The one-inlet alley from Siebald Street behind the Averitt Center for the Arts headquarters has become the Downtown Art Alley through an initiative of the Downtown Statesboro Development Authority, or DSDA, in cooperation with the Averitt Center.
A $1,700 Vibrant Communities grant obtained from the Georgia Council for the Arts by the Averitt Center – but with the DSDA taking the lead in creating the proposal – helped fund the project. Then a cost estimate of originally more than $5,000 was reduced to a cash expense of about $3,000 by DSDA staff members doing much of the work and with in-kind donations or discounts from businesses, organizations and individuals.
A trellis at the alley entrance, Italianate ironwork accents, two small bistro tables with chairs and a tall “Monte Compatri” banner rising two stories above the double doors at the closed end of the alley reflect the fact that Monte Compatri, Italy, is Statesboro’s designated sister city. Windows for display of artwork, string lighting overhead, potted plants and some faux doorways and decorative shutters complete the alley’s new look.
As evident from a “before” photograph of a grubby corridor lined with garbage carts and traffic cones, the transformation also required cleaning and painting. DSDA Executive Director Allen Muldrew, DSDA Office Manager Elena McLendon and the organization’s interns did much of the work.
“We had some great partners. …,” Muldrew said. “We had the doors already that we’d saved from some old houses, and my office crew actually did all the construction. We put the lights up. We painted the floors. We painted the walls. We installed the doors. We put the windows up top with the shutters.”
The trellis, he said, was purchased from a local company’s salvage yard and refurbished by someone who donated his work. Whitfield Signs created the banner. Paula Horne of Savannah Home Consignment Furniture and Home Décor did general design work, and local architect Frank D’Arcangelo created a colorful rendering.
Windows on art
Four windows facing the alley from the back of the Averitt Center’s main gallery building have now become spaces for display of visual artworks to be selected periodically by the Statesboro Regional Art Association. Currently works by area artists Alice Bennett, Raven Waters and Barbara Whitlock, plus an SRAA promotional poster, appear in the windows.
With the overhead lighting, the alley project also serves to improve safety, said Averitt Center for the Arts Executive Director Rahn Hutcheson.
“This helps us immensely because especially in the winter we’ll have performers who exit what we call our green room by our side door, and it has basically been total darkness,” he said. “I have for years wanted to put up a light there. This takes care of that problem and is very beneficial to the Averitt Center and our performers and employees.”
In daylight, the alley is available as a lunch location for people working or visiting downtown, although the DSDA staff may stow the furniture indoors when weather threatens.
“We were inspired by other communities in the nation that have revived vacant alleyways and parking lots in downtown areas to create pocket parks,” Muldrew said in a press release provided by DSDA intern Payton Rogers. “We wanted to create a space where people could enjoy the outdoors, take photos, or enjoy lunch downtown.”
With weddings often occurring across the street at the Bulloch County Courthouse, the alley now makes a trellised arch available, McLendon noted.
The DSDA in its release expressed appreciation to D’Arcangelo, Delores Groomes Dickey, Paula Horn and Mike Horn, Amanda Clements with Keep Statesboro Bulloch Beautiful, Precision Painting Plus, the Statesboro Regional Art Association, Tony Scott, Whitfield Signs and Darin Van Tassell, president of the South Georgia Tormenta FC soccer franchise.
Monte Compatri, Italy, and Statesboro, Georgia, USA, have been sister cities since officials signed an agreement in October 2016. A Statesboro delegation that included representatives of the Statesboro Convention and Visitors Bureau, City Council, Georgia Southern University, the Averitt Center and Tormenta FC visited Monte Compatri that fall.
A number of Georgia Southern students have since traveled there on study-abroad opportunities.