It’s been just over a month since I introduced the idea of a major artistic undertaking in Strong Alley. A follow-up certainly seemed warranted and it will give you some interesting images to ponder over your weekend. Great progress has been made and I wanted to document some of that as the project proceeds, but also a follow-up was warranted because of the comments I received on the first column, at least one of which was as many words as the column itself. You can read them all at the link above.
Some people were excited about the prospects of a spot where artists can work and the public can have access. Others felt that what had already been put on the walls of the alley constituted art. One man’s graffiti is another man’s art, I suppose. Many of us fondly remember the graffiti on Wall Avenue before 36 Market Square was renovated. How clearly we remember all of it is open for debate. Certainly it had its good points. Who doesn’t love Cynthia Markert’s work and how could you not love seeing Brian Pittman’s cathedral slowly reaching skyward?
One of the comments made the point that names of places really matter. I declared my affection for calling it Armstrong Alley because I liked the sound of it. The group doing the project uses Armstrong/Strong Alley, which I don’t think sounds very fluid. Another person pointed out that Jack Neely refers to it as “Strong Alley.” So I guess, Jack said it, I believe it and that settles it, to paraphrase a once popular bumper sticker.
Some people seemed concerned the whole idea was too organized. The thinking seemed to be that a cool, urban space would be replaced with a tightly controlled space which, ultimately, would have about as much soul as a strip mall. We do love independence and scruffiness in the city. I could see both sides, but the product which is now being produced is no cookie-cutter installation. I think at this point it speaks for itself.
One of the questions on everyone’s mind as the project started was how the taggers would respond. They’ve made their presence felt, but in a pretty small way from what I’ve seen. Extra words were added to the breasts of the creature painted toward the north end of the alley, for example. A good many people felt compelled to write over the freshly-painted wall at the very northern end of the alley. I did think the scrawling lines “The Wall” in the style of the album cover wasn’t a bad touch, at least. Maybe a section needs to be a “message wall,” which would be periodically painted over like the rock on UT campus.
The bottom line for me is that while I enjoyed walking through the alley on my own before this project, it’s never occurred to me to take out-of-town guests through and this past weekend, that’s exactly what I did when Urban Brother and Urban Niece came to visit. I think they liked it and I think many others will, as well.
I’d encourage you to drop by and see how it’s going. I understand a great amount of work has happened since I took these photographs and I plan to make another trip through there this weekend. You’ll find more information and photographs on their Facebook page and on their Flicker page. It should be noted that this has been accomplished through generous donations, first from the artists, but also the good folks who organized it, like Jayne, J.C. and Allen and people who donated paints and supplies, particularly the recycle center.
Word is this has gone so well, there may very well be additional alleys downtown targeted for similar treatment. Support it by “liking” their page, letting the city know you like what this group is doing, by thanking the artists, donating to the project if you can and especially by taking out-of-town or out-of-center-city guests through the alley.