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Auburn Arts Alley

Revitalizing an urban alley into a creative gathering place

As Auburn's historic downtown continues to grow and evolve, we continue to imagine opportunities to revitalize the heart of downtown Auburn and the 100 year old traditional Main Street. One such idea is a vibrant art-filled Auburn Arts Alley.

A spark of an idea? An urban outdoor creative gathering place for the community.

The location? An underutilized alley perfectly positioned in the heart of downtown Auburn between the beloved Auburn Avenue Theater and Postmark Center for the Arts.

What started with an idea and vision by students participating in the Livable City Year program at the University of Washington, has now become a plan set in motion for a multi-faceted artistic gathering place in Auburn’s Downtown, created in collaboration with some truly amazing artists and a lot of important support from the local and regional community!

Auburn Arts Alley Image

Initial alleyway redesign plans and site studies were produced by former University of Washington landscape architect students: Allison Ong, Sylvia Janicki, and Jack Alderman through the Livable City Year program. The City of Auburn was UW's inaugural Livable City Year partner, a program which consisted of 17 total projects, including the alleyway activation. The initial designs acted as a springboard for a successful grant application for 4Culture’s new Creative Consultancy program, in which Local Arts Agencies can apply to collaborate with artists on creative projects. With generous support from 4Culture, the City selected to work with talented local artist Kathleen Fruge Brown on this exciting alleyway redesign, and launched an outreach effort to gather community input for the project. From a community-shared Pinterest idea board, to a widely-distributed email survey, and in-person stakeholder meetings, the public input process helped define and refine our project goals. Feedback indicated that Auburn residents thought the most important elements for the Arts Alley were: lighting, seating, public art, as well as space for temporary or ‘rotating’ art and performances. Above all, the community conversations revealed a hunger for more visual expressions of diversity—to see their own culture and history embodied in the public space.

Auburn Art Alley Picture 2

Once the collaboration with artist Fruge Brown was underway, the excitement for the project began to grow, and with it, our ideas of how inclusive and artistically multi-faceted the space could become. Fruge Brown has created a series of mosaics based on traditional and contemporary weaving designs, with many of the original designs made by talented artistic collaborator Gail White Eagle, of the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, as well as other Coast Salish weaving and basketry designs. Fruge Brown also designed the concrete bench with cast text of the Muckleshoot motto, “I am alive and strong” translated from bəqəlšuɫucid into ten other languages most commonly spoken in the Auburn community. Having prominent artistic representation and acknowledgment of the indigenous culture of this area is an essential way to honor Auburn’s history and commemorate its rich cultural diversity. At the end of 2019, the City of Auburn applied for a second round of grant funding through 4Culture’s Creative Consultancy program in collaboration with the Muckleshoot Tribal Culture Division and Kathleen Fruge Brown. The City was awarded the second grant and the opportunity to collaborate on a more artistically robust expression of the Muckleshoot culture and history, including a one-of-a-kind carved welcome figure and land acknowledgement plaque in the Auburn Arts Alley. Kathleen Fruge Brown will liaison with Muckleshoot Tribe Cultural Director Willard Bill Jr. and traditional carvers Keith Stevenson and Tyson Simmons to produce a sculpture that will bring an iconic symbol of the Muckleshoot culture into the heart of downtown Auburn.

Artist Concrete Bench  Welcome Figures  Mosaic in Progress

The cast concrete sitting wall was poured in early June, and beautiful mosaics by Kathleen Fruge Brown will be installed shortly after. Additional artistic components of the Auburn Arts Alley design will include overhead lighting designed by Fruge Brown, a dynamic wall mural to be designed and painted by talented public artist Will Schlough, and a stage for music and performances. Activation of the space through arts and cultural events, musical or theater performances and pop-up experiences will seek to bring life into a once forgotten alley, and engage the community in a creative gathering space! Community partners will be encouraged to create collaborative programming as well, allowing the site to truly become a place for the community and activated with the community.

Will Schlough Mural Design

The City of Auburn looks forward to redefining the alley as a central hub where the community can come together in appreciation and creation of artistic and cultural experiences.

With thanks to our cultural partners at: 

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