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Program funded by grant from Merrion family foundation

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FARMINGTON — It took a while, but the Art in the Alley murals project designed to enhance the back entrances of downtown Farmington businesses in anticipation of the Complete Streets construction this winter finally has hit full swing.

Farmington downtown coordinator Michael Bulloch acknowledged the project had experienced some delays after being announced in March 2018. But it appears to be progressing nicely now with the completion of a handful of murals this summer and three others getting underway.

"It's taken awhile for the artists to get going and the property owners to come around and agree to do it," Bulloch said, explaining that some owners who originally had promised to participate in the program later expressed reservations about it. "But once (the property owners) started seeing the quality of the work, they came back on board — and new ones signed up."

Over this summer and fall, two murals were completed in the alley behind The Arc of San Juan County at 200 W. Broadway Ave., while another one was finished on the back wall of the Complete Streets headquarters at 119 W. Main St. A total of three others are being worked on now — one by Christy Clugston on the east wall of the Sherwin-Williams Paint Store at 202 E. Main St., and two others by Luke Paul on the south and west walls of the Chile Pod restaurant at 121 W. Main St.

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Those murals likely will be the only ones added to the Art in the Alley inventory this year, as Bulloch said work on the project probably would come to a halt when winter sets in. But it will resume in the spring, as additional murals are planned.

"We're working out the details, but there will be at least three more," he said.

Bulloch is even planning a mural of his own, a "Greetings from Farmington" postcard-type mural that will be located on the back side of English Color & Supply at 325 W. Main St. The artist is looking to make that mural a community project, explaining that he likely will sketch the elements, then ask for volunteers to help paint them.

Art in the Alley is funded by a $25,000 grant from the philanthropic foundation of the Merrion family, meaning no public money is being used for the work. Bulloch said a little less than half the money has been spent.

"We're being really frugal with (the money)," he said. "We're pinching pennies with it so it will last as long as possible and as many people as possible can paint a mural."

Eventually, Bulloch hopes to see murals on the backs of buildings on both sides of Main Street and up and down Broadway Avenue.

Officially, the Art in the Alley inventory includes nine murals, counting the three that remain a work in progress. But the project already has prompted other downtown merchants to take up the idea on their own.

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Paul, one of the owners of the Arrowsoul Trading Post, 307 W. Main St., has been working with officials of the GC Harvest Church at 308 W. Broadway Ave., on a series of rotating murals that adorn the church wall overlooking the alley between the two entities.

The murals will be repainted on a regular basis and feature a seasonal theme, with a Halloween mural currently occupying the space. Bulloch said Thanksgiving and Christmas murals will be painted there in the months ahead.

"It takes on a life of its own because it's always going to be changing," he said.

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Those murals are privately funded and outside the realm of Art in the Alley, but Bulloch is pleased to see the project inspire other people.

"It's really nice to see that kind of excitement about something in the community," he said.

The Art in the Alley project — which was conceived by Artifacts Gallery own Bev Taylor — has even made its influence felt beyond downtown Farmington. Bulloch said some downtown Aztec supporters have taken note of the Farmington project and expressed interest in increasing that city's inventory of murals, and he has been in touch with them about facilitating that process.

He also said several other cities around the state — Silver City, Las Cruces, Tucumcari, Gallup and Lovington — have been following Farmington's success with the program and are interested in initiating one of their own.

"It's cool to see them taking the same idea and applying it to their town," Bulloch said.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610.

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