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Axis Alley: Transforming Baltimore's Alleys Through Creative Action

Opening Walk Takes Place Sunday, Oct. 18, 2-6 p.m., 2014–2214 N. Calvert St.

Posted 10.12.09

Axis Alley seeks through creative engagement to utilize the backyards of vacant properties and vacant lots as a canvas for creative works that transform, activate and revitalize the overlooked, under-attended areas of Baltimore’s back alleys. In neighborhoods where the vacancy rate of properties runs high, the alley seems to become the indicator of urban difficulties: trash, rats, homeless people, prostitution and drugs. These somewhat forbidding alleys (dark and unlit at night), while speaking of endemic problems in the city, possess a certain toxic beauty and provide a fascinating possibility of urban intervention and creative gesture.

When MICA faculty Sarah Doherty moved two years ago from downtown San Diego to a carriage house in between the two alleys behind N. Calvert Street, she was a bit horrified by the conditions of the smaller alley affected by an 85 percent vacancy rate in a three-block span. Previously working with notions of fault-lines in her work prior to the move, she soon grew to think of the N. Calvert Street alley as a metaphorical kind of fault-line affected by socio-economics and urban decline. Fascinated by the contexts inherent in these properties, Doherty began her own explorations of site-specific pieces in the alley. This soon extended to her students at MICA as urban intervention assignments for such courses as Concrete Culture: The City as Text, for which students responded to and with the contexts of the sites. Realizing the benefits of transformation and cultural dialogue that developed through these small gestures as evidenced in neighborhood interactions with the works and artists, Doherty developed a bigger vision of transformation and the possibilities of extending the cultural corridor between Station North Arts District and the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Doherty has subsequently organized 22 pieces to inhabit the backyards of these vacant properties through April 2010. Participants include artists, architects and contemporary dancers. Working with city agencies, community organizations and artists, the alley and properties will be cleaned of debris and re-populated with creative works and light.

The Axis Alley Opening Walk will showcase the creative endeavors to the public on Sunday, Oct. 18, 2-6 p.m. on the three blocks encompassing 2014–2214 N. Calvert St.

Artists include: Ben Stone, Chas Foster '12, Cyle Metzger, Eric Leshinsky, Fred Scharmen, Gary Kachadourian, Graham Coreil-Allen '10, Imen Djouini '09, Jacob Ulrich, Jessie Unterhalter '05 and Emily CD- Two Can Collective '05, Jonathan Taube '10 , Judy Stone '09, Karen Graff , Marian Glebes '04, Megan Mueller, Samantha McCurdy '11, Samuel Scharf, Sarah Doherty, Sarah Magida '05, Stephanie Yezek and Alex Dijulio '11.

For more information please contact Sarah Doherty:
axisalley@hotmail.com or visit the Axis Alley blog.

"To search for the good and make it matter: this is the true challenge for the artist. Not simply to transform ideas or revelations into matter, but to make those revelations actually matter" - Estella Conwill Majozo