Some had just finished their meals at downtown restaurants and were walking toward the next part of their evening out. Others were converging from every direction after finding parking spots. Some followed a mysterious red arrow leading down an alley from Tejon Street.

Onlookers downtown may have been puzzled on July 11 as all those people headed toward the same back alley and what had been the nondescript rear of a building that had been, in busy city-alley fashion, lined with overflowing trash containers, broken glass and delivery trucks.

It was opening night for The Mezzanine, also known as The MZ and The Mez, and a chic new chapter in downtown's arts community.

And it finally answered the question as to why the rear of The Mansion nightclub, which faces a parking lot, had been turned primer gray before day by day, step by step, it was transformed into a mural of a grand performing arts building facade. The Mezzanine, entered from one tiny alley door and piano-keyboard stairs, is the second floor of the nightclub and designed to become a members-only performing arts venue of The Colorado Springs Conservatory. Until October, it's being introduced to the public for free and is the place where young performers will play to an audience up close and personal.

Greeting guests on opening night were those responsible for the new venue, including building owners and benefactors Sam and Kathy Guadagnoli; conservatory founder and sparkplug Linda Weise; artists Douglas and Mallori Rouse; co-programming director Stephen Ochsner; and opening night stars of the off-Broadway play "The Last Five Years," CC Wells and Matt McMahan.

- Watch a time lapse as Douglas Rouse turns the back of the building into a mural:

- Sites:, The Mezzanine on Facebook