Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

April 30, 2014

Project aims to create Artist Alley in downtown Kokomo

Community artists trying to turn forgotten alley into outdoor gallery

By Lindsey Ziliak Kokomo Tribune
Kokomo Tribune

---- — Community artists and economic development officials want to bring life to a dark, forgotten alley in downtown Kokomo.

They envision an outdoor art gallery open 24 hours a day, and they hope to bring that vision to life by the first Friday in August.

They’re all working together on the project they’ve called Artist Alley. They want to revitalize the alley just north of Artworks Gallery, taking it from drab to fab in just more than three months.

Kokomo Art Association President Cheryl Sullivan shared a conceptual drawing for the project that depicts a tapestry of lights strung from the roof of Artworks Gallery to the roof of the Howard County Administration Center, on the other side of the alley, creating a well-lit ceiling for the new art space.

The side of the county building is punctuated by columns that form eight separate “art windows” where pieces created by local artists will hang for all to see.

Spotlights inside each “window” illuminate the work.

The conceptual drawing also shows plants and benches that will make the space more inviting.

Artworks Gallery has plans to add outlets to the side of its building to create stations in the alley where artists can demonstrate their craft. An artist could sit at a potter’s wheel and create, or a craftsman could carve wood pieces as people watch and learn.

Some of those pieces then could become a part of the gallery.

Sullivan said Duke Energy already donated several of its giant wire spools that will serve as pedestals to display sculptures.

Those spools will help set the tone for the gallery, Sullivan said.

“We’re trying to keep the industrial feel of our community,” she said.

Of course, none of this is set in stone yet. The Artist Alley Committee is working with city and county officials to get approval for each of the elements.

Susan Alexander, business growth facilitator for the Greater Kokomo Economic Development Alliance, said Howard County and the city of Kokomo have been supportive of the project from the beginning.

Creating these kinds of public spaces can be beneficial for governments looking to attract new business.

“It makes the city feel alive,” she said. “It can fuel development. Many cities lead with great public spaces. The people come, and the development follows.”

That’s what she hopes will happen here.

Artist David Braun said it’s the first step toward creating a defined cultural district downtown, something that often appeals to the young professionals the city is trying to lure.

Braun, who works with kinetic art, already has big ideas for Artist Alley.

He wants to hollow out the insides of all the old parking meters that once dotted the downtown landscape and fill them with LED lights. Then he wants to use micro-controllers to link all of the lights and create a light show.

It’s a large project to tackle and one he may need help with. He said he’d like to involve some high school technology classes in it.

He wants to involve as many people as he can in building up Artist Alley. Braun even plans to talk to area shop classes. Some welding students may want to build pieces that could be displayed at the gallery.

The possibilities are endless, he said.

“We’ll start off slow, but I foresee us being able to handle a one-ton piece at some point that may be 8 feet tall,” he said.

All of the pieces in the gallery would be rotated out regularly so the alley space always feels fresh and new.

“This is a dynamic gallery,” Alexander said. “It won’t be a stagnant mural design. It will be a changing exhibit to highlight local artists.”

Sullivan said the alley gets a lot of foot traffic already, so it would be a great way to give local artists some exposure. If more people see their work, it’s more likely to sell — the ultimate goal for the artists.

Alexander agreed.

“We want our artists to become exporters, which adds to our economic base,” she said.

The committee is still looking for artists interested in creating pieces for the alley when it opens, which they hope will be in August.

Committee members, including Artworks Gallery Coordinator Karen Taylor, have been telling local artists all about the opportunity. Many of them are getting excited about it now.

“They’re catching the vision,” she said.

Lindsey Ziliak, Tribune Life & Style editor, can be reached at 765-454-8585, at lindsey.ziliak@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter @LindseyZiliak.

WANT TO GET INVOLVED? Artists interested in submitting work for Artist Alley should contact Kokomo Art Association President Cheryl Sullivan at kokomoartassociation2012-kaa@yahoo.com.