Alley Oop: Local Artists Plan Downtown Alley Improvement Project

A couple of local artists are tired of walking through the Armstrong/Strong Alley between Market Square and the 400 block of Gay Street. Most of the art in the so-called Artist Alley is covered in graffiti tags, and the smell of urine permeates the length of it, they say. So Jane McGowan and S.J. Van Der Berg are trying to give the alley a facelift with the Artist Alley Revamp Project. They hope it can become a more pleasant place for people to walk through on their way to work or shop.

“It’s not that it’s a dangerous alleyway,” Van Der Berg says. “It just looks that way.”

The pair are asking for help as they get ready for this do-over. On Wednesday, Oct. 24, McGowan, Van Der Berg, and anyone who wants to help will be prepping the alley with the tons of primer paint that’s already been donated. They’ll work until it’s done, Van Der Berg says, even if they have to continue into the night. Then, from Oct. 25 through Nov. 28, local artists will be covering the walls with new work. But while the artists will bring their own paints and supplies, the primer won’t go on by itself. McGowan and Van Der Berg say they need paint rollers and roller posts, even ones that have been used before that are lying around in people’s garages.

Van Der Berg and McGowan are optimistic about their project, and hope that it will deter people from tagging new art or using the space as a toilet. So far 50-60 artists have offered to paint spaces on the wall. “It’s going to be very eclectic,” Van Der Berg says. And there’s still space for more artists to fill. Interested participants can reach Van Der Berg or McGowan through the project’s Facebook page.

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