their table-side salsa and guacamole. For those on a budget, try Taqueria El Tio, 81 S. River St., on Monday night for dollar tacos.   Of course, it’s a real vacation when you splurge on some spa treatments. A stop at Zen Loft Wellness Center, 6 W. Downer Pl., for a chair massage on Wednesday afternoon during “Walk-In Wednesdays” is a must.   Fatimah at Pure Skin Solutions, 26 S. Stolp Ave., will make your skin shine with a refreshing facial, and check out Do or Dye Designs next door or Big Boss across the street for a new look.   Perhaps test out some summer recreational equipment at Rocktown Adventures, 107 Spruce St., or take a bicycle for a spin at...