Art in the Alley celebrates a year of creative public space
By Gwen Clayton | Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly
Warsaw kicked off its 2018 Art in the Alley season May 1, featuring artwork by local school children.
This year will be the first full season the alley is open. The project opened in July 2017, held its ribbon-cutting ceremony in September and remained open through Oct. 31.
The alley lies between city hall and the Oak and Alley pub on Buffalo Street with Three Crowns Coffee greeting guests at the front. The public-gathering space features framed two-dimensional artwork along the walls, shaded tables, a decorative-tile walkway, bike parking, wifi and planter boxes.
“If you go by there now, you’ll see people sitting out there and mingling and talking and just enjoying themselves,” said Rob Parker, president and CEO of Kosciusko Chamber of Commerce and executive director for the Warsaw Community Development Corp. “The planters are back and it’s beautiful.”
Although it’s a public meeting spot where anyone can bring lunch or a laptop, Tim Hori, owner of Three Crowns Coffee says his business is benefiting from the added traffic.
“It’s helping during the summer hours because now there’s the outdoor-seating area,” Hori said. “Obviously, the overall impact of what they’ve done to the alley is really nice because it was just an ugly alley and now it’s a really nice space. Overall, I think 99 percent of people who see it are really pleased with what it’s become.”
Three Crowns is in its fifth year of business and is a popular spot for coffee connoisseurs who appreciate Hori roasting all of his own coffee beans fresh weekly. Those beans are enjoyed in espressos and lattes that are sipped in the al-fresco dining area of the alley.
“We knew our patrons would get to use the alley a lot and so we have more patrons than anybody else who does use it, but it’s nice,” Hori said. “It works really well for the city. People love it.”
Although he has his own outdoor seating in the front of his cafe, now that the city has done its Art in the Alley project, patrons have a much nicer experience.
“It’s definitely good for us,” he said. “We knew it would be, which is why we have been pushing for it for a couple years. Obviously, it’s really nice during the summer time. We get a lot of people sitting out there enjoying it. I think we’re the main beneficiary because it’s right next to us, but in a sense, because it’s open for anybody to sit, we get a lot of people. A lot of people use it. I see them eating lunch. They grab lunch from wherever and sit in the alley.”
Of the three art exhibitions that have been shown since the project’s inception, Hori said the current display featuring artwork by local elementary, middle-school and high-school school children has been more popular than the first two photography exhibits.
“So far, the feedback I hear from people who come in here is people like this the best so far,” Hori said. “A, because some of them are really well done, so you can see these are high-school and middle-school kids and they’re actually pretty good, and B, because the first two things they did were just photographs, which were OK, but I don’t know if people cared about photographs versus actually seeing the pictures that the kids have done.”
“This was definitely the effort of a community,” Justin Taylor, assistant city planner for Warsaw, told Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly last year when the project was at its inception.
The Art in the Ally project was funded through contributions to a crowdfunding campaign run on Patronicity, in cooperation with the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority’s CreatINg Places program. The campaign raised $58,795 from 144 patrons, exceeding its goal of $50,000. The IHCDA provided a $50,000 matching grant. The Warsaw Public Art Commission – comprised of representatives from the Warsaw Development Corp., Wagon Wheel Center for the Arts, Warsaw Community Schools, city government, Lakeland Art Association and the Kosciusko County Community Foundation – provided a $5,000 monetary grant as well as volunteer labor.