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What if I told you there is something right here in Louisville that could, even if for a brief moment, cause you to pause and revel in the unexpected joy it brings; something that could alter the vibe of your day? This is precisely what I found and am sharing with you today. Detours, sweltering heat and not knowing exactly where to go is not exactly a sales pitch on this hidden local treasure, but I assure you, it is well worth the heat, construction and any confusion you’ll endure to get there! It’s so awesome. Let me show you why …

This alleyway looks just like any other, but what you’ll find as you walk along will surprise you.

“We gotta give it a little soul … a little Louisville originality so that these doors sing to ya when you’re walking by them, and that’s what this wonderful project will do for us every day,” Mayor Greg Fischer says. Image: Louisville Downtown Partnership

City life is unpredictable. Around every turn lies new possibilities. As you wind about the streets, looking at old architecture, new architecture and the being-built architecture, your mind wanders and revels at all the hidden details, history and spunk Louisville possesses.

Mayor Greg Fischer announced this past May that a new public art initiative will bring a joyous surprise to all who unknowingly stumble upon it. Mayor Fischer has been working to bring attention to Louisville’s public art scene since he was elected in 2010. In 2015, the inaugural public art exhibit, Connect | Disconnect was unveiled along the Louisville Loop. Presently, the art initiative is taking its efforts to the streets, specifically the alleyways of downtown Louisville, to inspire joy and spread happiness to passersby.

Alley Gallery is a project of the Louisville Downtown Partnership designed to repurpose alleys and doors found there (the back-of-the-building metal doors) into an outdoor gallery featuring the work of local artists. Rebecca Matheny, executive director of the Louisville Downtown Partnership, says this initiative is a way to rejuvenate forgotten places within downtown Louisville and turn them into destinations.

“Think how many smiles are going to come on people’s faces when they are walking here and they look over and see what was once kind of a vanilla door, just a functional entryway into a public building, and now it’s a piece of art for our city,” Mayor Greg Fischer shares. “When you have these kind of surprises in cities it brings people back and they say, ‘This is an authentic place.’ This is not like Everywhere, USA, and that’s what this project represents. Just a fun and whimsical way to showcase our fantastic artists.”

While this is not a completely new idea – there have been successful alleyway art projects in larger cities like New York and Los Angeles, as well as more regional, urban areas, like Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine corridor – it is sure to get people to pause a moment and appreciate the work of some of Louisville’s local talent.

“There’s Clarion Alley in San Francisco, but that’s painting the whole sides of buildings – it’s a huge project,” Ken Herndon, special projects coordinator for the Louisville Downtown Partnership says. “We’d like to get to those places, but this is a way to get it out there and begin to build the momentum for other things.”

For years Nelligan Art Alley Project’s Jim Wallace and Danice Creager have been working to beautify the alleyways of the Portland neighborhood. The “Alley Gallery” project is an affordable way to introduce public art to a quadrant of downtown that, for the most part, has pretty bare walls.

The process

According to Rebecca, there are more than 300 service doors within the Central Business District that qualify for the program, with only about 30 completed, or in the process of being completed, at this time.

Artists are invited to submit a photo of existing work to a Dropbox catalogue (email [email protected]org for information). Participating property owners can browse the catalogue and choose which work they would like painted on their property door. The property owners then pay a $300 fee to the artist and the images are applied to the doors in vinyl, which allows for easy repair in case of damage and allows for any art medium that can be photographed to be considered, not just two-dimensional works. Once an image is chosen, it is removed from the catalogue and the artist is encouraged to submit another photo for consideration.

Here, the artist paints onto the vinyl covering the door. Image: Louisville Downtown Partnership

Together through the arts we create a great American city. It’s not every city that has a mayor who invites people to paint on buildings, yet that’s the type of community Mayor Fischer is leading here in Louisville.

“The vision that they have for this community is just astounding,” Kentucky Congressman John Yarmuth, adds. “This is what truly makes a community great. This is the culture of a community, the creativity of a community, the imagination of a community. What we need for today and the future is creativity.”

Let’s hit the bricks

Alley Gallery is a project of the Louisville Downtown Partnership which repurposes alley and back-of-the-building metal doors into an outdoor gallery featuring the work of local artists.

7th & Broadway

Warrior of the Cosmos by Alexis “STIX” Brown sponsored by Riverside Parking

I’m Going to the Beach by Alexis “STIX”Brown sponsored by Riverside Parking

Post Office Alley — 3rd & Liberty

Suburb by Sunset by Andrea Alonso sponsored by Riverside Parking

Cantaloupe by Joyce Garner (right) and Cellist by Joyce Garner (left) sponsored by Riverside Parking

Reflection by Chris Chappell sponsored by Riverside Parking

Bases Loaded by Victor Sweatt sponsored by 4th Street Live!

Solidarity 2017 by Jinn Bug sponsored by 4th Street Live!

Inside the Box by Andrea Alonso sponsored by 4th Street Live! (right) and Parakeets by Angie Reed Garner sponsored by 4th Street Live! (left)

Cardinal by Andy Perez (right) sponsored by 4th Street Live! and Night in River City by Anne F. Hayes (left) sponsored by 4th Street Live!

Full Bloom by Connie Sandusky sponsored by 4th Street Live!

Congress Alley — 7th & Jefferson

Congress Alley is located at 7th and Jefferson.

City by Ashley Brossart sponsored by Riverside Parking

Jacob’s Ladder by Michael Winters sponsored by Riverside Parking

1st & East Market St

Phone by David Walinski sponsored by Riverside Parking

Take a tour of all the Alley Gallery Doors online then hit the bricks and see them for yourself in person! It’s the perfect way to change the vibe of your day into one filled with local pride and creative energy. Plus, it makes for a great field trip for kids at home this summer!

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