Capturing the Rhythm of
Downtown Santa Monica
Santa Monica Centric
The alley as an art gallery
By Kevin Herrera

You never get a second chance to make a first impression.


For years people have called on the City to do something to clean up and add color to the alleys adjacent to the Third Street Promenade, as they often serve as a visitor's first and last impression of Downtown Santa Monica.


But the challenges have been difficult to overcome. The alleys serve as the main space for businesses to receive deliveries, making it nearly impossible to close them off permanently and make them extensions of the Promenade. The alleys are also home to bin rooms where most restaurants and retail dispose of their trash.


So what's a district to do? Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. (DTSM) believes one strategy is to add art, which is why it has launched Artist Alley, a public art program transforming mundane back-of-building service doors into works of art.



DTSM, Inc. and the City will select a roster of artists and license their works. Property owners will then be able to select designs they like best from that roster and pay to sponsor the installation of vinyl coverings for the doors, along with signage explaining the program and naming the artist and their work. DTSM, Inc. will market the program and create a digital guide showing where the art is located.


"The ultimate goal of Artist Alley is to enhance the pedestrian experience by reclaiming the alleys and adding a sense of exploration to the Downtown fabric," said Nick Efron, DTSM, Inc. public space manager." But Artist Alley is much more than just a means to an end. It activates forgotten spaces, expands the cultural network, and brings color to otherwise mundane service alleys."


The program is open to all artists of all expressive mediums. All that is needed is a high-resolution image of their art. It can be a sculpture, a painting, a structure made of yarn.


"The beauty of Artist Alley is its flexibility," Efron said.


Artists must first be approved through the City's Rolling Call for Qualifications. To apply, visit


Artists will receive $500 per image used.


DTSM, Inc. will do daily maintenance checks and immediately respond to any vandalism or wear and tear, replacing designs when necessary.


The program is inspired by the Louisville Downtown Partnership's Alley Gallery project that was introduced in May of 2017. The program reached 100 installations by March 2018.


 (A series of decorated doors from the Louisville Alley Gallery project.) 

Kevin Herrera is a former journalist turned marketing and communication expert, beer enthusiast, cyclist, cultural observer/commentator and expert on all things Downtown Santa Monica. He is currently the sr. marketing & communication manager for Downtown Santa Monica, Inc.