There are many alleyways in downtown. Some are used as delivery points behind businesses while others seem largely unused. Downtown residents often view them as short cuts to their next destination. Sometimes homeless people or simply visitors to downtown who have no public restrooms tend to use them for relief points. Probably visitors who aren’t used to cities see them as dangerous or threatening.
The current alley in question is being called the Armstrong/Strong Alley. I don’t like the sound of that and, while it may be very historically correct, it’s just clunky. I don’t know who either person referenced might be, so I’m going with Armstrong Alley. You have the assonance without the redundancy. In the end, it’s just the alley between Market Square and Gay Street, running north/south paralleling Gay.
It’s got some interesting surfaces that have become covered with graffiti, some of which had potential to be a bit attractive, but most of which is simply tagging. Often one tag covers another, which I suppose taggers understand, but it’s just garbled ugliness to the rest of us. There are also openings to homes on the Gay Street side and I wonder what those people think about the plans.
And what are the plans? You can get the details here, but basically the idea is to clean away the graffiti and replace it with commissioned art. It’s called the Artist Alley Revamp Project and donations are being solicited for paint and related supplies. The proposed facelift is slated to begin the last week of October and to run for about a month. The group making this push is looking for thirty to forty artists of all sorts to beautify specified areas of the alley.
The idea is that, hopefully, vandalism will decrease and foot-traffic to view the new art will increase. One hopeful sign is that despite the fact that the alley is littered with graffiti, no one seems to have defaced the wonderful building facade painted on the back side of the Millers building in the alley. The end behind 36 Market Square has recently been painted to cover the accumulation of tags and defacement.
It’s interesting that this is happening so close to the former graffiti wall that used to reside on the side of 36 Market Square. No doubt it got trashy, but it also served up some credible art along the way. Maybe the alley just around the corner from that location can live up to the artistic promise of the old graffiti wall without the trashiness.
So keep an eye out for the changes. I’ll try to take some pictures all along so people who can’t get downtown can see what’s happening. I’d love to see it turn into another sight that everyone wants to take in when walking around downtown. I do hope the tree growing out of the building is left alone, but I suspect it will be removed sooner or later. So, what do you think? Is this a good thing to try or a waste of time? Will you be interested in walking through the alley to see the art?