Organized by a neighborhood residents group and Somerville Neighborways, this project was in response to residents’ concerns over traffic going too fast and not stopping at signs in this oddly-shaped intersection in a dense residential area. The group of neighborhood activists wants to eventually get city permission for a traffic island creating a roundabout, and 2 street trees, one in a parking spot and one in the traffic island. To test this longterm traffic calming plan, their first step is a street mural! They contacted me to work with them as artistic designer, to plan and install something that people of all skill levels could help paint.
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.
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.
Somerville 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.
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:
Nighttime encounter with the painting, photographed by neighbor Mihai Dinulescu: