All Alleys Lead to Art initiative transforms downtown alleyways
Downtown Kokomo is home to great public art spaces thanks to the Greater Kokomo Downtown Association’s All Alleys Lead to Art initiative.
“The initiative’s mission is to not only create inviting public art spaces but to also create learning opportunities through the installation of the art accessories that allow for a variety of art forms to be enjoyed in alleyways around downtown,” said Susan Alexander, manager of downtown creative placemaking for the Greater Kokomo Economic Development Alliance.
The most recently transformed alley , named Courthouse Alley, opened to the public on Sept. 7, 2019, and is located on the south side of the Courthouse Square on Sycamore Street.
Downtown Kokomo is no stranger to alley transformations, or “activations” as they say in the industry.
“Now open only to pedestrians, the newly found public spaces made it possible for us to create inviting gathering areas in the heart of the city,” Alexander said. “While efforts were already underway, these new opportunities really set the stage for placemaking efforts to begin in earnest.”
The first project was Alleyscape, now called Garden Alley, located on the east side of the Courthouse Square on Main Street. The alley opened in September 2001 after community organizations came together to add green space, public art, lighting and benches. The alley includes raised bed seating and art screens designed by students at the Kokomo Area Career Center.
Garden Alley was followed in 2014 by Artist Alley, a 24/7 outdoor art gallery. Located next to Artworks Gallery at 210 N. Main St., the space opened with nine art mounts to accommodate an annually changing exhibit of large-scale artwork and sculptures, and has grown to exhibit 16 art pieces.
It’s the draw of those alleys to visitors and residents alike that created the spark for All Alleys Lead to Art, Alexander said.
Because of its financial support of Artist Alley, the downtown association approached the Community Foundation of Howard County with the project in 2017. The community foundation approved grant funding for the project, which allowed for the creation of three additional alley activations and upgrades to Artist Alley and Garden Alley.
Courthouse Associates LLC, a local law firm, also contributed financial support to the project.
“The beauty of this project is that it’s not buying art. Rather, it’s making art possible,” Alexander said. “This is creating momentum for the burgeoning art movement in Kokomo. Creating these art opportunities is not only encouraging current residents to get out and explore, but we have people moving to Kokomo because of our art scene.”