Neighbors make mosaics for the Bonnie Brae area and end up piecing together a community.
February 8, 2010
Reprinted without permission
After Wendy Lesko was done decorating her backyard with handcrafted mosaics, she decided to hang her latest piece – an elegant giraffe in a desert oasis – in the alley behind her Bonnie Brae house. “I saw her art in the alley and thought it would be a great idea to encourage people to clean up the alleys,” said her friend and neighbor, Donna Mosely.
Alleys bring out the best in the people of Bonnie Brae, who are known as fierce defenders of the narrow lanes that snake behind their streets. Years ago, they waged “The Alley Wars,” fighting the city to remove trash bins that cluttered the alleys, a battle won when they attached the bins to their cars and hauled them off to a nearby park.
Still, the alleys were hardly perfect. “People let garbage sit out there or weeds grow,” Mosely said.
Inspired by the idea of beautifying the alleys, she asked Lesko to help her make a mosaic of a Hawaiian beach, which quickly drew other neighbors to the mission. “We had a competition to see who could do the best part,” Mosely said. Evonne Dunn made the best sand because she’s detail-oriented. After tile was shattered with a hammer, she excelled at putting the tiny pieces together like an intricate puzzle. No one else had the patience.
That simple start inspired the neighbors to transform their alleys into a showcase for creativity and personality and spruce them up for such events as the neighborhood “Alley Cat” parties. “A lot of people walk up and down our alleys, and everyone waves to each other through the fences,” said Jayne Russell. “It’s become another sidewalk.”
Since 2008, they’ve installed six alley-art mosaics, including lilies and cows, some as large as 3 feet wide by 6 feet tall. They’re made mostly of recycled tiles, most left over from remodeling projects. Diane Heidel’s cow has pieces of her basement in it. “Hawaiian Paradise” includes bits of the Moselys’ bathroom.
A point of pride is how each mosaic reflects the personality of the artist-homeowner.
Jayne Russell, a food-and- wine writer who loves to ride Harleys, is piecing together a pink flamingo in sunglasses with a glass of wine. She got one of her biker friends, an airbrush artist named Mel Fox, to create the drawing for the mosaic. At the end of this month, she’ll host the traditional unveiling party and mount the wine-sipping flamingo in the alley, next to the cabernet sauvignon grapevine that festoons her back fence. It will hang near “Lilies of the Alley,” by Linda Roberts, an expert gardener who loves flowers.
Across the alley, another neighbor – whose gardens are abundant with fruits and vegetables – will soon start a mosaic that features a wheelbarrow of fruit. Someone else plans to start a zebra.
Spreading the art
“We’re trying to get it in every alley in Bonnie Brae,” said Lesko, the driving force behind the Bonnie Brae Alley Art Consortium. “Some people have garden tours,” she said. “We could have alley tours.”
When Russell first heard of alley art, she immediately thought of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where she often travels with her husband. “They have lots of public art and really cool statues,” she said. “The idea of putting art into our community was so appealing.”
Of course, there’s always some critic who will ask: “Yes, but is it really art?” Lesko doesn’t hesitate.
“Who really cares?” she responds. “It’s in the alley.”
But is it Art?
June 14, 2009
Reprinted with permission
Residents of the tony Bonnie Brae ‘hood are working to turn their alleys into avenues of art.
Organized by Wendy Lesko, about a dozen denizens are creating murals that hang in the alleys. They call themselves the Bonnie Brae Alley Art Consortium and have already installed three tile and glass mosaics in the alleys. The most recent, a 3-by-6 foot mosaic of a giraffe in Africa titled “An Oasis in the Desert: Zenzele,” was just unveiled at the alley between Ohio and Josephine streets. Two others already grace the back roads, with many more in the works.
Of course, each unveiling comes with a back-alley cocktail party and BBQ. “That’s the entire reason for this project,” Lesko says. “Any excuse to eat and drink.”
Next up: A cow from Diane and Kerry Heidel.
Yes Bill, It Is Art
Bonnie Brae Newsletter
Volume 2009, Issue 2
Reprinted with permission
The Bonnie Brae Alley Art Consortium works to turn our heads, and alleys, to art.
“But is it art?” was the question posed by Bill Husted in his Denver Post column on June 14 regarding some of the residents of the Bonnie Brae working to turn our alleys into “avenues of art.”
Wendy Lesko and a gaggle of other BB neighbors have taken it upon themselves to add a little class to our otherwise bland alleys by adding some wonderful creations. Calling themselves the Bonnie Brae Alley Art Consortium (BBAAC) they have placed three tile and glass mosaics in various back road locations throughout the neighborhood.
Additional works are in the works and each one will have a traditional debut by way of a cocktail party.
If you would like to participate and add a little class to your alley, contact Wendy firstname.lastname@example.org.
Washington Park East News
Fall 2009 VOL. 34 NO.4
Reprinted with permission
I had an interesting meeting with our close neighbor from Bonnie Brae, Wendy Lesko, a few days ago. She came up with an idea a while ago that is catching on in the hearts of people living in the neighborhood when it comes to taking care of our alleys.
Instead of using them for just getting our cars into garages and to step out through to place the trash and recycles into their respective containers, she also thought of a new use which is to display art.
Recycling left over tiles that are piled in our garages from house projects, she cuts them into small pieces to put them back together in harmony and create an outstanding piece of art. Go around the alleys in Bonnie Brae and find the Giraffe, the Cow, the Lilies or the Hawaiian Paradise piece between others.
If you want one of your own, all you need is a piece of board and your creativity to draw a design on it, then contact Wendy at email@example.com and a few neighbors/friends to start working on it. An art project of this kind can take as little as 6 hours of your time and as long as a few months to finish. It all depends on the size and the detailed desired.
Wendy will be there to guide you; she will provide the tile cutter, her own garage to make it happen plus plenty of recycled tiles that she has been collecting over time in her garage, all for a small nominal fee. She will be there with you until project is completed, at which point you are requested to host a party inviting previous project holders and a few friends of your own. This is definitely a good reason to get to better know your neighbors from across the alley or to beautify a space. Come on! Give Wendy a call for suggestions and helpful hints on how to throw an alley art event.
She will thank you and your alley, plus your immediate neighbors, will thank you too.