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Priesmeyer: What's in your alley?

  • Blog Post by: Molly Priesmeyer
  • May 14, 2014 - 6:07 PM

If Twin Cities alleyways were a reflection of the psyche, they would probably be called the tenebris umbra umbram. Which is really just a fancy Jungian way of saying the "dark shadow's dark shadow." Or something like it, probably. 

It's the middle of May, yet our sleepy backstreets are shame graveyards for Christmas trees now burnt by the sun and dead leaves we couldn't muster the energy to rake away in October.

But like any true aspect of self, those old shame and rubbish routes also hold hidden gems: Scattered artworks that pop up like tiny clues to a bigger mystery. 

Shhh!….don't tell anyone about this secret  (Alley art in South Minneapolis)

Along alleyways in South Minneapolis, broken-down garages and microwave-oven remains become canvases for paintings and sculptures —humble little expressions that don't feel comfortable making grand public appearances.

You'd be sad, too, if someone left a cigarette in you (Alley art in South Minneapolis)

Cities across the world boast beautiful street and alley art, often in the form of murals, like Balmy Alley in San Francisco, which became an expression of political unrest in Central America in the 1980s and served to further the Chicano mural art movement. 

But what's unique about alley art in the Twin Cities, and in this case Powderhorn Park, are the peculiar stories told through these little artworks left to live behind us. Within a 10-block radius, I discovered more than two dozen pieces of alley art, from paintings hung on garages to sculptures strung from poles. 

This garage painting is the perfect place for a Dr. Suess button (Alley art in South Minneapolis) 

What do these artworks few people see say about our neighborhoods? What do they say about the person who placed it there? What do they say about us? What do they say about discovery? Am I the only weirdo who likes to walk her dog in alleys? Does this kind of thing happen in Hoboken? Are these really secret messages for some sort of alley Freemasons and now I'm really in trouble?

Two birds, one garage (Alley art in South Minneapolis)

Bird meme seeks meme (Alley art in South Minneapolis) 

Choose your own art-venture (Alley art in South Minneapolis)

Let's bolt (Alley art in South Minneapolis) 

See the light (Alley art in South Minneapolis)

Artist and writer Andy Sturdevant recently embarked on a collaborative open-source project to name every alley in Minneapolis. So far, nearly every alley has been named, mostly by the shared experiences of people who live along them. (Strangely, none are named tenebris umbra umbram.)

Now we can finally say we live somewhere between "Opossum Trail" and "Hope and Dreams Way," and just a toad's jump from "Sorry It's Been So Long Alley."  And, for those lucky enough to explore these strange passageways, that the hidden artworks and stories the alleys hold are just as unique their name.  

What's in your alley? Put on your shoes and go out and explore. Be sure to come back and tell me about what you find! I'd love to hear your alley story. 

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