FOLEY — After waiting for a year and a half, Foley now boasts a mural by international artist ARCY.Foley Main Street launched the CATalyst event April 28, marking the beginning of Cat Alley, a …
FOLEY — After waiting for a year and a half, Foley now boasts a mural by international artist ARCY.
Foley Main Street launched the CATalyst event April 28, marking the beginning of Cat Alley, a community effort to add more public art to downtown Foley. Spectators watched ARCY paint an 8-by-12-foot mural in less than six hours.
ARCY, a street artist based in Connecticut, has created live murals and large-scale works in the U.S., Australia and Europe. He has worked for the Smithsonian Institution, Major League Baseball, the National Parks Service and created a body of work for The Walt Disney Co. as a Disney Fine Artist. He has been active professionally for 15 years.
While ARCY's resume is expansive, it is even more impressive to watch him work live. The city of Foley prepared the "canvas" before ARCY arrived in Foley, and he spent time Thursday sketching his concept onto the wood panel canvas. Friday, he set to work at noon armed with over a dozen cans of spray paint, a mask and a ladder.
"I'll travel the country in the busy season; for me is about eight months out of the year. It starts up in early spring and goes through the fall," ARCY said. "I'll do a lot of large-scale murals and these live event murals where they are smaller demonstration formats for people to see live. I also do my small-scale fine art on canvas with Disney."
When it came to the content of the mural, Foley Main Street formed a group consisting of people from the city of Foley, the historic commission and design to brainstorm on what they wanted the mural to be.
Darrelyn Dunmore, executive director of Foley Main Street, said the group wanted the mural to focus on the importance of agriculture. The mural depicts the first steam train Foley had, and fruit exploding around it represent local crops the train took to Chicago.
ARCY said his process starts with guidance from the group commissioning the mural.
"They sent me an idea of doing the train and pulling in the agricultural significance of Foley. I also did a little research myself because I always dig into the history of wherever I am going. I am always learning," ARCY said.
Once he has a concept, he designs the mural on a computer and sends it off for approval. Next, he goes through the colors and figures out what he will bring with him. Then he gets the sketch laid out on the wall.
"The paint day is the smoothest process," ARCY said. "I get in the zone and focus, and I don't even know what is going on around me. Everything is a blur."
ARCY works exclusively in spray paint and will complete 75 or more eight-foot by 12-foot murals a year and between five to 10 large-scale permanent building murals a year.
"I got into graffiti art in my high school years and never suspected that I would do it for a living," ARCY said. "I got a degree in horticulture out of all things and then I just got back into street art. It started to come together. Things happen for a reason. For anyone that is inspired by that whole graffiti scene, keep in mind that there is a positive platform to be able to do that."
"Cat Alley all started because this has been a dream of people in this city for many years," Dunmore said. "For 30 years, people have been meeting in Cat Alley. There used to be a bar in the back, the Magnolia Hotel Bar, and they would close down and have little street parties in the alley. It is a working alley, so I am always telling people there is only so much we can do."
Cat Alley is named in honor of John Snook who owned Gulf Telephone and the Magnolia Hotel. He had cat doors in both businesses and allowed the stray cats of Foley to come and go.
Now, all the community art created for Cat Alley will have a cat hidden somewhere.
Foley Main Street has several projects in the works to beautify downtown Foley and create community art installations. In addition to the ARCY mural, a 28-foot community mural is under production by students at Foley Middle and High School as well as home-schooled students.
The mural is expected to be complete by the end of May and depicts things to do in Foley. It will be created between the old Gulf Telephone building and 106 N. Alsten St. The alley is currently fenced with a gate and barbed wire.
"Foley Main Street was able to get a 99-year lease for half the land. The barbwire will be replaced by a black fence, and a walkway will be created into Cat Alley," Dunmore said. "Our goal with Foley Main Street was to help fix up downtown and bring people back. We want locals downtown. We did the park with the musical instruments and this mural is another step. Our goal is to make little places where the kids can hang out and have fun. Heritage Park is beautiful, but we need to start bringing that beauty into the rest of town."