The most colourful corner in Nelson

The most colourful corner in Nelson

Businesses encourage city to beautify alleys

Nelson entrepreneur Roger Smith has been operating his smoothie truck the Enlightened Coconut out of an alley downtown since April, but he’s less than thrilled with some of his surroundings.

It’s tough to get foot traffic in Herridge Lane.

“The alley is a little dingy and needs to be spruced up a bit. There are these awesome murals on the back of the Capitol Theatre that draw people back there, but then there’s also razor wire and bad graffiti,” the 41-year-old businessman told the Star, after commissioning two local artists to beautify his corner.

On the side of his truck muralist Matty Kakes has evoked a tropical scene, while to the right there’s a portrait completed by local tattoo artist Alana Cronshaw. And as part of a coalition of businesses encouraging city hall to embrace alley art, he’d like to see as much colour around as possible.

His neighbour, Jess Brown of Cloud Nine Oddities, couldn’t agree more.

“I love the murals, they entice people to come take a walk and check out what might be down here. They might not have if it wasn’t for all the character and colour,” she said.

“Back allies are often portrayed as scary, dark and seedy, a place you don’t want to visit. Herridge Lane is the opposite of that. People will come off the beaten path that is Baker Street just to visit our beautiful little alley.”

Brown has already enlisted local artist Jacob Salix to paint a mural on the side of her shop at the end of August, and she’s happy to be contributing to the vibrancy of the block. Smith and Brown-Evans are following the example of Dale Donaldson at Mallard’s and Korinä Langevin at Red Light Ramen, who have both commissioned vibrant pieces from local artists in the past.

“We’re trying to boost the local economy, really,” said Smith.

“I heard back in the 80s, this spot I’m at was a happening place and the back alley places were thriving. It doesn’t seem to be like that any more, and we want to bring the vibe back.”

He’s walked up and down the alley, talking to fellow business owners and gauging their interest, and so far everyone’s been enthusiastic. Smith started his business with the help of Community Futures, which gave him $40,000 to build an ice cream factory in Bonnington, and he wants to throw everything into making his endeavour a success.

There has been a lot of momentum with murals lately, with the Nelson and District Arts Council’s Sydney Black endorsing the initiative, and Smith hopes the project will evolve in numerous ways.

“We could create a sort of mural walk, for tourists, and get them walking through there to check out all this incredible work by local artists. Nelson has such a high concentration of amazing artists, why don’t we go full out celebrating them?”