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How street art can take a community “from blight to bright”

Jul 21, 2016

The Next Idea

Take an abandoned, unloved alley. 

Clear away the trash and debris, and then turn artists loose with their paint and brushes to transform those alleys and, in turn, the neighborhood.

Jason Ostro did just that.

The Michigan-born artist cleaned up the area around his Los Angeles art gallery, the Gabba Gallery.

The Gabba Alley Project L4 is four decaying alleys transformed into works of art.

Now he's launched the Gabba Alley Project Detroit, recently painting his first mural in an alley in Detroit's Midtown.

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Ostro told us the whole idea behind the project is "turning blight to bright."

"I was walking around my neighborhood seeing a lot of graffiti and a lot of garbage and a lot of pieces from drug users," he said. "Strewn mattresses and couches and dressers and TV’s and garbage everywhere. I mean, anybody who is moving out stuff from their house, they throw it in alleys.”

"I want to change neighborhoods to make the people who live there comfortable."

Ostro combined his desire to clean up his neighborhood and his love of street art to start what would become the Gabba Alley Project. After a local developer offered to support Ostro's effort with a small donation, the project was off and running. 

Among four alleys in LA, Ostro told us there are "over 113 murals now by 83 or 84 artists."

"I’m not trying to change neighborhoods in the sense that I want to push out anybody," Ostro said. "I want to change neighborhoods to make the people who live there comfortable, so they can walk into their alleys, they can walk around their neighborhood and they don’t have to feel threatened.”

In our conversation below, Ostro tells us more about the Gabba Alley Project, how he ended up expanding it to Detroit and what street art can mean for a community.

Join the conversation in the comments section below, on Twitter or Facebook, or let us know your Next Idea here. You can hear our full interview today at three on Stateside.

GUEST

Jason Ostro is an artist and director and curator of the Gabba Gallery in Los Angeles, California.