This year marks the 5th anniversary for the alley between Lemp and Heron and 15th and 16th that transformed weeds, junk and a dusty road into a vertical, edible garden now lined with trellises, raised beds, and rain barrels; espaliered fruit trees, berries, and tomatoes. LED lights give the space a soft glow of an evening.
The alley, called the SNOW Block because of its location Slightly North of Washington school, is celebrating with a mural by North End resident, and full time professional artist, Katherine Shaughnessy.
“A mural was always part of the vision from the start for the alley-facing side of one of the garages. This structure sits right on the property line so these neighbors weren’t able to participate in the gardening aspect of the project,” says Linda Whittig, the unofficial mayor of the alley and co-instigator along with her husband, Devin Koski. “We are lucky to get Shaughnessy. As a muralist, she’s seen a dramatic decrease in commissioned pieces due to COVID which made her more accessible than she normally would have been for such a project.”
The balsamroot in the Boise foothills serves as inspiration for Shaughnessy’s design. Another professional artist, and North Ender, Becka Watkins, who has also seen a drop in work due to the virus will be helping implement the production of the artwork as will Whittig, a graphic designer by trade.
The project is partially funded by a FINE grant from the North End Neighborhood Association (NENA). The community is also doing fundraising through Venmo (@Snow-block) to help offer financial support to Shaughnessy and Watkins.
The SNOW Block is much more than a garden. It transformed a block into a micro community where neighbors all know each other’s names and are often found chatting, wine in hand, filling the alley with the sounds of laughter while kids ride their bikes, play basketball and create chalk art. With people spending more time at home, the alley has been a welcome extension of backyards and offers the grounding feeling of a sense of place.