Bubblegum Alley is a local tourist landmark in downtown San Luis Obispo, California known for its accumulation of used bubble gum on the walls of an alley. It is a 15-foot (4.6 m) high and 70-foot (21 m) long alley which is lined with used bubble gum left by passers-by. The locally-created, “most-talked-about landmark” covers a stretch of 20 meters between 733 and 734 Higuera Street in downtown San Luis Obispo.
The gum started appearing on the walls in 1960. People complained but the gum kept on coming. There are a few shops that have gumball machines on the sidewalk so if you want to add to the wall, chew and stick!
Some historians believe that the tradition of the Alley started after WWII as a San Luis Obispo High School graduating class event. Others believe it to have started in the late 1950s as rivalry between San Luis High School and Cal Poly Students. As soon as the Poly students suspected that the High School was trying to out-do them on the gum walls, the college students stepped up their game and immediately became more creative, thus launching Bubblegum Alley. In any case, by the 1970’s Bubblegum Alley was well under way. When shop owners complained that it was “unsanitary and disgusting”, the alley underwent a full cleaning. The gum graffiti survived two full cleanings in the 70’s but when, in 1996 the BIA attempted to have another full cleaning, it was not passed.
Sculptures by Maurizio Savini
The Italian artist Maurizio Savini has been creating a series of sculptures using thousands of pieces of chewing gum. the life size sculptures include a buffalo, a grizzly bear and suited businessmen suspended in gymnastic poses. His intricate works are created using thousands of pieces of the bright pink gum, and have sold for as much as €30,000 each.
Savini, has been using the unusual material. His sticky sculptures have been exhibited all over the world, including London, Edinburgh, Rome and Berlin, where they have sold for as much. The artist, based in Rome, said: “The reason I like to use chewing gum is because it seemed to me an amazingly versatile material compared to those used by the traditional arts such as painting.”Despite its history of it belonging to popular culture, chewing gum does not have a statute of its own within institutional art.
“I believe that in my work on this material is redeemed and acquires a capacity and it has an expressive dignity of its own.”I work the chewing gum when it is warm and manipulate it with a knife just like some traditional material like clay.”The most important step is the fixing of the sculptures with formaldehyde and antibiotic.”
Ally Rosenberg made a sculpture out of chewing gum for his A-level art project…
Ally got 50 pals to chew a thousand pieces of gum in the school library. He then mixed them together to create the ‘skin’ for his bust of an old woman’s head. The masterpiece was inspired by a woman he met in a pet shop. Ally said: “She had flowing ginger hair and no teeth, and she interested me. She would probably not be very pleased with the result but I’m proud of it.” Ally is now working on his next A-level project – making a bust from teabags, dipped in liquid latex.