Back Alley Gallery to unveil unique art in downtown area

By ALLEN MINCEY allen.mincey@clevelandbanner.com
Posted 5/31/17

The alley just behind Craigmiles Hall will not be a dark and foreboding area, but the site of beautiful artwork from local creators.

Named the Back Alley Gallery, it will be unveiled on …

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Back Alley Gallery to unveil unique art in downtown area

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The alley just behind Craigmiles Hall will not be a dark and foreboding area, but the site of beautiful artwork from local creators.

Named the Back Alley Gallery, it will be unveiled on Friday, beginning at 4:30 p.m. The alley runs from First Street S.E. to Second Street S.E., parallel to North Ocoee Street. There will be a ribbon cutting at the First Street entrance at 4:30 p.m.

“Thrive 2055 was offering a grant and a program for communities that they serve in their region to apply for, so Cleveland applied for a grant from the Thriving Communities Initiative,” explained MainStreet Cleveland Executive Director Sharon Marr. The grant was for Cleveland to participate in developing an arts-focused vision with short-term goals toward the vision.

“We were asked in January of 2015 to attend a design-thinking workshop, which was funded through the Lyndhurst Foundation so we took a team to Chattanooga for that workshop,” she stated. At that point, the group had already begun discussing how to make downtown Cleveland a place that people would come to enjoy arts and culture.

Marr said that she was joined at the design-thinking workshop by Corey Divel and Greg Thomas of the Cleveland Planning Office, Melissa Woody of the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce, and Joy Key of the Museum Center at Five Points. Not only were they representing their own offices, but Marr, Woody and Key are also members of the Allied Arts Council.

“We went to three days of the design-thinking workshops and we spent days evaluating assets, looking at downtown as far as arts and cultural growth, and one of the stipulations of that grant was that it be something that we could implement in a year or two,” she recounted. “We had a $20,000 grant that we could apply for, and we began looking at what could work the best, and came up with the Back Alley Gallery concept.”

The Back Alley Gallery idea was appealing because it is near the heart of the city, less than a block away from the Bradley County Courthouse Square, and also because it would be utilizing available space.

“We discussed these underutilized spaces that you drive by every day and don’t look at, and we decided on this concept,” Marr said.

The site actually encompasses two alleyways — the one behind Craigmiles Hall and a smaller one behind Stampers, off Broad Street.

The gallery, when unveiled Friday, will feature six doors in the main alley and one in the smaller alley. When each is opened, local artists’ paintings will be visible.

“These will be interactive, where people can actually open the doors and look at that artwork done by local artists,” she said.

A committee was developed to look at all the artwork samples presented, and that group selected six artists to display their work. Six of the doors will be in the main alley, with one other at the alley off Broad Street.

“The artwork is so nice, and the artists did such a good job,” Marr said. “The only parameters that we gave them was that the artwork be appropriate, and appropriate for a downtown setting. And they took it from there. It’s a range of art, and when you open a door, you don’t know just what you are going to find.”

She said that lighting has been added to the alleyways and that it looks very “fresh and inviting.”

Marr said that 14 artists submitted 23 different drawings, and the panel selected the six featured in the initial display. The artists selected were Jaime Barks, Grey Briggs, Lisa Hoffer, Jennifer Danner, Mary Mathias Dickerson and Amanda Ball.

n Jaime Barks grew up in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains and her strong connection to nature shows in her work. She is primarily self taught and loves to capture real life moments. Her work can be viewed at www.jaimebarks.com.

n Grey Briggs studied oil painting and studio art at the University of Arizona and at Lee University before becoming an English teacher. She continues her art through local volunteer opportunities.

n Lisa Hoffer is involved in a variety of local arts organizations, including Cleveland Workspace and Allied Arts Council. She is a self-taught calligrapher and also enjoys teaching yoga. Her artwork at the Back Alley Gallery is a cooperative effort between her and Angie Albright. Albright is a mural artist who enjoys painting anything from landscapes to pet portraits. She teaches art classes for children and said she enjoys spending all her extra time with her six grandchildren.

n Jennifer Danner is a multimeda artist and singer/songwriter whose work ranges from acrylic, mixed-media, photography and writing. She believes in the idea of “letting go and working with the art” to learn lessons of creativity and life.

n Mary Mathias-Dickerson is a member of the art faculty at Lee University, where she helped launch the art major. Her painting studies began in Florence, Italy, while studying abroad to earn her bachelor of fine arts. She then earned her MFA from Bradley University. Her work has been exhibited locally and internationally.

n Amanda Ball came to Cleveland in 1998 to attend Lee University. She works as an RN and is home-school teacher to her two sons. She enjoys creating pieces of art for herself and her family.

All are Cleveland artists with the exception of Barks, who now lives in Chattanooga, and Danner, who is from Ducktown.

“All the work that came back was very well done, and it was a very tough decision narrowing down to seven (pieces of art),” she said.

As part of the grand opening of the Back Alley Gallery, which will continue to 6 p.m., there will be live music, storytelling and additional works of art on display by the selected artists.

There is no charge for the Back Alley Gallery, nor any of the other events occurring as part of the First Friday Festival this Friday.

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