Stories from the 78

← Back to Stories

Celebrating 48 Years of The Alley: A Journey Through Punk Culture, Art, and Music


For nearly half a century, The Alley has stood as a beacon of counterculture in Chicago, a place where creativity, chaos, and community converge. Founded by Mark Thomas, The Alley has grown from a single store into a cultural landmark, encompassing not just the punk aesthetic but also a thriving art colony and music scene. As we approach the 48th anniversary of The Alley, we’re excited to celebrate with a block party on June 9th that will highlight everything that makes this place so unique.

The Alley’s 48th Anniversary Block Party is more than just an event; it is a celebration of a rich history and a vibrant culture that has shaped Chicago’s punk scene and beyond. From its eclectic fashion shows and unique hearse competitions to the open studios of the Art Colony and live music from The Music Factory, the block party offers something for everyone.

Join us on June 9th from 12:00 PM to 6:00 PM at The Alley, located at 2620 W Fletcher St, Chicago, IL 60618. Admission is free and open to the public. For more details, visit our event website at

Mark Thomas is more than just the founder of The Alley; he is a dedicated curator of punk culture and an avid art collector. His travels around the world have brought a diverse and eclectic mix of influences to The Alley, creating a space where everyone from seasoned punk enthusiasts to curious newcomers can find something that resonates with them. In the ’90s, Mark’s passion for art and music led to the establishment of the Art Colony and Music Factory, expanding The Alley’s influence and cementing its status as a cultural hub.

Block Party Activities: A Celebration of Creativity and Community

The 48th Anniversary Block Party on June 9th promises a day full of exciting activities and entertainment. Here’s a glimpse of what you can expect:

  • DIY Fashion Show: Watch as 50 Alley customers take to the runway, showcasing their unique styles and favorite Alley gear. This fashion show is all about self-expression and creativity, embodying the spirit of The Alley.
  • Hearse Competition: The Chicago Hard Core Hearse Club will be rolling in with 25 of their finest hearses, competing for trophies and the ultimate bragging rights. This unusual and fascinating event is sure to be a crowd favorite.
  • Art Colony: Explore the open studios of the Art Colony, where tenants and local artists will be displaying their works. This is a rare opportunity to meet the artists and see their creative processes up close.
  • Live Music: Enjoy performances by six bands from The Music Factory, a hidden gem within The Alley family. Bands like Animal Factory, Highdiver, and Schrachee have built loyal followings with their electrifying performances, and they are ready to rock the block party.

The Art Colony: A Sanctuary for Artists

The Art Colony within The Alley serves as a supportive environment for both renowned and emerging artists. It is a hub for local talent, providing a platform for artists such as Jon Langford, Walter Fydryck, George Chakos, and Kirk Rohbaugh. Additionally, emerging artists like Courtney Boatwright, Tim Hartford, and Adam Helman are making their mark here. The Art Colony is more than just a collection of studios; it is a community where artists can collaborate, inspire each other, and grow.

The Music Factory: Breeding Ground for Local Bands

Since its inception in 1982 at 1019 W Lake Street, The Music Factory has been a nurturing ground for local bands. It has helped bands like Animal Factory, Highdiver, and Schrachee develop their sounds and gain loyal followings. Despite flying under the radar, these bands are ready to take center stage at the block party, bringing their high-energy performances to a wider audience.

Don’t miss this opportunity to immerse yourself in the creativity, chaos, and community that have made The Alley a beloved Chicago landmark for nearly half a century.

For more Stories From The 78, follow @tombarnas78 on Instagram and @storiesfromthe78 on TikTok.