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MO Paints Doorways to Revitalize Alleys

Friday, August 13, 2021

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As part of an ongoing initiative to clean up alleyways in downtown Columbia, Missouri, city officials are now calling upon local artists to submit proposals to paint its doors to reflect the history and culture of the city.

Called the “Alley Gallery,” willing property owners are being asked to lease alley doors for the project, which will be used for a minimum of five years.

“It was just another public art project we thought we could do to help beautify and welcome and make people feel more safe in the alleys,” said Nickie Davis, Executive Director of The District, which represents downtown businesses.

Selected artists for the project will receive a $2,000 stipend.

The first installation, slated to be between Ninth and Tenth streets, is expected to reach competition by spring 2022. These doors are reportedly owned by The District’s offices, with additional doors painted as proposals are approved.

“I want it to go on for at least as long as the [The District] is around,” Davis said. “Hopefully just down the line, we’re going to have all these weird little nooks of beautiful spaces. Our downtown is so unique compared to other smallish city downtowns. Columbia is all about its artists, its public art and supporting small, local businesses.”

Revitalization Background

According to the Missourian, the initiative to revitalize downtown alleys began more than 15 years ago in 2005. In those times, the project focused on alley improvement and things such as keeping the walkways clean and safe.

“Back then, you would walk through an alley and there’d be seven or eight dumpsters just lined up in the alley,” said Carrie Gartner, former executive director of the Downtown Community Improvement District. “A lot of it was just ‘How do we get better trash solutions?’”

In the early stages, the city began generating names for downtown alleys, which were reported to allow buildings to have building addresses where they could receive deliveries and emergency services. Many of the names were created to honor historical milestones and business leaders.

In addition to these efforts, the District also worked with the city to replace trash bins with trash compactors, saving the city $6,000 annually in solid-waste-disposal costs.

By 2008, the ongoing projects were tabled by the City Council, however, businesses were reported to come together to cultivate what is now Alley A, with a butterfly mural painted in 2019 to upgrade the entrance. The mural, which was installed by Children’s Grove and Resident Art artists, includes the words, “Kindness changes everything.”

Some years later, in 2015, the city and the District teamed up again to install light fixtures in the alleys to improve nighttime safety for pedestrians. The installation of 21 light fixtures cost roughly $6,500.

“It’s really a process that never ends,” said Gartner.

Most recently, the Alley Gallery project idea came from The District’s Economic Development Committee, inspired by the city’s ongoing downtown traffic light box installations. Davis reports that every year, the District contributes funding to the city to paint traffic light boxes with creative, colorful designs.

Columbia continues to develop an alley aesthetic that matches its own particular character.

Similar Projects

Columbia’s alley revitalization is apart of a nationwide trend where communities create livable spaces to live and work that also address safety and infrastructure needs. The Missourian adds that even cities like Chicago have started renovating their alleys to better control flooding and create new, lively public spaces.

Two years ago, in Italy, a group of drones went to work on a large-scale graffiti project with the aim to beautify the city. As part of a collaborative project called Urban Flying Opera (UFO), thousands of people contributed designs inspired by the theme “Design the City.”

A team of curators then selected and combined designs and sent out four drones to draw the image.

Tsuru Robotics, which joined the cause in mid-2018, says that it all started with one question: How can we use technology, and in particular drones, to make our cities more beautiful and creative?

The painting was divided into two six-hour sessions. First, the drones applied one color (the first layer of the picture), then the second, third and fourth colors, which included light gray, dark gray, turquoise and pink.

The result was open to the public canvas size of 46 by 39 feet. It took 24 cans of spray paint to create the artwork. The total length of the lines drawn by drones was 2,034 feet.

In 2018, Street artist David Louf—more commonly known as Mr. June—was reported to have finished a number of urban projects showcasing his 3D-style murals on various pieces of infrastructure and cityscape.

At the time, Colossal reported that Louf just completed an entire building in Berlin with his signature process: using a laser to sketch the surface’s main lines and then painting abstract overtop.

Artist Guido van Helten was another creator to make larger-than-life displays out of ordinary buildings and tall structures, including a pair of grain silos in Australia. His paintings consist mostly of emotional, sepia-toned portraits that allow meaningful expression to tower over the town they reside in.

He focuses more on areas that don’t get that much foot traffic, using his art to bring new people into a city or town that they’ve probably forgotten about.

Another street artist, Trent Curnow, used his skills to “butte-tify” dumpers in his hometown of Butte, Montana. Using his spray paint talents to help make the trash receptacles more aesthetically acceptable, residents there told NBCMontana that they liked what Curnow provides for the city.

Curnow had been showing off his skills and beautifying the city in his nontraditional way since October 2015, the news station said. For each dumpster, he uses spray-paint and regular household items—such as newspapers and plastic bags—to transform a dumpster into a work of art.

Business owners paid Curnow to paint their dumpsters with permission from McGree Trucking, which owns the trash bins.


Tagged categories: Aesthetics; Artists; Color + Design; Color + Design; Design - Commercial; Murals; Murals; NA; North America; Renovation

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