The group has sent residents a further 200 small boards on which to paint images, with the boards then being hung in the lane. Anyone can take part in the initiative via the group’s Facebook page.
One young man painted a picture of himself and his dog, as a tribute to his late pet. Two boys painted a touching “Thank you for Rita’s Way”.
“People leave notes all the time, saying, ‘Thank you for this lovely garden,'” Santucci said.
She says that during the COVID-19 pandemic, if it the art makes passers-by think about something else or smile, even for a moment, on the hour-long walk we’re allowed each day, then she is happy.
The Carnegie group has already established Laz’s Lane, a lush garden and gallery across the road, named after a late neighbour, Laz Stark.
Santucci said one aim of the projects was to beautify the area. “I’ve always liked decorating. It’s amazing what a paint job can do on a wall, then you put a piece of art on it.”
She likes to depict creatures – from roosters to fish, frogs, flowers – and sayings such as “nothing is worth more than this day”.
Another aim is to forge social connections.
Santucci said her parents had arrived from Italy with no relatives in Australia, and so treated neighbours as their family, part of a village.
Santucci fostered that when she ran Santucci’s, a Koornang Road cafe, for 23 years, and now in the laneway projects.
She had to close her gardening business for the stage four lockdown, but is finding solace in her art and working on laneway ideas.
The next lane is off Grange Road, next to Glenhuntly Primary School.
“I’ve already put up a sign saying ‘Glenhuntly Garden Gallery’,” Santucci said.
She will allocate sections for local artists and for children to hang their paintings.
“I’ll put some garden boxes in there, a bike with flowers in the basket,” she said. ‘They’re all donations, all things I find for free.
“I do it to bring people together, and to have connection with each other. In Italy, it’s all about community and you know your neighbours. And you look out for each other.”
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Carolyn Webb is a reporter for The Age.