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Art Alley: inside Kansas City's street art museum

Posted: 2:11 PM, Apr 03, 2017
Updated: 2017-04-03 22:35:01-04

In the Crossroads of Kansas City, street art and murals can be found on walls in nooks and crannies all over the neighborhood. These painted images can stir the mind's thought pot, releasing new ideas in the air.

Located between 17th and 18th Streets near Locust and Cherry, Art Alley serves as a canvas for artists in the city.

Art Alley is located in the Crossroads Art District.

Jason Harrington is a freelance artist and has several murals across town  signed by the name "Rif Raf Giraffe." He is considered, by some, one of the founding fathers of Art Alley in its current state and the gatekeeper – watching over the alley and the art that’s painted in it.

“I know a lot of people give me credit for doing that but I know other people have started the idea of it first. I know another group of street artists down on the other side of the alley had started to do some stuff, too,” Harrington said.

In 2014, the owners of the former Slap-n-Tickle Gallery gave him permission to paint their building to spruce up the alley.

“He told me he was trying to make this a little art collective back here. He said he had a lot of problems with graffiti and asked if I did any artwork that could bring a little bit of life to this place.”

Minutes after the conversation, Harrington began painting and received permission from other building owners to paint on their walls. Ordained by building owners, Harrington can be considered the keeper of the entry section of Art Alley and he grants permission to other artists to display their work.

"It's just out of love of doing it and seeing a beautiful neighborhood," said Jason Harrington.

Art Alley is a unique place that changes often. A mural that was there one week could be an entirely different painting the next. It could be compared to an art museum having different exhibits and for some who are not into the traditional art scene, Art Alley may be a possible alternative.

“If you can introduce art to people, maybe in a different arena for them to experience it in, maybe they can get a different feel for it."

Paintings in the alley have been created by people from all over the city, country, and the world.

"This guy came in from New Zealand and painted that one right there," Harrington said while pointing to a painted character with funnel hat and severed hand. 

This character was painted by an artist from New Zealand.

Messages for change and awareness can be seen in some of the art. Other art displays characters or popular figures.

With the different worlds colliding in the alley, it’s not unusual to find art tagged over without permission.

“You have a group of people that want to paint legally and want to make beautiful art on the walls and have a lot of people who want to put their name out there, so you have two conflicting worlds and two conflicting views of what’s supposed to happen, how it’s supposed to go down.”

Harrington isn’t discouraged when this happens and said everyone has to start somewhere.

Street art has become more of a scene over the past five years in Kansas City. Harrington hopes that more people will support the arts.

"In the end, all we have left is creativity and I think as we keep on growing towards what we are, hopefully we’ll find that we don’t need out monetary things and our materialist things as much and we can just enjoy this beautiful energy that flows out of us that is our creative mind."

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