Artsy Alleys

Artsy Alleys. a public art, wayfinding, and safety initiative of Wilson Downtown Development Corporation, takes the arts to new locations in forgotten places.

Historic Downtown Wilson’s alleys link the community together, from the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park to the cultural attractions, to the shops and restaurants, to the parking lots servicing all of those amenities. In addition to physically connecting parking to street-side sidewalks in a safe manner, these connections are opportunities to enjoy art in a focused way while offering multiple ways for pedestrians to navigate through downtown.

During the planning of the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park, Wilson Downtown Development Corporation (WDDC) determined that downtown’s almost hidden and abandoned alleys become a series of intriguing pathways and spaced to encourage and assist residents and visitors to enjoy other parts of downtown.

In 2015, the WDDC Design Committee, a component of its accredited Main Street Association, completed the first Artsy Alley next to the Edna Boykin Cultural Center. An ElectriCities grant of $2,500 was obtained to install security and decorative lighting; rebuild and repaint an existing park bench; purchase and install landscaping, and purchase and install local ironwork art from downtown business, Creekside Creative Design.



Tin Pan Alley: Musical Theme

Across from the Wilson County Courthouse and running between Nash Street and the #2  parking lot is much-traveled, arts-rich alley filled with original ceramic tile. As the acoustics in the tunnel offered a unique opportunity for a musical theme, the alley is now home to Wilson’s first public piano and an interactive Xylophone played with flip-flops! 

Following the design of artist, Jason Coale, and assisted by Wilson home school students, the design complements the magnificent ceramic tile work that produces such great acoustics in this tunnel passageway.



Golden Leaf Lane: Visual Arts Theme

Located between Barnes Street Parking Lot and the south side of Tarboro Street, this  path is adjacent to Artisan Leaf, an artisan retailer of products featuring beautiful flue-cured tobacco leaves. Golden Leaf Lane links Parking Lot #2 to shopping and dining on the west side of the lot. This is a shady area that will create a small park-like setting. The side walls are brick and the walkway lighting is along one of the walls and can focus on the art. With the overhead connecting steel beams between the two buildings, lighting opportunities abound. Gooseneck lighting focused on encased art displays and complimented by draped overhead ‘patio’ type string lights are some ideas. Overhead lights can be replaced by chandeliers since there is wiring in two places. These can be complimented by entrance lighting that announces the entrances. The functional lighting can be done by the City and does not need to be included in the submitter’s budget.


There and Back Again Lane: Literary Arts Theme

Across the street from Golden Leaf Lane, across Tarboro Street to the north, this walk connects to the Pine Street Parking Lot. This alley has stucco-like wall surfaces. This quieter setting will explore the literary arts locally, state-wide, and/or globally. Potential Partners include the Wilson County Library and Barton College Hackney Library. As in other alleys, the landscaping enhancements, seating, and some lighting elements will be completed by the City. Design ideas may explore art and other items like a small post-mounted lending library; notable quotes; interactive poetry, book displays, and seasonal themes. Programmatic events like poetry readings and other small scale opportunities can be incorporated into the design.




In 2017, the WDDC team secured permission for a second location that will be the connection between one of downtown’s busier parking lots, the Centre Brick lot beside the new Whirligig Station redevelopment project, to Barnes Street next to P.L. Woodard Hardware Store. A partnership with the North Carolina Arts Council and  Sallie B. Howard School was developed and a competition was held among many student teams with one chosen as the winning entry. During the blistering heat of the week of May 14-21, a strong team from the arts classes in 6th – 8th grades completed the large mural representing Wilson’s agricultural history.