Keeper of the Plans

Spider as big as a car spotted in downtown alley

Mike Miller’s sculpture of a giant spider is the defining feature in Gallery Alley.
Mike Miller’s sculpture of a giant spider is the defining feature in Gallery Alley. The Wichita Eagle

If you’ve driven by Naftzger Park on Douglas lately and seen a giant spider in the alley, don’t worry.

The giant metal-and-wood creepy-crawly affixed to the alley’s wall is the latest work by Wichita sculptor Mike Miller – who has developed quite a knack for crafting large-scale bug sculptures.

It’s perhaps the most striking sculpture in Gallery Alley, an outdoor pop-up art gallery at 616 E. Douglas set to open Friday evening.

“I’m sure there’s somebody out there that’s really, really scared of spiders,” Miller said. “It might freak them out, and I feel kind of bad about that.”

To add to the creepiness – or coolness, depending on your view of arachnids – the spider’s abdomen will be illuminated at night.

It was constructed over three weeks using metal and natural objects. Its legs are made of branches from an Osage orange hedge tree, covered in some sort of tar-like material to give it texture.

“I worked hard to not make it look scary, but I also didn’t want it to look Disney,” Miller said. “There’s an edge to it, but not a horror-movie edge.”

Four sculptures are in the alley and will be on display for a year – the pilot period for Gallery Alley.

The sculptures in the alley are kid-friendly, and generally interactive – a kinetic sculpture by Marc Durfee will feature bicycle wheels that spin when a passerby turns a pedal.

Even the bricks lining Gallery Alley will be art-filled.

Local artist duo Josh Tripoli and Rebekah Lewis, known for their Wichita-themed murals, are painting yet another civic-pride mural in Gallery Alley.

“We wanted to touch on all different facets of a city and the potential we have for transformation, and express that visually,” Tripoli said. “We really like this idea of showcasing all the little things that make a city fun to live in and transforming it together, quite literally.”

The mural will not be finished in time for the Final Friday event in Gallery Alley, but that’s by design.

Tripoli and Lewis are inviting the general public to help finish the mural on Sunday and Memorial Day – they’ll provide the paints, brushes and a paint-by-numbers guide.

Gallery Alley, a project of the Wichita Downtown Development Corp., received a $66,504 grant from the Knight Foundation Fund at the Wichita Community Foundation to make the project possible. The project leverages Wichita’s considerable creative community to “activate” the alley, long underutilized, according to the downtown group.

Gallery Alley will play host to a variety of outdoor concerts, movie screenings and Final Friday shows throughout the year, starting this Friday.

Gallery Alley grand opening

When: 5:30 to 9 p.m. Friday

Where: Gallery Alley, 616 E. Douglas

What: Opening of a new pop-up art gallery in a downtown Wichita alley, featuring sculptures by Mike Miller, John McCluggage, Marc Durfee and Garet Reynek, and a mural by Josh Tripoli and Rebekah Lewis (Lupoli). Live music by local bands Kill Vargas, Tideway and The Cavves.