Event will serve as introduction for Art in Alley project

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FARMINGTON — The latest installment of the quarterly art walks that have taken place in downtown Farmington over the past several years will take on an added dimension tonight with the launch of the Art in the Alley project.

Organizers of the project, which is designed to make alleys and back entrances to downtown Main Street businesses more inviting through the creation of numerous murals, will introduce the idea to the public with a "paint slinging" event featuring city officials and live music by Breezin'.

Anyone who wishes to participate is welcome to pick up a paint brush, dip it in paint and sling it on the asphalt in the alley north of Orchard Park at 6 p.m.

Farmington downtown coordinator Michael Bulloch described the event as a modified form of a groundbreaking ceremony — "only with less dirt and more color," he said, laughing.

The Art in the Alley project is designed to dress up the "back door" of many Farmington businesses that will see their access from Main Street limited by the construction work planned around the downtown Complete Streets project next year. Some merchants are concerned that the construction work will discourage customers from visiting the district, and Art in the Alley is intended to help address those fears.

The project will include the expansion of sidewalks, the reduction of Main Street from four lanes to two lanes and the addition of diagonal parking.

If early response to the project is any indication, the idea is working, Bulloch said.

"I think so," he said. "In fact, we're kind of surprised by (the response so far). We haven't heard back from some property owners (who have been approached about having their exterior walls painted), but we hope this shows them we're serious about this, and it's not some pie-in-the-sky thing. It's really going to happen."

The project is the brainchild of Artifacts Gallery owners Tom and Bev Taylor. Bev Taylor said their son operates a bar in a trendy, up-and-coming district in Denver where artists from around the world are invited each year to come paint murals. Every time she and her husband visit their son, Bev said, they're amazed at how many murals have been added to the area around his bar.

"Tom said, 'We really need to do wall art here,' " Bev said. "I said, 'Let's do it,' so we talked to Michael about it."

Bulloch loved the idea, and it didn't take long before the Art in the Alley Committee had been formed. The group, which includes the Taylors and Bulloch, is considering proposals from artists, securing commitments from property owners willing to have their walls painted and lining up funding for the project.

Bev said the committee already has targeted six sites for murals, and many more are under consideration. Bulloch said 14 artists have submitted proposals — including James Joe, Rod Velarde, Ivan Lee, Vanaya Yazzie and himself — and 10 business owners have given permission for their buildings to be used.

Bulloch expects to see work on the first mural begin in late April or early May, with work continuing throughout the summer. He hopes a second phase of mural painting will take place next year.

More: City officials hope downtown backdoor murals will help businesses during construction

Bev said it was important for organizers to get the project underway this summer, well before the Complete Streets work gets started.

The paint slinging event will be only one part of tonight's art walk, which begins at 5. The Artifacts Gallery, 302 E. Main St., is opening two exhibitions — a themed show called "Edible" that features the work of various artists and a show of encaustic work by featured artist Jody Brimhall. There also will be live entertainment.

Bev said the "Edible" show features 25 works in various media that "range from the normal to the hilarious. It's anything they think somebody might want to eat."

She's particularly excited about Brimhall's show, since this is the California transplant's artistic debut in the Farmington area since relocating here. Bev recalled how Brimhall walked into her gallery several months ago while scouting out locations that might carry her work. As soon as Brimhall showed her her work, Bev recognized how good it was, she said.

"We became instant friends," she said. "We're thrilled to have her here."

Brimhall's exhibition will include 45 pieces that are done in an abstract, contemporary style.

Other galleries taking part in the art walk are Rod Hubble's New Mexico Studio, Studio 116, the Three Rivers Art Center and Tales of Tomorrow. Hubble's studio is celebrating a grand reopening at 305 W. Main St. after relocating from another Main Street site.

As the name indicates, Hubble described the new location as more of a studio than a gallery.

"It's very cozy — it's like a big living room," he said.

The gallery will feature paintings by Hubble and Aaron Freeland, Pueblo pottery, Navajo kachina dolls and rugs, Native baskets and jewelry, and estate furniture.

Hubble said he's still working on putting up a sign for his new space, but he said it is located in the same building as the well-known Foutz Trading Company.

Owner Karen Ellsbury at Studio 116, 116 W. Main St., said she originally planned to have a tent sale for the art walk, but a forecast of extremely windy conditions led her to cancel that. The gallery now will feature an exhibition of collaborations between Liz Stannard and eight other artists, while Ellsbury and husband Patrick Hazen will feature their work in a trunk show of approximately 30 pieces.

She said the collaborations are mixed-media pieces started by other artists before being turned over to Stannard for finishing.

"They're very modern," she said. "A lot of them have lights. It's really kind of eclectic, but pulled together by Liz's look."

The Three Rivers Art Center, 123 W. Main St., will open its "MASK!'" show featuring the work of artists throughout the region. The center presented a series of mask-making workshops in the weeks leading up to the art walk, and many of the pieces that were created during those events have been entered. Visitors will have the chance to vote on their favorite mask in three categories through May 5, and cash awards will be presented to the winners.

Tales of Tomorrow, 220 W. Main St., will feature the work of artists Aly Zee, Angel Valasquez and Mike Morrison while celebrating the grand opening of its Cosmic Coffee Shop.

Art walk maps can be picked up at any participating location.

Mike Easterling is the night editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4610.

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