LE MARS, Iowa — Colorful characters have brought life to the backs of buildings in the alley between Central and First Avenue Northeast in downtown Le Mars.
Siouxland artists spent the summer and fall transforming painted brick walls into colorful canvasses.
Everything from a brightly colored macaw and the Wizard of Oz to a tree of life and frogs greet those using the alley.
The Le Mars Daily Sentinel reports those creations are part of a public arts project — Alley Art — that started about a year ago through the Le Mars Main Street program.
Since then, a committee has taken an inventory of downtown alley buildings and finding artists to spruce them up.
Lisa Scheitler of Le Mars was one of those asked to put her art talents to work as part of the Alley Art project.
“As an artist, I thought it was a really neat idea,” Scheitler said.
She said it took a solid week of 10-hour days to complete a tree of life painting on the back of the Shepherd's Closet thrift store building.
“I kind of see the tree as symbolic of being firmly planted in life,” Scheitler said. “I thought it would be neat for the back of their building.”
Mary Reynolds, co-chairwoman of the committee, said building and business owners also were brought in to the design discussions.
“It is not related directly to what business is in there, because that can change,” Reynolds said.
She added that the artist and the committee make the final decision on the mural's design.
Scheitler said she's drawn murals in building interiors before, but the tree of life was her first outside mural and the largest she's ever done.
“It was a lot of hard work because it was so big,” she said. “I had to get some really tall scaffolding.”
There were other challenges as well, such as learning how to transfer her drawing from paper, using a grid system to paint it on the building.
She learned how to do that from artist Jean Weiner, who also completed a mural, on the back of Hotopp Jewelry & Gifts in the alley.
“I most generally have done a lot of things free-hand, looking at pictures,” Scheitler said. “I knew I couldn't do that on this big building.”
Reynolds said that painting outside murals as part of the Alley Art project has wrapped up for this year, but artists are still hard at work preparing for warmer weather.
Reynolds said that the Alley Art project is going to take five to six years to complete.
“We are going to do seven alleys,” she said, one alley at a time.
“That includes everything from painting the large trash bins, the electrical poles, murals and all the other art we will add to the alleys,” she said.
The Alley Art project is being completely paid for through donations and fundraising, she said.
Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.