By: Joanie Cox-Henry Contributing Writer
Nothing makes the Delray Beach community rally quite like Art in the Alley. For the past 10 years, artist Sharon Koskoff has been working with Art in the Alley coordinators Lisa and James Quillian to jazz up alleyways in Osceola Park in Downtown Delray Beach with original art work.
“We’re all about inspiring others and improving the community,” Koskoff said. “James and Lisa [Quillian] are the alley and I’m the art. I gather the artists, supply the paints and they do the party and secure the artwork in the alleyways.”
While themes in past years have included everything from Valentine’s Day to Mardis Gras, this year’s theme was inspired by the art deco vibe of the roaring 20’s.
Painting on 3 foot by 5 foot exterior concrete panels using exterior satin paint, more than 40 artists gathered to create art work to brighten up the Delray alleyway located at Southeast Sixth Street between Southeast Third and Southeast Fourth Avenues. There is currently art in eight alleys of Delray now.
With every part of Art in the Alley volunteer-based from the art to the food and drinks, the event includes one full day of painting and then one day to show off the art.
“It turns into a real block party, which is always so much fun,” Koskoff said of the March 1 celebration.
This year, Koskoff was amazed that it rained five times during the February 15 painting day and not one artist canceled.
Delray Beach resident Sharon Halupka, who painted a mermaid piece for the event, mentioned she had to redo the painting multiple times due to the weather. “I’d start to paint and then it rained and washed off several times,” Halupka said.
In addition to locals artists and nearby neighbors in the Osceola Park community, the event also attracted the support of the Delray Beach Police officers and Delray Beach board member of the Planning and Zoning Advisory Board Juli Casale.
“This is a fabulous opportunity to bring attention to this neighborhood that also has so much history,” Casale said.
Event goers sipped complimentary cans of Corona and Two Buck Chuck from Trader Joe’s while listening to reggae music by Chucka Riddim.
Patricia “Trish” Stephens, who has participated in Art in the Alley for nine years, loves returning to the event year after year for the people and the atmosphere.
“I was in the Army and Army Reserves and sustained several injuries,” Stephens said. “I’m happy I’m still able to paint and be part of something like this.”
Sculptor Patricia Peters, who met Koskoff 18 years ago when she first came to Delray Beach, is amazed at how no one defaces the art in alleyways or steals the work. “There’s a respect for it on the street and it’s something that is truly appreciated by the community,” said Peters, who resides in Delray.
James Quillian enjoys how Art in the Alley adds to the overall improvement and revitalization of his Osceola Park neighborhood.
“We’ve been doing this 10 years and the neighbors love it,” Quillian said. “A lot of people come to it and as we draw attention this neighborhood, it also brings it to the city council’s attention. Commissioners stop by to see this art work. Then they get to meet the constituents voting for them at events like this. We also invite the police department so they can do their community outreach too.”
Lisa Quillian will never forget the first Art in the Alley, which started with just 10 artists.
“The fact that so many artists come back year after year says it all,” Quillian said. “They come for the art, but also the hot dogs and camaraderie. Some people have even requested to have the art pieces in the alley commissioned. The paintings make the alleyway more enjoyable and I know several kids who ask their parents to drive them through these alleyways on the way to school just so they can look at the art.”