Art Alley Farewell

 A Retrospective


The Art Alley in Mountainair, like Adolphine Carole, its prime mover, owner, administrator, and guiding spirit, needs no introduction. Both deserve and have richly earned the finest of farewells. To that end Adolphine is having an all day party for the Alley’s friends and admirers during the annual Sunflower Festival, Saturday, August 28, 2004. This is more than fitting: its “official” (as official as anything gets in Mountainair) opening celebration showcased the 1st Annual Sunflower Festival in1999. Alley fans may ask why farewell. Returning to college in 2002, Adolphine now approaches her final year of UNM Main Campus studies. These require more of her attention and presence than current Mountainair involvements permit. After graduation comes the next chapter yet to be imagined, but like the Art Alley imagined in 1999, keenly anticipated.

Art Alley, Steppin Out Cover, 2001
Art Alley, view on cover of Steppin' Out,, 2001
 
Mountainair’s Art Alley occupies a narrow strip of land on Broadway between the Post Office and a history-soaked building, which was, among other incarnations, once a barbershop owned by the late Jack Peterson. “Mr. Jack,” as he was known about town, was true Mountainair character. He followed the rodeo circuit in his youth, married often but not always wisely, was sheriff for a while, and operated the aforementioned barbershop. When Jack sold the building, he kept a narrow strip of land between it and the Post Office. Not long before his death, he finally managed to give it to Adolphine Carole, who had been turning his offer down for two years because she had California plans and did not intend to stay in Mountainair.
 
Faced by what to do with this strip of land too narrow to build on, Adolphine had an epiphany – this narrow strip of land, so seemingly useless would be just right for a non-profit public art walk and downtown mini-park. Artists could showcase their work there for the whole community to enjoy. Thus was born the Art Alley Project in 1999.  Setting to making it reality, Adolphine found her project grow into a cooperative project as it all came together with the help of the community.

  Art Alley, before
Art Alley - Before

Crews of local volunteers – artists, arts supporters, and the otherwise normally art-indifferent – pitched in. Bill Pohl donated the rocks for the path. A group of volunteers dug the rock out of the ground at Bill’s. Jan Eshleman and Donna Hall put down the flagstone path. Felipe and Josie Torres donated poles. Larry Gustin donated pallets. Mr. Burns, dad of Ken at the auto parts place, and Brain Green brought their post-hole diggers to place back posts for the pallets. Sheldon Roberts cut the back phone poles to fit the space. Gary and Diane Watts donated electricity for the drills used to assemble poles and pallets. Sherry Bean hauled water in a tank on her truck several times a weeks to get a lawn and flowers growing where they don't usually grow, the best the lawn part of the Alley ever looked. Wells Fargo Bank participated by donating money for necessary building supplies. Local artists put up an ever changing and varied collection of art that included photographs, poetry, metal sculpture, wood art, textile art, paintings, collages, and a number of items defying definition.  Labored, worried, and sweat over throughout the spring of 1999, the Art Alley dream became reality in time for summer christening. Needless to say, the project kept Adolphine in Mountainair. It also bound the community together and acted as catalyst for a period of intense creative activity in the local arts community.

Art Alley, underway
Art Alley, Underway
 
In addition to being a small, congenial park area, “Art Alley” combines public art and the art walk concept more commonly associated with walking tours through museum and gallery districts.  Normally, both art walks and public art are found in large urban centers. Neither is commonplace in small, remote, and rural locations such as Mountainair. Art walks are scheduled events rather than permanent attractions. Most public art is singular: a sculpture in a park, on a public square or in front of a building. In that sense, public art is goes back to antiquity and the first statue publicly commemorating community or state triumphs. The Art Alley Project is unique in combining public art, mini-park, and art walk, not in a metropolis but in a small town far from urban centers.

Art Alley anchors the most concentrated art area in Mountainair. Cibola Arts Cooperative is one door down. The former StoneTree Gallery, which occupies the very next storefront, will remain a gallery and locus of creative activity, Jess Davidson’s in its current incarnation. Continuing down Broadway, the arts-minded visitor continues past The Mountainair Heritage Center, also home to The Art Center of Mountainair, adjacent to Jess’ new location, with Treasures of the Gypsy and Abo Trading Company further down.

Art Alley tour
Local youth enyoying artists' tour

The Alley is a nationally and internationally recognized attraction. Surfing art enthusiasts from around the world visited The Virtual Art Alley Project, designed and managed by Dennis Fulfer, who, like Adolphine, donated time and services as part of their ongoing effort to give back to the community. The site, addressed simply artalleyproject.com, informed and attracted visitors to Mountainair from around the world. Tourists from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Japan, and across the United States have visited the Art Alley. Visitors often speak of taking the Art Walk concept back to their own hometowns.  The Art Alley Project in Steppin’ Out, New Mexico Magazine, Colorado’s Mountain Living Magazine, New Mexico’s The Waiting Room, and The Albuquerque Journal. Indeed, the Art Alley’s (and by extension, Mountainair’s) presence extends to regular and frequent pieces in areas papers – print and online editions - and just about every imaginable online directory and calendar with Mountainair entries.

Yet it would be inaccurate to characterize The Art Alley Project as being just for artists and visitors.  As originally envisioned, it became a community attraction and asset. Locals making their Post Office run stroll the walk to see what is new among the ever changing exhibits, relax on benches to read through their mail, and check the Community Bulletin Board at the entrance for announcements. Local youth are among the most frequent visitors, checking out the art with barely disguised enthusiasm. One Sunflower Festival, local artists conducted guided tours.  Adolphine threw “It’s a Party!” on the occasion of The Alley’s four-page spread in “New Mexico Magazine,” complete with performances, live music, and refreshments – everyone invited.  It has even been a wedding location. Truly, the Art Alley is an integral part of the community.

What will be the next chapter? Wait and see. In the meantime, mark your calendars Saturday, August 28, and come to The Art Alley party. You know where it is.

Adolpine taking a walk through
Adolphine surveying her alley

Article by Vanessa Vaile
Appearing in Steppin' Out, 2004
Photos courtesy Adolphine Carole