By Abbi Sleeper, Staff Writer
The summer heat made one last appearance the past weekend for Alleyfest 2014, the first of what could become an annual event put on by The Candy Bar and The Maine Street Makery. On Saturday afternoon, students, staff and community members came together in downtown Durham to enjoy the sunshine and support local artists at this day-long event.
Makery co-owner Sarah Grandy described Alleyfest as a way to bring students and Durham residents together for a positive and enjoyable afternoon. “We love having fun with the community,” Grandy said on Saturday. The occasion, which was centered around painting a mural, included food, live music and interactive booths run by local artists and community members. From a “Paint a Birdhouse” table to a local vendor’s demonstration of torch-made lamp work beads, Alleyfest featured something for everyone.
The Main Street Makery, which opened for business on May 5, 2014, is the brainchild of Sarah Grandy and Wendy Brooks. The two friends have always shared a passion for art, especially at a local and interactive level, and decided to start their business when Bindy’s Boutique closed down, opening an ideal space just off Main Street.
“We’d always talked about having a place where people can display what they’ve made or come in and create things there,” Grandy said, “… it wasn’t that we were looking, looking, looking [for a space], but when we heard that the space here was opening up… it seemed like the time.”
The Makery has since been working with a large number of local artisans, who offer lessons and vend a variety of hand-made products. Initially, Brooks and Grandy sought out artists, but now that doors have opened and word has spread, many artists come to them. Grandy estimates that they’ve worked with up to 70 local artists since opening. Still, the pair hoped for a way to reach out to the community and connect their business with students and Durham residents, so in conjunction with their closest neighbor The Candy Bar, they planned Alleyfest 2014.
Alleyfest began as a simple mural. Grandy and Brooks noticed that it had been several years since the alley between The Candy Bar and Durham House of Pizza had been painted, and decided to ask Roger Hayden, owner of the building, if they could brighten the alleyway leading to their shop with a mural. Hayden, who runs Hayden Sports just around the corner, complied.
“We just thought it would be making good use of this alley that otherwise might not be used … or could end up being the ‘dark back alley,’” Grandy said.
UNH graduate student and Makery vendor Cristina White was integral in painting the mural. She originally was asked to assist in painting the lettering, as she often paints quotes on the signs she sells at the Makery. However, White’s contribution ended up going far beyond just the lettering, as she spent Thursday night before Alleyfest painting the background.
“It was about three hours for the background, and then we came in today [Saturday] and, well, grew some flowers,” White said as she oversaw the community portion of the painting.
The mural, which reads “Bloom where you are planted,” depicts a blue sky over a lush green field, where students, staff and community members were invited to add their own colorful handprints as flowers. After they had added their flowers, visitors milled about the alley enjoying the various stands and listening to live music.
Among the musicians for the day were a band of UNH students, Heads & Tales, and a wildcat alumnus, Sam Southworth. Southworth, who taught writing at UNH for six years after graduating and now lives in Newmarket, set out tambourines and other simple percussion instruments for visitors to join him in song and saw Alleyfest as one of his favorite kind of venues.
“It’s great to play on the street, and to be able to get kids involved,” Southworth said after his set.
Ultimately, Alleyfest 2014 was a success. Between showing first-time customers around the Makery and playfully insisting that her husband, UNH Professor Stuart Grandy, add his handprints to the wall, Sarah Grandy took a moment to contemplate next year’s festivities.
“I think we’ll just have to come up with another big project,” a beaming Grandy said, “Alleyfest 2015 has to happen.”