Since its 2016 creation, Art This Way, a program of Downtown Fort Wayne, has transformed Fort Wayne’s downtown.

Art This Way has worked to turn alleyways into pseudo art galleries. To celebrate local art, the Art Crawl was established in 2017, and it’s only gotten bigger — so big, in fact, that this year’s Art Crawl: Alley Bash from 6-10 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 22, will be held outdoors.

“Because we’ve seen so many more people attend, we’ve kind of outgrown our previous model of putting people into office space,” Art This Way Manager Alex Hall said. “We had to pivot. So, all outdoors, but more art.”

That includes 11 artists, five chalk artists, and six bands within the Double Plus alleyway, which runs north-south between Washington and Main streets, as well as east-west between Harrison and Calhoun streets in that quadrant.

Art Crawl: Alley Bash

6-10 p.m. Friday, Sept. 22
Downtown Fort Wayne
$10 · (260) 420-3266

“What has been really lovely is seeing the evolution of these alleyways over time,” Hall said. “We took them from kind of drab, boring, not cultural destinations, and we’ve filled them with art. Now you’re seeing businesses invest into the alleys. There’s people just going to them to take pictures and senior portraits and what have you. 

“But when we close them and fill them with art, we’ve taken it a step further and those spaces are event spaces. We’re really excited to see them filled with people, filled with life, lots of different music, lot of different art.”

Diverse mix of art

Art This Way has spearheaded 22 murals and two sculptures with the Art Crawl being one of the mechanisms used to raise funds. However, it’s not the main fundraiser, but that’s not really the point of it.

“It’s not how we make most of the money we need for our programming, but it is our most effective mechanism for introducing the community to the projects and to who we are, as well as highlighting all the other artists who aren’t muralists in our city,” Hall said.

When you come across an artist at the Art Crawl, they’re sure to be cordial, but they also might be a little busy.

“The whole idea is to see something happening live,” Hall said. “So, if you’re a balloon artist, you’re not going to just be there, you’re going to be creating something.”

Among those artists will be painters Jake Patten, Drece Guy, John Kelty, Angelina Passemoto, Julia Syndman, Diane Young, Joseph Pelka, and Theoplis Smith III (Phresh Laundry), glass fusionist Greg Duncan, Seth Green doing pottery, Emily Simpson with a glass display, and Julie Wall doing a printmaking demonstration that is sure to catch your eye. 

“She is aiming to bring one of her giant, historic printing presses for the demo,” Hall said of Wall. “What people will get to see is a really old piece of beautiful hardware that was made to make things before we had the mass Xerox printer capacities.”

Along with Wall, Smith is a returnee to the Art Crawl and is sure to do something that turns heads.

“Theoplis is such a great person to work with, and he’s so well known in Fort Wayne,” Hall said. “Any time he is willing to put on a show, we are so excited to have him. He does have his own following and he brings a very different kind of show every time.”

Along with the aforementioned, chalk artists Jasmine Pilkinton, Madison Matilda Radcliff, Tammy Davis, Bonnie Andrews, and Hanna Rutigliano will also be creating works. 

Don’t forget the music

On top of eye candy, there will also be music for your ears to enjoy with James & The Drifters, DJ Polaris, See Ray Hardly, The Be Colony, and Debutants playing at various spots, while Farmland Jazz Band will be on the move.

You’ll be able to hear that music from afar, but that won’t be the case at the Silent Disco, which returns from last year. 

There, you’ll see people wearing headphones moving to a beat you can’t hear without a set. Each headset will have three stations with a different light illuminated to signify which station the listener is on.

“You’ll notice they are dancing to very different beats,” Hall said.

And it’s not just the extroverts that enjoy the silent disco.

“In year one, we had so many people that were like, ‘That doesn’t sound interesting,’ or ‘I’m not into it,’ then I would find that individual dancing toward the end of the event,” Hall said. “It’s definitely a surprisingly fun concept.”

Another fun concept this year will be a 3-D photo “booth,” where you stand on a platform and the camera rotates around you.

“Every year, we like to pull something totally random out of our hats and do whatever the ‘cool kids’ are doing,” Hall said.

A returning favorite is the scavenger hunt, with the winner taking home a $100 gift card from either JK O’Donnell’s or Dash-In. 

“If people aren’t familiar with the space, it might be a really hard challenge for them,” Hall said. “If someone has walked the alleys at all, they’re going to have a pretty good idea of how to solve these questions. Hopefully, it makes people pause and take a look at some of these pieces a little longer.”

Showcasing work that’s been done

Looking at those pieces is what the Art Crawl is all about.

“It’s a platform to show what Art This Way has programmed over the course of its history, but also over the summer,” Hall said. 

“We also get to highlight all the amazing talent in our community. For the Art Crawl, we bring out glass artists, ceramicists, printmakers, people that would not usually do a mural or sculpture but are still actively working as professional artists in our community.”

Because there won’t be food served this year, cost of a ticket is down from $30 to $10, which could draw an even larger crowd.

“We are hoping that in this time of economic strife that we aren’t creating a barrier for anyone to attend and enjoy and hear some amazing music and see amazing art,” Hall said.

With so much happening in the footprint of the Art Crawl, it will be nearly impossible to find a dull moment.

“It’s meant to be spontaneous and fun and very experiential,” Hall said. “One person’s Art Crawl is not going to the same as another person’s Art Crawl. 

“They are all going to be experiencing something that will only be happening at that moment. There is this kind of ephemeral nature to the event, which has always been the draw.”