The Fussy Eye: Alley Gallery

Recycled art, hidden in a Pioneer Square alleyway.

When was the last time you ducked into a Pioneer Square alley? (And no, not to take a leak or score some drugs.) Usually they’re foul, smelly places to avoid. Previously, most were clogged with dumpsters; the lack of visibility made them seem unsafe. But a garbage-collection scheme by CleanScapes has mostly changed that; and that company has partnered with the International Sustainability Institute, architects Jones + Jones, the City of Seattle, and others to underwrite Alley Art, which is creating an unlikely exhibition space in narrow, cobblestoned Nord Alley between South Main Street and South Jackson Street, just east of First Avenue South—the block Elliott Bay Book Co. is about to vacate. (The alley is named for the 1890 Nord Hotel, now condos, facing First). Installed last December, Waste Not spells out those cautionary words in suspended old two-liter soda bottles, but only if you crane your head just so and the wind’s not blowing. Otherwise, the recycled conglomeration is like a Calder cloud, a mobile made of humble, polycarbonate materials. (Chris Ezzell, Shahreyar Ataie, and Cast Architecture are the creators.) Another pendulous plastic work greets you at Main, and sandwich boards at both portals ask you to vote your approval via text message. With clear sightlines to both ends, the alley is surprisingly clean and pleasingly undulating underfoot; several businesses have doorways and windows facing the alley; and there’s even a chair or two for sitting. It’s almost an inviting public space—dare we say that the aspirations are European? Just add Vespas and berets. New works may be commissioned (there was a public comment meet-up last week), and the alley could become a regular First Thursday destination—provided nobody parks or pees there.