One component of Athens Main Street’s initiative to transform a vacant alley in downtown Athens will feature an interactive art project created by students at the Alabama Center for the Arts in Decatur.
The ACA Foundation is providing $15,000 to fund “Passages,” the art project that will be part of Merchants Alley and feature three separate doors which, when opened, will reveal the students’ artwork.
“We expect to bring a vibrant gathering spot to downtown, one that all ages will feel drawn to because of the music theme and the vibrancy of the art,” said Tere Richardson, the executive director of Athens Main Street. The development will also provide space for outdoor dining. “We don’t have this kind of gathering spot anywhere in the downtown area. This is something that’s sorely needed.”
Richardson said the foundation’s donation, presented on Monday in a ceremony at the site, gives the nonprofit Athens Main Street an opportunity to engage ACA art students while enhancing the art experience downtown.
“I’m so excited to see what the ACA students will create with their murals,” she said.
The ACA is a collaborative effort among Athens State University, Calhoun Community College, the city of Decatur and Morgan County that offers college courses that lead to associate’s and bachelor’s degrees. The ACA’s Foundation is a newly formed nonprofit dedicated to supporting the efforts of the schools to establish the center as a regional leader in arts education and create a vibrant, public cultural hub for North Alabama and the Tennessee Valley.
“We are hoping to have the majority of the alley completed by the first couple of weeks in June,” Richardson said.
Merchants Alley’s overall theme is “Athens Amplified,” with a music-through-art focus. The other components will be a 20-foot by 40-foot mural for which Athens Main Street is currently taking proposals; a commissioned eight-foot by 10-foot “live mural” that will be created by Arcy, a Connecticut artist known for his paint-splashed style of large-scale street art, during the season’s first Fridays after Five event on May 21; Instagram spots created by local high school art students; and a series of window panels in a project coordinated by Athens Art League that will involve local children.
“Except for the largest mural, everything in the alley will be refreshed periodically,” Richardson said.
To date, $68,000 has been donated in private grants and donations by a broad mix of businesses and individuals, Richardson said. “We hope to reach $90,000” in donations, she said. “We have enough now to get us through the major components of the alley.”
State Sen. Arthur Orr, a member of the ACA Foundation’s board, said in a release that the foundation was created to focus solely on the center’s growth, and the public art initiative will provide educational and creative opportunities for students and faculty outside of the classroom, “while enhancing the aesthetic experience for visitors to downtown Athens.”
Athens State President Philip Way said in a release that “experiences outside the classroom are an area of emphasis for Athens State and provide the additional hands-on training needed to create a well-rounded, real-world education.”
Philip Mann, the center's director of promotion and economic development, said students will be able to receive stipends for their work.
“We want to have as many opportunities for students outside the classroom as we can,” Mann said.