Young Nation's creation -- a new outdoor art gallery in Southwest

Neighborhood members, kids, local service providers and artists will debut The Alley Project (TAP) Gallery, a permanent outdoor exhibition space dedicated to aerosol street art, on July 4 in Southwest Detroit.

The alley, which is located between the streets of Avis, Falcon, Elsemere and Woodmere, is now covered in murals, crafted by local artists and youth alike. Through a partnership with a Master's of Architecture class headed by Will Wittig at University of Detroit-Mercy, neighborhood kids worked to transform a residential garage into studio art space and gallery, dubbed Studio Luevanos. Two abandoned lots adjacent to the alley were purchased and cleaned. They now host outdoor modular canvasses, reconstructed patio furniture and a bicycle rack (built by an area bike club and metal artist from 555 Gallery with locally salvaged materials).

Erik Howard is the director of Young Nation, a Southwest youth and community development nonprofit. For the past year, he's coordinated efforts to bring TAP Gallery to fruition. It was funded in 2010 through Community + Public Art Detroit (CPAD), a partnership between the Skillman Foundation and College for Creative Studies (also underwritten by the Kresge and Chase foundations). Howard emphasizes that, beyond the art, TAP Gallery's mission was to create a participatory project for the community and its stakeholders.

"The stakeholders are involved in all phases of the decision-making," he says. "Neighbors, youth, service providers and artists were all involved together, and they all learned enough about each other and what's important to each other, to make informed decisions. They all learned about design, about architecture, and about art."

Utilizing the outdoors for gallery space, leaving it open to the public and the elements, was another important aspect of TAP's vision, Howard says.

"This product is a living, breathing art environment, and it exists in an area that has a high incident of vandalism, on purpose," he says. "Part of the risk, of course, is that the things which are put up are temporal. That's okay, because what we tried to design from our process is an organism that can survive in that environment."

Street art was the hook for the youth members of Young Nation, who were given the responsibility to help design and curate the outdoor gallery. Each young leader worked in concert with graphic designers, architects, street artists and fine artists, to help stimulate learning and form relationships with professionals in the fields of art and design.

"What interested them was the street art," Howard says, "but then we use that as a bridge to the wider world of art, in general."

Young Nation will celebrate the opening of TAP in coordination with the Falcon Street Block Club's annual 4th of July block party, which runs from noon to 4 p.m. A dedication of the outdoor gallery and live demonstration painting will coincide with all the happenings of the block club bash -- food, volleyball, music and activities for kids.

Visit TAP on Facebook to check out pictures and learn more.

Source: Erik Howard, Lead Artist and Youth Coordinator, Young Nation
Writer: Ashley C. Woods
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