Somerville, MA: Waldo Ave, Dimick Street, and Marion Street

Neighborways Design, in collaboration with a group of interested residents, spearheaded this traffic calming intervention in an oddly-shaped intersection. They contacted me to work with them as artistic designer, to plan and install something that people of all skill levels could help paint. This “garden path” mural concept fit the space and delighted local residents. Painting was accomplished in one morning of community “block party,” colored in by many volunteer painters.

It was repainted again by local volunteers in 2018. Next, the residents’ group wants to extend the project with a bike rack and street trees.

The Design:
Initially we’d explored various geometric ideas, but while meeting in the space, it became clear to all of us that the street and buildings were already a very geometric, manmade environment, and what the residents wanted to do was add more natural color and shape, as with their proposed street trees. So the “garden” theme emerged. This also lent itself to the shaped areas of decoration near the curbs defining our desired traffic paths and quiet areas.

North side on Dimick Street looking east

The painting was designed in collaboration with the group, who canvassed the neighborhood for residents’ buy-in. The goal is to beautify this somewhat urban intersection, and give drivers a reason to slow down and consider their path, introducing the idea of a new traffic flow.

Neighborways, a new urbanism organization that has created several such projects around the city, obtained funding from the Somerville Arts Council, and livable streets activist Mark Chase contributed his experience with past successful street painting initiatives. Ward 2 Alderman Maryann Heuston also lent her support, the painting party was entertained by members of the Second Line Brass Band and Pleasure Society, and nearby Whole Foods Market donated snacks for the volunteers.

Painting block party action photographed by Mark Chase

Finished painting in the round on Facebook

This is the final plan rendering, with mockup of the desired traffic pattern and the first proposed street tree island, on the north side of the intersection:

Here is a rooftop timelapse of the block party painting day:

View of the street from a nearby top floor window, by Jason Pappas:

Nighttime encounter with the painting, photographed by neighbor Mihai Dinulescu: