When rail commuters roll into downtown Gilroy, their only view is a neglected alleyway used for dumpsters and delivery trucks.
But the alleyway between Martin and Lewis streets recently got a burst of color, with much more to come.
Longtime Gilroy artist Sheryl Cathers wrapped up a massive mural on the rear of Tempo Kitchen & Bar, facing the railroad tracks. The acrylic work of art depicts flowers, hummingbirds and more, with musical notes as a nod to the themed restaurant.
Cathers, whose mural work can be seen on many walls and utility boxes around town, said she is drawn to nature with her art.
“I wanted it to be really bright and eye-catching,” she said of the alley mural.
Cathers’ mural is the inaugural piece to the “Gallery on the Alley” project spearheaded by City Councilmember Carol Marques.
Marques said the idea came in late 2021, when she was walking through the blighted alleyway and noticed it needed help, with the buildings’ patchwork paint jobs, overflowing dumpsters and cracked concrete walkways.
“I thought it would be nice to have a walking art gallery where people could just stroll and enjoy it,” she said. “I called up the building owners to see if I could get permission, and they were all excited and couldn’t wait to get started.”
The murals can also be a way to draw people into Gilroy and give downtown establishments a boost, Marques added.
“I wanted an ‘oh wow’ effect,” she said. “This was my dream, to inspire people on the train to come and visit Gilroy, walk around downtown and see these beautiful murals.”
Marques then reached out to local artists to gauge their interest, which turned out to be strong.
One of those artists was Cathers, who works with the Gilroy Police Department on its graffiti abatement program, cleaning up tagged utility boxes and maintaining murals around the city.
The mural behind Tempo was partially paid for through grant funding of the program, while Cathers donated the materials.
“Once we got started the goal was to get it done before summer ended to get some excitement, get the ball rolling and get other artists interested,” she said.
The next section of the mural will be on the rear of the currently shuttered Gilroy Bowl, adjacent to Tempo. It will be organized by 6th Street Studios and Art Center as part of its youth mentorship program and funded by the Gilroy Foundation.
The art center will be partnering with MANOS, where they will be mentoring youth and working with them on the planning and execution of the mural.
Marques said the goal is to have the next section completed by the end of September.
Donations and sponsorships are needed to continue the mural project. To inquire, contact Marques at [email protected]
More upgrades to the downtown alleys are coming soon.
Earlier this year, the City of Gilroy received a $3.9 million grant from the California Department of Transportation to spruce up Railroad and Gourmet alleys with lighting, benches, garbage enclosures, bicycle and pedestrian markings, signage and more.