Keeper of the Plans

Gallery Alley isn't going away, at least not for another six months

Gallery Alley is getting an extension.

The creative placemaking project that transformed a vacant alley at 616 E. Douglas into an art-filled Final Friday stop will be around at least through November and likely longer, according to Downtown Wichita.

The project, which premiered at last May’s Final Friday, was intended to be a one-year pilot project – and Downtown Wichita scored a $66,504 grant to make it happen. The grant was from the Knight Foundation, administered by the Wichita Community Foundation.

Gallery Alley, 616 E. Douglas, is a pop-up park in a downtown Wichita alley that features local artwork, music, and has bistro sets for people to eat at and congregate. It’s barely wide enough for a single car to fit through, and it’s no more than 200 feet long.

Overwhelmingly positive public response to the project prompted Downtown Wichita (formerly known as Wichita Downtown Development Corporation) to seek a six-month extension for the alley’s right-of-way permit.

Downtown Wichita will absorb the cost of running and hosting events in the alley during that time, and it is looking to hire a staffer who will manage the alley, said Jason Gregory, executive vice president of Downtown Wichita.

“Of our placemaking and programming bucket of initiatives, (Gallery Alley) is just one of many,” Gregory said. “To continue to program it is one of our priorities.”

The two adjacent property owners have discussed vacating Gallery Alley, Gregory said – meaning that responsibility for the alley would be transferred over to the neighboring businesses, and the land would essentially be replatted as part of their properties. It would no longer be a public right-of-way.

So essentially, Gallery Alley could become a permanent fixture in downtown.

“There’s precedent of doing this – several other alleyways in downtown have been closed and vacated,” Gregory said.

The art pieces the alley has come to be known for – namely, Mike Miller’s giant spider sculpture – will likely remain for the time being.

Downtown Wichita is also in talks with an artist to create an archway-style entrance framing the alley from Douglas, Gregory said.

“We’re just now getting into the nicer weather – we hope to have not only events on Final Friday, but also things popping up throughout the summer,” he said.

There are events planned for Gallery Alley in the coming months, Gregory said – “but none that I’m willing to share.” Downtown Wichita is looking for individuals to carry on the “movie in the alley” concept hosted by Olivia Grant and Javan Andrew last year.

Earlier this month, local radio station T-95 sponsored a pop-up acoustic concert in the alley with a band scheduled to play at the Cotillion later that night.

On the alley’s grand opening last year, a large crowd rocked out to Kill Vargas and other local bands – shortly after, amplified music performances were banned in the alleyway.

Naftzger Park was closed for construction this week, which Gregory said increases the importance of Gallery Alley – just across the street from the park.

“Places like Gallery Alley and the Pop-Up Park are going to be important particularly while that space is offline,” he said. “They allow us to experiment and figure out what we want to do when the newly designed Naftzger Park opens next year.”

Gallery Alley is open to the public at 616 E. Douglas.

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