Arts & Culture » Arts News

The Next Chapter for Freak Alley

There will be no new artwork at the popular installation this year, but big changes are in the works as it comes under new leadership


For years, Freak Alley has gotten a new paint (or, rather art) job in the first few weekends in August. That won't be the case in 2019. After 17-½ years at the wall, Colby Akers is retiring, making way for new leadership at one of Boise's biggest and most popular public art installations. Enter Melissa Nodzu, Freak Alley's new director.

"I've been getting emails from artists who are anxious to paint and get their submissions in," Nodzu said. "A lot of people have reached out because Colby said 'there's a new person in charge.' And what's been really awesome is a lot of people who've participated in Freak Alley in the past are like, 'I'm willing to volunteer and help.'"

Artists have descended on Freak Alley for years to give it a new look and feel, and the regular process of applying their work is a longstanding tradition. They won't do that this year, but they will return in 2020, and Nodzu said she is currently accepting submissions via email. In the last few weeks, she said there have already been 40 submissions from artists to get into the gallery already. Nodzu said most artists' work will stay on the alley walls for a full year, though the popular Jimi Hendrix and Martin Luther King, Jr., pieces, along with a few others, are considered "legacy" works, and are slated to remain.

Nodzu said she wants to continue growing Freak Alley. Currently she is working on expanding the board of directors, launching a new website, and addressing structures and policies for the organization. Pursuing new sponsorships and other, fresh funding sources are also on her agenda.

Originally, Akers started the alley up as a non-profit after he was found painting on the side of Moon's Cafe and it has stuck ever since. Now, volunteers and board members take care of the alley for free. While the low-cost labor has been a boon to the organization, not to mention the alley, money from outside sources could go a long way toward keeping the alley well-maintained.

"You do need those resources in the community to help pay for it," Nodzu said. "We are trying to come up with ideas to help the gallery pay for itself. We definitely want to activate the space more—playing hosts to different types of art."

New visual arts projects and events are on the docket, but the alley's board of directors also plans to create Freak Alley East, an add-on to the original gallery, where participating artists will be able to show their works for a longer period—between three and five years.

Notzu said she is excited to take over but plans on continuing Akers vision of the art gallery. Artists in the area have always been welcome to submit their art to have a chance to paint in Freak Alley. She doesn't want to change that.

"It doesn't cost any money to participate. The idea is everyone gets a yes because it's a place for people to grow as artists and to experiment with being an artist," Nodzu said.

Last year, artist Camas Robinson didn't expect her artwork to be accepted into Freak Alley's Gallery—but it did. Robinson painted an anime portrait of herself in Freak Alley for fun, and she said finishing it was definitely the highlight of the whole experience.

"I was super proud of myself, I didn't think I would be able to do that because I'm really reserved when it comes to my art," Robinson said.

Robinson encourages local artists to submit their own artwork to have featured in the gallery.

"Have confidence and embrace your art. Who cares if nobody likes your art style, you should just draw what you want to draw and show the world your art style," Robinson said.

Artists are welcome to submit their art to or through Freak Alley's Facebook page.