Back Alley Gallery showcases DIY ethics at Saint Paul Art Crawl

Pottery by Peter Jadoonath
Pottery by Peter Jadoonath
Photo by Nathan O'Brien

Spring is a time of rebirth and regeneration. The bright sunshine and 60-degree highs bring hibernating Minnesotans back to life. It also marks the start of the art-fair season, a vital time for those who earn a living -- or even a modest second income -- from art. In many ways, the Saint Paul Spring Art Crawl acts as this season's opener.

This self-guided art tour serves several purposes, but exists primarily to celebrate the city's rich art scene. The Back Alley Gallery, a five-member collective featuring a wide range of work, is part of that scene. Ceramics, pottery, painting, photography, and zines will be on display in the space during the crawl, and folks can also expect to find guest contributors working in wood, fiber, and even mixtapes. In addition to a plethora of works, the gallery includes a functioning pottery studio.

Work by Robert Brocken
Work by Robert Brocken
Photo by Nathan O'Brien

"At the core of the Back Alley Gallery is a do-it-yourself work ethos," explains zinester Nathan O'Brien. The five members combine their strengths to collectively run the gallery and studio. This approach allows the space to be accessible to everyone. The purpose, explains ceramic fishmaker Robert Brocken, is to show that anybody can make art.

"It's fun to get your hands in clay," he says. "[Art] should be really accessible to everybody, including being able to make it yourself. Being able to find something that you're interested in, and being able to talk to the artists -- that's what we really like to do." 

While the gallery is slightly off the beaten path from the Saint Paul Art Crawl's main attractions, the Back Alley has thrived for nine years because of the friendship between the artists. The cooperative not only presents a wide variety of art, but has also developed a sociable, inclusive tone that permeates their exhibitions. To enter the studio, one must wind down a stairwell and walk through a lengthy hallway before finding the welcoming studio at the end of the tunnel.

"People are always surprised when they get down here," ceramic artist Tom Abel says.

"It's this place you wouldn't expect to be there," Brocken agrees.

The Back Alley Gallery will be open throughout the Saint Paul Art Crawl, and is regularly open on the first Friday of every month as well as for sporadic theme shows.


Saint Paul Art Crawl

Back Alley Gallery
262 E. Fourth Street LL#2, St. Paul

Friday 6-10 p.m.
Saturday 12-8 p.m.
Sunday 12-5 p.m.

Additional information on each of the artists and their work can be found here:

Tom Abel
Robert Brocken
Peter Jadoonath
Nathan O'Brien
Jennifer Scammahorn

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Back Alley Gallery

262 4th St.
St. Paul, MN 55101


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