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Guerilla artists decorate Park Hill alleys

A view of the alley behind the Farrar's Park Hill home.
A view of the alley behind the Farrar's Park Hill home.
Don Morreale

You won't find Jack and Pam Farrar's art at the Denver Art Museum, and you can't buy it at an art gallery in Cherry Creek. If you want to see it, you'll have to drive down the alley between Hudson and Holley just north of Montview Blvd. Or maybe go have lunch at Axum Ethiopian Restaurant on East Colfax, where the Farrar's work adorns the fence on the north side of the parking lot. What you'll see, should you make the pilgrimage, are artfully arranged bits of detritus – kids' toys, discarded shoes, pots and pans – much of it culled from garage sales, thrift stores, and dumpsters, some of it donated by passers-by who want to contribute in some way to the Farrar's creative enterprise.

Pam and Jack Farrar
Don Morreale

Neither Jack nor Pam has any formal art training, although Jack has read a great deal about the DADA-ists, whom he cites as a major influence. He's also looked at a lot of junk art, and drawn inspiration from the work of Denver artist Phil Bender. "What we do is basically the art of the absurd," he said. "It's meant to be humorous and fun."

Interestingly, their original intention was not necessarily to make art, but rather to beautify strips of neglected earth; those random bits of ground along the edges of parking lots and behind people's garages that nobody seems to pay much attention to. "We planted flower seeds and weeded the plots and trimmed the trees," Pam said. "We call it guerilla gardening."

On one such project, at 23rd and Dexter just behind Park Hill Community Bookstore, they added a few folding chairs, an old toilet, and a red milk can with white sticks poking out of it. What emerged from their labors was a not un-pleasant natural space reclaimed from the surrounding concrete. What also emerged was the notion that they could create art out of junk, hang it unbidden in a public space, and maybe even get away with it.

Born in Denver and raised in Arvada, Jack graduated from DU in 1969 with a degree in political science. He met Pam, who hailed from Casper, Wyoming, in a philosophy class where Pam said they noticed each other nodding off. Pam would go on to teach elementary school in Adams County for the next 36 years. Jack, for his part, had a succession of jobs teaching middle school, editing a weekly sports magazine, and working as a PR and marketing guy. A year after the Great Recession hit, he got downsized.

The forced retirement got him to thinking about ways to exercise his creative energies post retirement. He knew he wanted to make art, and putting his work up in the alleyways around their Park Hill home seemed like a great way to get it seen by a sizable swath of the population. "Ninety-nine percent of the people who see our stuff have no idea who we are," he said, "which is kind of a delicious thought."

He was also attracted to the anarcho-revolutionary spirit of it. "It's kind of naughty," he said. "Stealth art…We often put it up in the dark of night."

You'd think that somebody randomly sticking up pieces of art on their back fences would have the neighbors up in arms, but surprisingly, they kind of liked it. So much so that the Farrars have sparked a modest art movement in Park Hill. Every fall they sponsor an alley art contest with prizes furnished by local businesses like Spinelli's Market, and Oblio's Pizza.

Perhaps the highest compliment they ever got came from a couple of Verizon cable gals who'd apparently been up and down the alley several times, scoping out the art. When they spotted Pam, they got out of their van, bowed down to her, and chanted "Hail Alley Goddess."

"People either get it, or they don't," Pam said.

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For more info:

Pam and Jack Farrar www.denverviews.com
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Don Morreale will be signing copies of his collection of examiner.com profiles, "Cowboys, Yogis, and One-Legged Ski Bums," at the Barnes and Noble Thornecreek Store, 701 E. 120th Ave., on September 20th from 11:00 to 3:00. Learn more about the book: at www.cowboysyogis.com