Accidental local tradition allows local artists to express themselves in a unique way
by Rachel Holt
photography by Katherine Jenkins
“It was actually a freak accident, no pun intended. A friend and I were walking down the alley after a night of debauchery, and stumbled upon a horde of artists creating these amazing pieces. I went up to the tent and asked the girl working how to get involved. She told me to come back with a sketch. I was there the next afternoon and painting by nightfall,” says Pete Sonneman, local illustrator. Sonneman has been involved in the Freak Alley Gallery project since 2011 and hopes to paint a mural this year.
Freak Alley Gallery is an open air alley where local artists have the opportunity to paint large murals each year. Located between 8th and 9th Street and Bannock and Idaho, the alley is curated by Colby Akers, founding artist and organizer of the gallery.
“The alley had been an idea I’d had for a while, but the moment it was allowed to manifest was December 15th 2002. I was ducking in a doorway against the rain and saw a sketch on the door. I started drawing on it myself and 10 minutes later the door hit me. Mark and Cali, Moon’s Kitchen owners came out and asked me what I was doing. I apologized. They said it wasn’t graffiti and asked me to just sign and date it. I asked if I could cover the whole door. They agreed and three weeks later it was done,” Akers describes. From there, the gallery has grown little by little each year, adding more and more artists.
“That’s really what I’m trying to do. Giving that opportunity to others, the opportunity I was given to work down there,” Akers says.
The Freak Alley Gallery is a nonprofit entity working towards 501C status. The alley is largely funded by Akers, with the help of some donations from nearby businesses.
“A big part of the donation we get from businesses is permission. We’ve had no complaints from businesses or building owners, and it’s really thanks to them that we can keep doing this,” Akers says.
Originally started as a joke, two and half years ago Akers started a fundraiser for the gallery called “In the Can.” He remembers his buddy Dan saying he should collect cans to fundraise—“Instead of in the bag, it’s in the can.” Since then Akers has been collecting and recycling aluminum cans with the proceeds going to help fund the alley. Many local businesses jumped onboard to collect and contribute their cans, and if you’re looking to get rid of your can collection Akers is always looking for more donors.
This year’s murals were painted from August 2nd to August 9th, 2014, and the alley repainting generally occurs around this time each year. On the 9th there were musical performances and booths by alley artists displaying some of their other work. If you missed this year’s event, don’t fret! Murals stay up for at least a year and are open to the public viewing year round, free of charge.
For more information about Boise’s Freak Alley Gallery, if you would like to become a contributing artist, or if you or your business would like to contribute to the gallery event, contact Colby Akers at email@example.com.