Paint The Town

Paint The Town

By Communities First Association Staff Laura Jean Harris

“Let’s paint the street!” Is essentially what artist Dan Tucker suggested at his neighborhood meeting. He shared what he had seen on his trip to Portland; intersection art.

Intersection art in Portland, OR

The whole idea for the intersection art project was inspired by a nonprofit called City Repair. The idea is that a low-traffic intersection can become like a town square. As a square, the intersection can be blocked off for a plethora of events and/or attract some local business street-side venders. City Repair’s goal is firstly that communities come together and secondly that the community actually accomplish the intersection art itself.

“It all starts with a potluck.” ( City Repair explains. At this potluck neighbors are encouraged to share what it is that they care about, what they want to see for their neighborhood. If they desire to do so, neighbors can work together to rally supplies, volunteers, and seek city approval using a legalese letter provided by City Repair.

Dan Shares at the Firehouse Coffee shop

The group desired to do so. They titled the project, “Happy Valley Community Crossroads.” Now they just had to rally everything except funds. Happy Valley Neighborhood has a wonderful problem- instead of trying to find money for projects, they needed to find projects for the money. How did this happen? Aaron Walters, pastor of The Table, and barista at Firehouse Coffee shop is very committed to serving his community and had applied for and received a grant for community development project that uses ABCD (Asset Based Community Development). They also received five “small and simple” grants for their county.

Now they needed an intersection with just enough, but not too much traffic. Aaron and Dan scanned the neighborhood for the best intersection.

They both independently agreed on Harris Avenue and 22nd Street. This is a diverse intersection. The four corners of this intersection are comprised of: The Samish Preschool, a rental complex comprised mostly of college students, a single family home, and a duplex comprised mostly of retirees.

Meeting at the Samish Preschool

Neighbors met at the Samish preschool, sitting on tiny preschool chairs to further discuss the project that they hoped would take place just outside.

Jeff Littlejohn describes the meeting thus, “Very naturally people got comfy and started sharing other neighborhood issues both positive and negative, like at a kitchen table. They went up a couple of notches in intimacy, trust, and ownership in just an hour and a half’s time.” It was a time of sharing interests and dreams, and for allowing people to self-declare what they may never have before. It was the fulfillment of City Repair’s first goal.

It was also a key meeting in planning. They determined to gain more community involvement, deciding to send a template of the intersection to two local elementary schools: Larrabee and Happy Valley. The students will be given the opportunity to submit a design for consideration. This will bring awareness of the project to parents as well.

This is a great start to a beautiful dream of creating space for neighbors to meet and work together.

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Here is a link to the story as told by John Servais of the Northwest Citizen Newspaper
and by Dean Kahn of the Bellingham Herald