Representatives from SOSNA, City Council and local schools gathered in Julian Abele Park Friday afternoon to unveil new street mural designs for the intersections of 17th and Christian and 17th and Montrose, located on the western side of Edward Stanton School, and the intersections of 20th and Catharine and 21st and Catharine, located on the northern side of Chester Arthur School.
The purpose of the street murals is twofold; the murals will beautify the neighborhood and will also be part of an effort to “daylight” the intersections, which is the practice of eliminating cars within 20 feet of crosswalks in an effort to make pedestrians, cyclists and cars more visible to students and everybody else who utilizes the intersection.
“When you go into the suburbs … I’ve always seen traffic-calming measures next to schools along those particular corridors,” said Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson, who spoke at the unveiling. “So when I saw that SOSNA was taking up this particular measure, it warmed my heart because at the end of the day we must keep our young people safe.”
“The reason we are undertaking this project is because it can be difficult and dangerous to cross the streets in our neighborhood as cars often park too close or right in the intersections,” said SOSNA representative Kristen Albee. “Cars parked in these areas make it hard for pedestrians – especially children, who are shorter – to see and be seen behind parked and idling vehicles while trying to cross the street.”
Albee told SPR that SOSNA is currently waiting for the city’s streets department to paint lines in the street. Once the lines are painted, the civic expects to hold “community paint days” to fill in the design, which was created by South Philly-based artist Calo Rosa. The community paint days are expected to happen in late August.
Rosa, who was born in San Salvador, said he was “glad” to be involved in the project and praised the hard work community members did to put the plan together.
“I’m just like the last bit of the project where you put the color in – the easy part,” he said. “The work behind it has been the most important thing.”
Jane Golden, executive director of Mural Arts Philadelphia, was also present at the unveiling.
“When [SOSNA] called us about this to use art to help foster a safer and more aesthetically pleasing pedestrian experience by creating safe pathways to schools, we were thrilled,” she said. “Through this project we’re going to raise awareness of the importance of traffic safety and hopefully it will help protect your life.”
“The most important thing, the beautiful side of all of this, is giving young people a voice,” said Councilmember Isaiah Thomas. “What does it mean for that young person who had an opportunity to have a stake in what their community looks like when we tell them you can make a difference, you can be the change you want to see?”
Arthur School principal Mary Libby echoed Thomas’s sentiment.
“Engaging the schools at both the schools through active participation in the design process created opportunities for the students to learn about Mural Arts as an artform and traffic safety as a communal responsibility,” she said. “In the years to come, our students will take pride in knowing that their contributions have had influence beyond themselves.”
The design features Rosa’s bright colors, along with fun shapes, numbers and letters, appropriate for being in such close proximity to two elementary schools.
For more information about participating in the community paint days, Albee said to reach out to SOSNA executive director Nicole Koedyker at firstname.lastname@example.org.