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An alley art project is growing in Midtown.
Three new pieces featuring the Sacramento skyline and a desert scene were installed on an alley off K Street within the last two weeks.
Many people are already stumbling on this cache of alley art. By early June, residents will be able to take walking tours of this growing outdoor gallery, thanks to tour maps being printed and posted online as part of the Midtown Alley Project (MAP) led by artists and an art-loving property owner.
"The whole thought is to take these alleys back, make them more aesthetically pleasing and also provide points of interest," said Gallery 2110 owner Clare Bailey, a muralist and fine artist who started the alley art project with artist Kristina McClanahan and property owner Thomas A. Roth.
"We are making art happen on K Street," she said.
They created MAP about three years ago using buildings Roth owns on K Street as the canvases. MAP now includes seven pieces of art: five murals and two sculptures. All of the art faces alleys between K and L streets from 21st to 24th streets. Maps will be available online and in print at Gallery 2110 by June 11.
The first installation was the 80-foot Midtown Mosaic on a wall behind Art Beast, 2226 K St. The mural is a community mosaic of paintings and one tile piece by 60 people ranging from tattoo and graffiti artists to nuns from a nearby Sisters of Mercy home.
Kristyne DiMeo later painted the 18-foot-high Hollywood Mural, also known as “Hollywood comes to Sacramento,” on the back of Studio 24, 2220 K St. A silhouette of a man painted in the left bottom corner was a tribute to Roth.
Two more works can be found behind Gallery 2110 at 2110 K St. – formerly called the Sacramento Art Complex. Metal assemblage artist Steve Cook created a 40-foot-wide metal peacock sculpture with tail feathers made of rebar and sawblades atop an iron gate on a back patio. Other artists are collaborating on a mural there.
The three newest pieces include a 16-foot-by-4-foot Steve Memering mural of the Sacramento skyline, which was restored by Laura Carone and hung on an apartment building at 2320 K St. a week ago.
Artists Margaret Arnold and Cook collaborated to make a 30-foot-wide patio wall behind Roth's Western Properties office, 2318 K St., beautiful and more secure. Arnold painted the new “Desert Cactus” mural on the three-sided, 6-foot-high wall.
Two weeks ago, Cook installed another assemblage sculpture on top of the wall as functional art. “Prickly Pear” is a collection of cacti and aloe vera plants made from rebar, nails and sawblades. He also built a secure, tall metal door to replace the patio's wooden gate.
The patio had problems with intruders who left needles, condoms and beer bottles, Bailey and Cook said on a tour of the art pieces Friday.
The alley art project was created to beautify buildings and alleys, and to help make alleys safer by bringing more people there. Murals can help deter graffiti artists from tagging buildings.
The project was also started to bring artists more work and give their art more visibility. The MAP pieces are the first public art projects each of the artists have done, Bailey said.
New construction projects on empty lots are required to devote a certain percentage of budgets to interior or exterior art. Redevelopment projects may be eligible for public funding of art. Midtown doesn't have many empty lots or redevelopment projects, Bailey said.
"Public art isn't going to happen unless a private entity makes it happen," she said.
Roth, who's owned property in Midtown for at least 20 years, has paid for six of the art pieces in the project – all but the Midtown Mosaic – to launch the project and inspire others to add to Midtown's public art offerings. Roth estimates the pieces cost more than $20,000 total.
Some already have been inspired by the project. Three murals have since been painted by others on the back of a house, a garage door and record store Phono Select on an alley block across 23rd Street from the Midtown Mosaic.
Owners of at least three other properties are now talking with the MAP crew about adding public art at their spaces.
The founders of New Era Garden, a community garden that sits on a cul de sac and alley at 26th and B streets, would like to add some art – possibly a recycled metal sculpture. They would have to do some fundraising first, said co-founder Deniz Tuncer.
"I think it's a lovely idea to beautify the area," she said.
For future pieces, he and Bailey determine the budget property owners have. They then meet with the artist to determine the cost to create the art. MAP organizers will hold fundraisers to help make up the difference. Fundraisers could include bake sales, art auctions and art classes at Gallery 2110. Artists donate talent, time and materials, Bailey said.
"We had to get enough of these out here, and now people are starting to catch the enthusiasm," Bailey said. "Some day we're going to have a really great strolling outdoor art gallery."
Suzanne Hurt is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow her on Twitter @SuzanneHurt.