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From the alley to the street - Art festival continues to expand

2022 Alley Art Festival in Aurora
Yvonne Boose
2022 Alley Art Festival in Aurora

A northern Illinois art festival has been around for 12 years but for some it’s brand new.
Alexis Davis lives in Aurora but commutes to Chicago for her creative endeavors. She stood underneath a tent Saturday selling candles and handing out small pieces of paper with a QR code on each of them. Her candle colors all tie back to different albums. She creates Spotify and Apple playlists that people can download when they scan the QR codes.

“For example, I have a Stevie Wonder Gold label candle because it's ‘Don't You Worry ‘Bout a Thing’ and gold label is ‘Innervisions’ so that's a gold album,” she explained. “And then I have like NAS ‘We Will Survive’ that’s ‘Illmatic’ and then it has the rest of the golds on there.”

Alexis Davis at the Alley Art Festival
Yvonne Boose
Alexis Davis at the Alley Art Festival

This is her first time at Aurora’s Alley Art Festival.

Davis learned about the annual event from her grandmother.

“I think it's important that I start bringing my energy to this space because I want to see more Black artists the first thing to do is literally show up for yourself,” Davis said. “So, I think that's what it's changing already. I really am grateful it took me only 10 minutes to get here so it's down the street instead of having to make that commute.”

Davis wasn’t the only newcomer at this event. Ryan Francis is a cartoonist from Joliet. He was surprised by the diverse types of artists at the event and says this will not be the last time he participates.

“I like the town. Overall. I like walking in town. I think they'll probably like come here, even if I'm not selling art,” he said. “[I’ll] just walk around the place and things like that. So yeah, I'll definitely come back.”

There were also spectators who showed up for the first time. Jaime Benavides is a photographer. He said the festival is not like any art festival that he’s seen in the past.

“It's different. But some of the stuff that I'm able to photograph here is kind of inspiring to see different things being done, he explained. “So that's how I feel.”

Benavides spoke of the mélange of arts plastered throughout the festival.

The growth of the Alley Art Festival has made room for newcomers, but some longstanding artists continue to find value in the event.

“It helps the artist have value you know, it's good to have a venue to sell your art and makes you feel you know, like you have something to offer your community,” said Joanna Goss.

Goss started participating in festival the first year it happened. She’s come every year except for the year she gave birth to her son.

Davis’s grandmother, Cassandra Gibbs, said this event is a great way for the community to network with local artists.

“And people can get their cards and information, you know, for something they see, they might like, the blossom creations, or the candles are handcrafted things,” she said. And it's a beautiful day, we can all come out and join each other and have a good time.”

More than 70 artists participated in this year’s event. The festival included food trucks, belly dancers and other types of performers.

Yvonne covers artistic, cultural, and spiritual expressions in the COVID-19 era. This could include how members of community cultural groups are finding creative and innovative ways to enrich their personal lives through these expressions individually and within the context of their larger communities. Boose is a recent graduate of the Illinois Media School and returns to journalism after a career in the corporate world.