In Spring 2019, Heritage resident Heather Cameron was a successful applicant to our Good Neighbour Community Grant Program to re-invigorate an existing art gallery she’d been running in the alley beside her house for the past 3 years. In order to inspire and support others to take on a similar project, we asked her to do up this short how-to. Heather’s Alley Galley can be found on the west side of 2300-block Toronto St., in the alley between College and 15th.
What is an “Alley Galley?”
An Alley Galley is an outdoor art gallery that exists in a back alley. It’s both private and public. Technically it’s installed on private property (i.e. a fence), but the viewing takes place in public territory (i.e. the alley).
Our Alley Galley exists on the outside of our fence that borders a highly trafficked alley. It works well because it is easy for us to maintain, but gets a lot of walk by traffic. Alley Galleys would also be effective on the sides of garages or any other space on private property that borders an alley. Think outside the box and use what infrastructure is available to you – maybe the art hangs from a tree?
Having a theme to tie in the different artworks is an effective way to connect the diverse submissions of art you will receive. Decide on something that is broad enough to allow for lots of artistic freedom, but specific enough to give the artists a bit of direction. (i.e. “Feather & Bone” or “Floral Monstrosities”)
Decide how many pieces of art you can fit on your fence/wall/location and contact artists to create the work. Explain the theme to your artists and any special conditions of your gallery. (i.e. Do you accept sculpture? Is size an issue?) Make sure you give the artists a deadline to submit their pieces.
We have always featured the youth (ages 2-14) of the Heritage Community as our artists. Any age or background of artist could work. Primarily, it depends on who you are able to connect with.
Decide how you are going to showcase the art and collect the necessary supplies to do so. We chose to frame our art in gold frames, so a large part of our preparation was hunting down 22 frames and spray painting them gold. Frames can be expensive, so buying second hand pictures or asking people for old frames is your best bet. Do not use MDF or any material that will disintegrate due to sun and rain. We also sprayed a weather protector top coat on the frames to help them endure outdoor conditions.
All of the 2D artwork and any labels/signage was laminated to protect it from rain and moisture. Taking it to an office store is professional, but expensive. A cheaper alternative is self-adhesive laminate available at the dollar store.
Once the artwork and frames are collected, the installation can occur. As a curator, select what frame fits each piece, what pieces work best together and how to best arrange the show.
We used a pneumatic brad nailer to fasten the frames to the fence and a staple gun to hang the 2D art. Small wooden shelves were built for any sculptural pieces that required a base for installation.
The final touch is hanging a small label beside each artwork. This label includes the artists name, the title, the medium of art and the age of the artist.
Having an opening reception is a wonderful way to gather the artists and community together. Mimicking a professional art opening we served drink, food & candy! The artists were introduced and had a chance to speak on the megaphone about their work.
An alley galley is open 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. Rain or shine! It is inevitable that the art will begin to fade and weather. To help enhance the site, we plant sunflowers along the fence. This adds a little colour as the season plays out.
Why Do It?
This project improves the streetscape and atmosphere of the Heritage Community. Our particular alley can be a challenging and neglected space -it often houses crime, graffiti and an abundance of trash. By creating the Alley Galley this space, and how people use it, immediately changes. I have been presenting artwork displayed in the alley for 3 years now and am always impressed at how the Alley Galley sparks friendly neighbourhood dialogue and a respect of the property. The art work has never been destroyed or stolen – it seems to create a space of respect and peace within the citizens in this neighbourhood.
This project empowers the youth artists, and anyone that experiences the Alley Galley, to be active citizens in their community and demonstrates that a simple act of improvement can change the physical and communal landscape of their neighbourhood.
The Alley Galley becomes a place of destination in Regina. People choose to walk and drive by the colourful alley, encouraging community support and creating allies for the Heritage Community.