Behind the murals and sculptures you see lining the alleys in Downtown Fort Wayne is Art This Way, a public art program focused on bringing large-scale, professional art installations to Fort Wayne.
Operating under the umbrella of the Downtown Improvement District, Art This Way acts as a liaison to connect private property owners to artists, allowing them to fill blank exterior walls with works of art. As a volunteer-run program, Art This Way is funded by grants, corporate sponsorships, community donations, and the annual Art Crawl.
Art Crawl is an event that brings people to the art-filled alleyways and encourages them to enjoy local cuisine, explore the existing installations, and witness live demonstrations.
Art This Way Manager Alexandra Hall says the idea behind the Crawl stems from a former Fort Wayne event where patrons participated in a driving tour to visit different galleries and from an old trolley tour that would bring patrons to galleries and museums.
In 2015, Hall worked alongside the former director of Artlink on a similar gallery-crawl model. Then, in 2017, Hall reimagined the event again, to utilize Downtown’s public art installations and encourage patrons to walk from one spot to the next. This event was renamed, The Art This Way Art Crawl.
Hall says it’s been neat to see how the event and the space have evolved over the years.
“It’s funny, year one we knew we had an idea but it was sad to be in the space,” she says. “The juxtaposition of holding an event there in 2017 and holding an event there in 2023– they were spaces with trash in them and now they’re full-on event spaces.”
Staples of the events include live demonstrations, live music, a silent disco, a scavenger hunt with prize giveaways, and local food and drinks.
The 2023 Art Crawl: Alley Bash will be located within the footprint of the Bill Blass Runway, The TriCore Porch Off Calhoun, and the patio space behind JK O’Donnell’s– all of which are part of the Double Plus alleyway network in Downtown Fort Wayne.
Art Crawl: Alley Bash features many of the same events as years past, but much like previous years, Hall says the event will have a few changes to better fit the atmosphere and crowd.
So what’s new this year?
For starters, there are no longer any indoor food or drink stops. Hall says due to the number of people who attend Art Crawl, which surpasses the 2,500 mark, it’s no longer practical to have people filtering in and out of local restaurants as it can cause something of a pedestrian traffic jam.
Instead, this year everything has been moved outdoors, ticket costs have been reduced to $10 and food trucks will be present to feed hungry patrons. JK O’Donnell’s Irish Ale House and the Dash-In will be serving cold drinks and cocktails at cash bars throughout the evening.
The 2023 Art Crawl features over 20 live demonstrations of painting, including a plein air painting, pottery, printing press, and two new-to-Art-Crawl mediums– glass fusion and chalk.
The live music lineup includes a wide variety of music, like folk, electronic, R&B and psychedelic rock. One of the acts is Farmland Jazz Band, a traveling jazz band. Attendees will have to find themselves in the right place, at the right time to catch Farmland Jazz Band as they move through the Art Crawl area.
You can also expect to see a ballon display, small art galleries and a 3D photo/video booth.
Tickets are available online for $10 each. Any profit made from the event goes directly back into funding public art in Downtown Fort Wayne.
Hall emphasizes that the work Art This Way does is much more than just getting murals up onto walls.
“It’s bigger than Downtown or murals or Art Crawl, on a national level we’re creating an impression of our state and our city,” she says.”
Learn more or buy tickets for the 2023 Art Crawl: Alley Bash.