The Artist Alley Revamp Project entered a second phase this spring. I wrote about it pretty extensively last fall, so if you missed that, start here, go here and end here. Much of the art I documented in those posts still remains, but for now, I’m going to show some new ones which emerged this summer. If you love alley art, you really should revisit those posts.
The idea from the outset was to take unused or abused spaces in the city, many of which are routinely defaced by taggers and convert them into inviting, artistically beautiful or challenging spaces. That effort has carried through this summer with another round of painting in Strong Alley (just behind Market Square walking toward Gay Street) as well as a first-time shot at the alley beside Java Old City.
A third area has also been designated, but has not yet been executed. The area is the Marble Alley section between Mast General Store and the Century Building. Developer Buzz Goss has requested that the art there depict historic scenes from Knoxville history and that is requiring a bit more preparation plus, I would imagine, not every artist would be interested in such an undertaking. We’ll look forward to that at a later date.
I’ve noticed quite a difference in Strong Alley since the first round of painting began last fall. I sometimes walked through there before and rarely ran into anyone. Occasionally a homeless person would be sleeping there or stumbling about. The random worker from one of the restaurants or bars might be taking a cigarette break. But usually I would have it to myself.
Not so much, anymore, and I think that’s a good thing. Of course, the alleys now have an abundance of photographers which is fun. But I also see whole families, tourists, people who live in other parts of the city. In short, it has become a small tourist attraction or at least tourist diversion. Anything that gets people excited about the center city, anything that makes them want to bring their friends to show them is a good thing.
The only negative comment I heard came, ironically, from a photographer friend of mine who likes to take portraits in edgy spaces. While he has photographed in areas with nicely done artistic touches, he laments some of the excellent surfaces which have disappeared under the new art. Fair enough. He agreed it’s better than the tagging which displays no skill other than moving a marker about.
I also love the range of art. Some of it is like folk-art and some of it is quite abstract. Whimsy is easy to spot and a significant portion tends toward fantasy. Other artists have taken the urban setting to heart and urban life and issues form the context of the art. While much of it is as fun as a latte, some of it is poignant. Homages are present to Phil Pollard, Trayvon Martin and an anonymous friend who “last shot the shit” in the alley according to the inscription.
Again, the images presented in this post do not constitute a majority of the ones you’ll find in the alley. Follow the links above to see far more and to learn about the genesis of the effort. Next I’ll bring you the art from the Java Old City Alley.