Art News

After Fifteen Years, Alley Art Gallery Behind Axum Restaurant Is Gone

Claire Martin

If you’ve walked down the wood-fence-flanked alleys of Park Hill or City Park, you’ve probably seen Jack Farrar’s singular, found-object sculptures — guerrilla art that inspired the annual Park Hill Alley Art contest.

Some people like his work so much that they ask him to put something up on their own alley fence. (I am one of those people: Jack Farrar put two pieces on the alley fence behind the Fairfax Street house where I lived for several years: a license-plate sculpture, and an enamel pan studded with beer caps and metal letters.)

Not everyone loves guerrilla art, though, particularly the property owner who posted a notice at the sagging fence behind the Axum Ethiopian restaurant at Colfax and Hudson, asking Farrar to take down all 65 pieces there by October 31. It was kind of a downer, but on the plus side, Farrar had an exceptionally long exhibit at that location – at least fifteen years.

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Claire Martin
On Sunday, October 28, Farrar was out with his wife, Pam, taking down the sculptures to give to friends and family who’d put dibs on certain pieces. There was the crescent moon with its outsized North Star, made from a jewelry box and a metal cup. There was a white enameled dish pan, screwed vertically to the fence, with bright alphabet letters spelling out "WE HOPE." There was the metal lion with its sunburst, wiry mane and a regal cape of artificial white flowers.

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Claire Martin
“I can’t remember where we got that. Maybe Pam got it from someone at the bookstore,“ Farrar said, referring to the venerable Park Hill Community Bookstore co-op that the couple helped found, "or maybe someone just gave them to us.”

Farrar frequently finds donations when he goes out to the alley, or sometimes when he opens his front door. A lot of people know about his passion for making found-object art, and leave him potential assemblage material.

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Claire Martin
Some of his works are arranged in multiple groups, like the weathered wood that had two horizontal rows with trios of cupboard hardware. Or the three muffin tins arranged vertically on another well-seasoned board. And the assembly lettered “SPIRIT BOX,” with a fifth of empty Crown Royal on top of a box? “I didn’t make that one,” Farrar noted.

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Claire Martin
“I didn’t make anything with glass," he added. "Someone else put that up. A  lot of the art here isn’t mine. I didn’t put up the silver slippers. That was probably a kid. A lot of this is stuff I did with the kids from the Art Garage. They loved seeing their work up. Sometimes homeless people put things up. I have some very interesting conversations with homeless people when I work on the fences. Sometimes they help.”

While Farrar took his art off the fence, one buried thing remained in the space: a bit of the stealth gardening project that galvanized his interest in public spaces.

An avid gardener, Farrar decided twenty years ago to cheer up bare patches of untended ground in Park Hill alleys and parking lots, planting hundreds of sturdy, drought-tolerant iris rhizomes.

There are still a few of those holdouts sharing the ground with that shaky fence behind Axum, waiting for spring.
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