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An Alley Becomes a Gallery: Escondido Art Association Brings Art to Everyone

Community members hit the alley for the Phase I unveiling in June.

The pandemic hit the art community hard. However, creative people tend to find outlets even in the most unlikely places. Many local artists and muralists simply took their brushes to the streets and kept busy painting the street barriers that were put up around outdoor eating sites throughout the City.

“One of the ways local artists tried to stay sane during the pandemic was painting as much of downtown as they could.” said Carol Rogers, a member of the Escondido Art Association and co-owner of Stone and Glass, which she owns with her husband and glass artist, James Stone. “One of the things that became a big canvas were the barriers used to extend the outdoor restaurants and retail. Instead of white barriers, local artists would paint them. The artist would decide on the painting and most shop owners gave them the freedom to paint. This went on throughout the pandemic.”

Fueled with the idea to find new and interesting places to give artists more space to paint, Heather Moe of Design Moe Kitchen and Bath realized the 350-foot brick wall — owned and occupied by John Paul Catholic University, which sits opposite the alley of her building — would be a great place for art. 

The Esco Alley committee. From left to right clockwise Carol Rogers, Kati Cowan, Suzanne Nicolaisen, Louisa Magoon, Dan Forster, Heather Moe, Stella, Tristan Pittard.

She began discussing the idea with her art community friends including Rogers, Kati Cowan, Suzanne Nicolaisen, Louisa Magood, Dan Forster and Tristan Pittard. They began creating a plan that became Esco Alley Art

The project is a three-phase project where 8x8 or 4x8 murals are painted on plywood and attached to the building. The idea sprouted in March and a call for artists went out shortly after that. Eleven artists were chosen and the Phase I murals went up on June 12. The team provided the artists with the plywood canvases and a stipend to pay for their supplies. The murals are also coated in a tag-resistant sealer created by Sculpt Nouveau, an Escondido paint and finishing company. 

“The art that came from this is remarkable,” said Rogers. “The only direction was that it would be public so it has to be tasteful.”

All 11 artists have a connection to Escondido with many of them having their art in galleries in Escondido or mural art throughout the City. Each of them has a unique story to tell too. Each mural has a QR code on it that viewers can scan to find out more about the piece and the artist.

For Rogers, she feels the biggest point of doing this outdoor art is to bring art to the people. “We know there are people who will never step foot in an art gallery,” she said. “This is out there to show people that art is accessible to everyone.”The City of Escondido is helping to increase the foot traffic to the murals. They are posting photos to Instagram and asking others to tag themselves when they are there. 

“Those murals are amazing,” said Teresa Collins, Deputy Director of Communications for the City of Escondido. “They’re lovely and you know, being an alleyway, it’s kind of one of those cool discoveries when you find it. So we are helping to push more people to find it.”

The murals will hang indefinitely at this point with 11 more murals coming from Phase II in August and another 11 in October from Phase III. At this point, all the artists have been selected for Phase II and there are still openings for artists in Phase III. Applications can be found here

Eventually, Rogers said the murals will be sold privately and a portion of the sales will go to the Downtown Business Association, the Escondido Art Association, and a portion to the artists themselves. The committee is also deciding how to create and sell prints of the images. The entire project was created with the help of donor funding and the committee continues to solicit donations to continue to advance this unique Escondido art project. Donation information can be found on their sponsor page.

Esco Alley Art is located in the alley south of Grand Avenue between Broadway and Maple. 

Lining the alley, Phase I murals bring a fun and creative vibe to the City.

About the Artists

Mauro Alvarez has a passion for cars and a love for Escondido. He is making a name for himself outside of the City and his mural art can be seen at The Barking Dog Deli as well.

Julia Martinez mixes her Mexican heritage into her work, bringing traditional and folk elements to all her designs. 

Jinx Lennon’s pieces are hung throughout the world. Her piece is uniquely Escondido and was painted while watching people wandering through the City.

Madeline Reich plays with linear lines in her piece as she compares it to the chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cindy Peters is an Escondido resident. She too was inspired by COVID-19 in her work and used the sunflowers to represent hope.

Leslie Mayer painted the famous Kumeyaay woman, Hal-ah-wee, later named Felicita LaChappa who helped preserve her culture’s rich history in San Diego. Mayer also has a 180’ wall mural in Escondido called, “The Wall Speaks”.

Daniel Kilgore is a landscape and seascape artist, and his mural contribution gives a spectacular representation of one of many magical San Diego sunsets.

Maya Sorvala is the youngest muralist. At just 18, this is her fourth mural design. She is headed to Vancouver Institute of the Media Arts in the fall to study game art and design. 

Tristan Pittard is a founding member of Esco Ally and runs the website. He is a fan of public art. His contribution is a reflection of the laws of nature and abstract thought.

Brenda Townsend’s piece was originally meant to be the backdrop for a production at the Patio Playhouse Youth Theatre. Townsend is also the director of the Patio Playhouse Youth Theatre.

Katie Gaines pours her life experiences into her work. Her mermaid mural features many symbolic elements that relate to her personally. As a muralist and decorative painter, she has also made a name for herself as a social media influencer.

Natalie J.D. Cuenca (Cachi) incorporates her spirituality into her work. She created a mural filled with meaning for her.