Tucked away in an alley, on a ragged-looking fence, above a trashcan and near a parked car—this is not where most would expect art, but that’s exactly why Jack and Pam Farrar love it. Like art fairies, the Park Hill residents anonymously put up art in alleys and on fences throughout the neighborhood.
“We like to think of it as three-dimensional graffiti,” Jack says. Fifteen years ago, they created their first “alley garden,” which still remains intact behind a neighbor’s house. Now several dozen alleys throughout northeast Denver have something by the Farrars.
“We put up things we can’t even remember anymore,” Jack says.
“We’ll go down an alley and say, ‘Hey! That’s pretty cool,’” Pam adds and they laugh.
The couple says the art has become a part of their life, a daily enjoyment of imagining what they can create next. Their house is an organized inventory of eclectic materials. They scour alleys, yard sales and thrift stores for materials to use, including all the free stuff at Goodwill. They mostly collect metal and wood—old, funky screen doors and window frames being their most recent favorites. They reconstruct the recycled items into something new. Then two to three times a week, they cruise alleys to seek out ones that look “neglected” or “needy,” and would be a good home to the art.
They rarely ask owners for permission. “None of what we do is defacing,” Pam says. They never paint surfaces or mount art on new fences or walls, and also make the items simple to remove if people choose to do so.
Their particular alleyway between Holly and Hudson and 22nd and Montview more closely resembles an art exhibit than an alley. Colorful paintings glued with buttons, spoons nailed to wood boards, a dish drain playfully attached to a basket with wire—these are only a few of the trinkets installed behind virtually every house. They also make sure to always have in their alley a water bowl for dogs and books to share with neighbors.
Being out in the alley, the art tends to wear, often rusting or fading, but it’s something they enjoy. “That’s part of it, watching it return to the earth. If pieces of wood fall, that’s OK. If it needs work, we’ll do it,” Pam says. “We’re hippies,” Jack admits. “There’s a very urban hippie junk art element going on with what we do.”
Jack hopes to one day buy a warehouse to store items and weld art—a bucket list item he suspects may take a while but is nice to think about.
The Farrars also teach classes on junk art for kids at the Art Garage, 6100 E. 23rd Ave. A fence along the parking lot behind Axum Restaurant at 5501 E. Colfax features art done by kids in the class. This remains one of Farrar’s favorite projects. “Many parents come over to view their kid’s art,” Pam says. When new restaurant owners repaired the fence, they took down the art, repaired the fence, and put the art back up.
Besides alley art, Jack also does photography and Pam dabbles in watercolor painting. Nearly all of the art in their house they created, which they laugh is a much cheaper hobby than collecting art. They love the Museum of Contemporary Art, which often features art with unusual materials, and look forward to seeing the Dale Chihuly exhibit at the Denver Botanic Gardens this summer.