Cat Alley revival: Muralists wanted to refresh one of the city’s most beloved landmarks

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Screenshot 2022 06 07 10.36.20 PM

MANCHESTER, NH – Cat Alley is ready for a refresh. After 10 years, the feline-festooned footpath will get an upgrade, thanks to a Community Event and Activation Grant funded by the American Rescue Plan Act.

Liz Hitchcock of Orbit Group says the grant will allow for local artists to get paid to help repair some of the fading felines and breathe new life into the beloved and whimsical landmark.

“You go through the alley and once in a while you notice a small bit of graffiti or places where the paint is chipping. Cat Alley’s been a mainstay for 10 years, and so we asked ourselves what would we do if we could do something to preserve it. It’s exciting to rethink a few of the pieces that are in need of repair and put some new stuff up,” Hitchcock says. 

After all, the beauty of mural art is that it’s not about permanency. 

“Murals are about change, an iteration of where things started and we’re excited to grow on the original concept,” Hitchcock says. 

She would like to see the art along Cat Alley go a little bigger and taller, “and potentially – maybe have a few other exciting surprises,” she says. 

They’ve put out the call for muralists and so far the response has been great. Artists who contributed to the original design are encouraged to apply.

“Technically, we’re jurying it out of Orbit Group to make sure there’s a certain level of artistic work – we’re pretty good at curating, and we also want to see if a few of our current artists-in-residence at the Factory on Willow can support the program,” Hitchcock says.

The goal is to get things going as soon as possible so Cat Alley 2.0 can be ready for the upcoming Manchester Citywide Arts Festival, set for Sept. 12-18. The application deadline is July 17.

Reimagining Cat Alley

The call is out for paid opportunities for up to 15 emerging or established community muralists to restore Manchester’s most iconic and quirky location!

Located in the heart of Manchester at 844 Elm St., the Cat Alley Revival community event will take place during August and early September 2022.

Each artist is encouraged to apply their personality, style and colors combined with one unifying element (yet to be determined) to tie all the pieces together and promote interactivity.

Final approval of artwork, dates to paint, materials and payment will be managed by Orbit Group. Deadline to submit is July 17.

Via Orbit Group’s Cat Alley Revival page

What IS Cat Alley? A Brief History

The cat-centric alleyway branches off of Elm Street, and runs between Wild Orchid Bakery and The Bookery.

Originally known as “Dean’s Court,” it’s said that one of Manchester’s early 1900’s cotton mill founders nick-named this narrow pathway “Cat Alley” after noticing it was heavily trafficked by mobs of rival street cats.

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Fast forward to 2011, when The Anagnost Companies wanted to have some fun with this story and started a city-wide initiative to have a group of artists transform the alley into the colorful facade of feline-themed murals it is today.

Our city has enjoyed showcasing this unique space over the last 10 years. During that time the existing artwork has started to chip, fade, and become victim to vandalism.

This summer is the perfect time to give the space a much-deserved facelift!

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The Existing Alley Artwork is Beautiful 😍

We want to keep some of the original renditions that stood the test of time! Former artists from 2011 are encouraged to apply to either touch up their existing work or create a new piece.IMG_5630.JPG

You May Have Noticed…

Orbit Group has been having a little fun creating other cat-themed installments for the surrounding area on Elm Street.  Putting cats everywhere downtown may seem a little cooky but honestly, that’s why it’s so much fun. 😎


The Cat Bicycle Racks

We are proud to have worked with the talented Vivian Beer to develop these super fun cat bike racks. Find them along the walkways of Elm near Bookery Manchester.

Vivian specializes in contemporary design, craft, and sculpture. Her vision for abstracted metal and concrete was instrumental in forming these sleek cat shapes in the vibrant colors of orange, pink and black.

The Cat Walk

In an effort increase foot traffic towards the Cat-Alley we had David Hady design a cat tessellation crosswalk.

It took several iterations, but with some productive back and forth with the Department of Public Works, we came up with a purrr-fect solution. The white paint outlining the cat tesselation on top of the grey base is temporary, but it allows for new designs in the future.

Orbit Group privately supports the maintenance of this project to ensure that the crosswalk will hold up under the feet of our cat-loving visitors for years to come! 

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The Cat Alley Arch

Mimicking the historical metal street arches seen around the city this structure gives our Alley the perfect entrance/facade.

We worked with Jamie Nelson to cut, shape and paint this installment and we couldn’t be happier.

You may have seen an LED light screen underneath the arch at some point. We discovered the one we chose wasn’t the strongest choice in terms of standing up to the fierce New England weather. We are doing our research and looking to upgrade this installment in the near future. On it we plan to display fun cat-themed animations that can act as another component that will bring life into the Alley.

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Welcome To Cat Alley Animation

Here is one of the fun animations Orbit Group artist David Hady put together. We want to feature it and others once the new LED screens are re-installed.

Are you an animator looking to inspire a community? Reach out

About this Author

Carol Robidoux

PublisherManchester Ink Link

Longtime NH journalist and publisher of Loves R&B, German beer, and the Queen City!