Carrie Rengers

Scooter-riding Downtown Wichita workers seek first Alley Doors sites to transform

Community mural brings Wichitans downtown

(FILE VIDEO) Artist Josh Tripoli and Rebekah Lewis painted a mural in Gallery Alley in downtown Wichita with the help of volunteers. The art project was inspired to get young people downtown and get people excited about their city. (May 29, 2017)
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(FILE VIDEO) Artist Josh Tripoli and Rebekah Lewis painted a mural in Gallery Alley in downtown Wichita with the help of volunteers. The art project was inspired to get young people downtown and get people excited about their city. (May 29, 2017)

UPDATED — If you happened to see Downtown Wichita’s Emily Brookover and Jason Gregory zipping by on scooters during work hours lately, they’ve not been playing hooky.

They’ve been riding with a purpose, and that’s to identify the first 10 doors that will be transformed for the organization’s Alley Doors project.

Downtown Wichita is using part of a $56,850 grant from the Knight Foundation Fund at the Wichita Community Foundation to transform drab doors into colorful attention-getters.

“Most people view (alleys) as dark and scary,” says Jason Gregory, Downtown Wichita executive vice president.

The idea is the doors will bring life to desolate areas of downtown and be something of a mini gallery for people to discover as they walk by.

“The majority of them will be pretty hidden,” says Brookover, director of community development.

There will be signs that pop out from alleys to alert passersby that there’s something to see. There also will be an interactive online map of the doors.

“Some people may be looking for them, and that’s cool,” Gregory says. “The people who just happen upon them, I think that’s even better.”

Artists answered a call for artwork — more than 200 pieces were submitted — that can be transferred to vinyl and wrapped on doors.

Thirty-eight artists have been chosen to have their work displayed.

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Participating business owners will have access to an online catalog to view more than 100 pieces of art from the 38 artists and select what they want for their doors.

“Hopefully there’s a lot of interest from business owners,” Brookover says.

Some artists whose work normally isn’t featured on a flat surface, such as a glassblower, have the opportunity to participate with the door project.

“The beautiful thing about this is all we need is a digital image,” Brookover says.

Each artist will be paid $350 per door.

“That’s really important to us,” says Jaimie Garnett, executive vice president of communications.

Garnett says creating art destinations will lead to more foot traffic, which in turn enhances pedestrian safety and discourages graffiti.

The rest of the Knight grant, with help from Envision, will go toward enhancing the Gallery Alley at 616 E. Douglas. The updated space, which will be ready next spring, will create art experiences that people who have visual impairments or developmental or intellectual disabilities can enjoy.

Both Gallery Alley and the Alley Doors projects are the latest new art initiatives in downtown Wichita.

“I don’t think you can ever have too much,” Gregory says.

He says that’s especially true for the parts of downtown with no activity.

“That was our whole premise of the pop-up park.”

What had been a hole in the ground on East Douglas between Main and Market streets transformed from an eyesore to a colorful dining area.

Much as Downtown Wichita has looked to other cities — particularly Louisville, Ky. — for the Alley Doors project, Gregory says the pop-up park is one of several things that other cities have come to Wichita to study and emulate.

“That’s rewarding because that means we’re setting the bar that other people are aspiring to.”

Gregory says residential started driving activity downtown, which was followed by businesses choosing to make downtown their headquarters.

“The whole vitality has changed, and it’s a place where people want to see creativity.”

The 38 artists for the Alley Doors project are Zach Arroyo, Criseida Becerra, Doug Billings, Aaron Bowman, Jordan Kirtley, Michael Knutson, Hallie Linnebur, Matthew Miller, Priscella Brown, Rachel Buller, James Butler, Jan Butler, Angelica Chavez, Nick Drake, Gabby Garlow, Constance Gehring, Maggie Gilmore, Sue Godwin, Ande Hall, Michael Herring, Brian Hinkle, Rebecca Hoyer, Lindsey Kernodle, Max Miller, Mike Miller, Ellen Mosiman, Audrey Ni, Autumn Noire, John Pirtle, Delilah Reed, Brady Scott, Marcia Scurfield, Austin Storie, Robin Valenzuela, Kate Van Steenhuyse, Juanta Wolfe, Ernest Vincent Wood III and Yang Zhao.

Gregory and Brookover want to make sure a wide swath of downtown is represented by the first 10 doors — thus the scooters to hunt sites.

Brookover says doors could start going up within a few months, but there will be an official unveiling of the first 10 in the spring.

“And then hopefully from then on out we’ll cover every door available.”