Muses, mentors, and maniac opossums: Naming South Minneapolis Alleys

Andy Sturdevant

Andy Sturdevant—artist, author, alley addict.

When Andy Sturdevant suggested asking Minneapolitans to name their alleys for his MAEP show Alley Atlas, up through December 29 in the second-floor MAEP gallery, it seemed a little sidelong: who cares about alleys? If they were important, wouldn’t they be named by now? But the evidence affirms his instinct: hundreds of potential names have been pinned to the maps on the walls—we are an alley people, it seems.

The stories behind the suggested names range from gang-related arson and feuds with crack dealers to nosy wildlife and neighborly affection. Here, a few favorites culled from the Lake Street to Crosstown map (we’ll follow up with Chain of Lakes and North Side names next week).

“Bowling Alley,” 42XX Pleasant Avenue S. Someone had to do it. And for good reason, if you believe the author: “There is a front yard abutting the alley that is littered with old bowling balls.” Good place for them.

“Opossum Trail,” 35XX Grand Avenue S. “Lots of opossum in my neighborhood,” reports the alley namer. “Welcome to my alley, you crazy marsupial! Stay off the street!” Perhaps this should really be Passive-aggressive Alley.

“Manny Alley,” between 33rd and 34th streets and Portland and Oakland avenues. Thirteen years ago, the alley-naming couple left a quiet suburban life in Wisconsin for South Minneapolis urbanity. One day, they spied a boy pushing a Kmart cart down their alley and naturally assumed this couldn’t be good. Then they looked closer. Turns out he was carting his five siblings and several cousins—”a true joy ride,” says the alley-namer. The boy’s dad was in jail, his mother somewhere unknown in Mexico. They befriended the boy—Manny—and they took a photo. “It reminds us of the beginning of this chapter of our lives when our stereotypes and assumptions had been so challenged.”

“Hope and Dreams Way,” 41st Street and 30th Avenue S. “We are engaged,” writes the alley namer, “and just purchased our first house here. A street, an alley, a block, a neighborhood all make a house a home.” Here’s to you guys: long may your alley empty onto thoroughfares of harmony and bliss.


Some cheeky alley cats placed suggested alley names in the Chain of Lakes. Not that we’re going to argue with art.

“Grandma Pat Alley,” 3500 23rd Avenue. Grandma Pat was in pain when the alley-namer met her. An elderly widow, she lived across the alley, where he found her lying on her back stoop—she’d been there for half an hour after breaking her wrist. “I raced her to the hospital and became a surrogate grandson from that day forward,” he reports. She died in 2010.

“Brick-a-brac Fall,” 3100 Emerson Avenue. From the apparently crumbling Uptown neighborhood: “A few weeks ago, bricks from one of the old buildings fell off in the middle of the night,” writes the alley namer. “There is almost always furniture in the alley, as well.” We don’t recommend sitting on it.

“Borgen Gate,” 33XX Colfax Avenue S. It’s a Norwegian reference, says the alley namer, whose own name is Borgendale. Borgen means “the fort” and “gate” means “street,” making this “the protected/sheltered street,” she says, “which is kind of what alleys are.” Vel sette, Ms. Borgendale—well said.

“Breadline Alley,” 4545 Harriet Avenue. Patisserie 46 is on this alley, a boon to neighbors like this alley namer, who was inspired by the line for coffee and croissants that goes out the door on Saturday mornings. “The baker, John, will sometimes bring bags of bread to his neighbors after the workday,” she writes. “A good neighbor for sure.” We’ll ask the obvious: any homes for sale on the block?

You have two-and-half weeks to post your alley names in the MAEP gallery—or you can submit them here as comments. Still available: Alley Oop and Kirstie Alley.