Alleway street art

by Angelica Leicht

The dusty alleys in old downtown Farmington aren’t exactly the most happening spots. These industrial thoroughfares offer heavy trucks and other delivery vehicles easy access to the back entrances of restaurants and businesses, but they aren’t really meant for foot traffic like the clean sidewalks flanking the front of the buildings. Or are they?

Ask any of the artists who’ve spent the last few years sprucing up the alleys that line Farmington’s old downtown area, from the iconic TJ’s Diner to the Native artisan shops that dot Main Street, and they’d likely tell you otherwise. Hidden behind the tax offices and the furniture shops are brightly-colored murals, laid with cans of spray paint and sweat equity, depicting everything from Native American families to Jigsaw from the “Saw” franchise.

These murals, many of which are part of “The Art in the Alley” project, have served to give a new life to a part of Farmington that has been partially overlooked for the last few decades. While the hustle and bustle of the mall and shopping areas in this northern New Mexico city draw spenders from all over the Four Corners, Farmington’s old downtown area offers a much quieter experience.

The hope is that this type of artwork will make the back entrances to downtown businesses more attractive and pedestrian-friendly, while showcasing the jaw-dropping skills of the area’s most skilled street artists — many of whom are Native and have direct ties to the many vibrant cultures in the area.

The spruced up alleyways are a lot more inviting than they once were, which is a huge win considering that Farmington’s downtown revitalization project has made it tough for many businesses to offer sidewalk access to their businesses. In some cases, the only access point is through the back alleys, so why not make them as attractive — and interesting — as possible to passersby?

And, so far, it appears to be working. Rather than trekking past the foreboding cinder blocks that create the bones for many of the historic buildings in this area, a walk down the alleys in old Farmington now takes you past some serious displays of art. It’s reminiscent of the street mural projects in urban areas, which have helped revitalize underserved areas and draw attention to local artists.

This project has also added even more of a draw to Farmington — and a rich, unique flavor to a town that’s often unfairly overlooked in lieu of its more ski-friendly neighbors.

If you haven’t made your way down the alleys of this hidden gem, it’s high time you do. Curious what you’ll find? Here’s a taste of what you could encounter on your walk through downtown Farmington’s back alleys.

The mural behind 119 W. Main, right next to The Chile Pod restaurant, was created by Ivan Lee, aka @heckironcloud, a brilliant graffiti artist and member of the Diné tribe.

One of several jaw-dropping art pieces behind the building at 307 W. Main in Farmington. This piece, which depicts Jigsaw from the “Saw” films, was created by artist @_mis_soul.

Recognize this spray-painted face? Looks like a take on the Thriller video to us, courtesy of @Skindian_art. You can find this mural in the alleyway at 308 Broadway in Farmington.

A few more unique pieces tucked behind 308 Broadway in old Farmington.

A peek behind the barbed-wire fence behind Arrowsoul on Main offers a look into “Arrowsoul Alley” — and the minds of the artists involved in this collective. Arrowsoul had a huge hand in revitalizing the alleys of old Farmington with artwork starting as early as 2018.

Pop behind the historic Totah Theater in Farmington to find this fascinating mural by artist Tommy Singer.

Another amazing mural, this one depicting Big Horse, by Ivan Lee, aka @heckironcloud.

This downtown Farmington business is colored in bright graffiti from the hands of local artists, many of whom represent the Indigenous cultures in the area.

An in-progress mural kicking off the bright alleyways in downtown Farmington. This project has helped to add some flavor to the dusty alleyways in Farmington and draw foot traffic to an area often passed up for chain stores and other big box retailers.

This Native artwork, which is displayed on the side of a building when entering downtown Farmington, is a nod to the area’s rich Indigenous roots.

These murals, which can be found next to several other brightly-painted depictions of Native imagery near The Chile Pod, are just a few that add to the richness of downtown Farmington.

Another unique piece of art from Ivan Lee, aka @heckironcloud. This piece is tucked behind the side of a building just off of W. Main in Farmington.


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