Street painting - Sunflower Intersection, USA
In many places around the world, street painting is an event conducted by the local communities to celebrate a special occasion on annual basis. This type of initiatives can bring together the local neighbourhoods including children and adults and permit them to engage in a social gather with friends and families to reclaim ownership of their public space.
Artworks in public spaces can promote social interaction and community engagement. Street painting is one of the popular community activities organised mostly by volunteers to create community-oriented public places. This type of initiative can be used to honour the interconnection of human communities and the natural world, as well to engage local residents of all ages to participate to claim ownership of their public place. Moreover, unique street paintings can also help improve road safety at critical locations, such as around schools, as the artworks could make drivers aware of a nearby school and drive with extra care.
Transformational measures and activities
Since 2000, local residents of Portland’s historic Sunnyside neighbourhood have come together every spring to re-paint a huge sunflower at the intersection of SE 33rd and Yamhill, one block off Belmont. Originally, without city permission, residents came together to claim ownership of their public space and create a vibrant community gathering place.
Sunflower Intersection (source: pugspdx.com)
The participation of local residents in an academic study suggested that the community felt happier, healthier and safer as a result of the intervention. Moreover, the intersection with a huge sunflower has also become a central point of the Sunnyside neighbourhood and Historic Belmont Main Street, in the heart of Southeast Portland. It also has cultivated social connectedness and a sense of community that comes together every year to paint the intersection.
Challenges, opportunities and transferability
This bottom-up initiative can be applied in multiple cities, but the local authorities or administrations can be bureaucratic, which can be a challenge. Moreover, the approach only works if the group of volunteers are dedicated and are willing to support the initial groundwork to bringing the community together to reclaim their public space.