Eugene Weekly : Arts Shorts : 8.23.07

The Intersection of Art and Life

Citizen-led conversions of intersections into community plazas? Cool! Painting a colorful mural on gray asphalt? Super cool! Stealing ideas from Portland? All the better!

The neighbors in the blocks surrounding the 22nd and Garfield intersection have held yard sales, lobbied for grants and volunteered labor, and, finally, the payoff is near. An ordinary crossroads will soon be a painted public square, used for community gatherings, casual loitering, contemplation and gawking.

Several years ago, the Far West neighbors drew inspiration from a presentation by Mark Lakeman, one of the founders of Portland’s City Repair Project, whose mission is to help people “reclaim their urban spaces to create community-oriented places.” Katie Geiser and Dirk Beaulieu, co-coordinators of the 22nd and Garfield project, were especially drawn to the Intersection Repairs that CRP assisted with throughout Portland.

Geiser and her small group of collaborators envisioned plans for a pocket park, spiral patio, landscaping, benches and a bulletin board kiosk. In late 2004, thanks to a donation of land from Eugene Zendo, that vision was realized, thus completing Phase One.

Phase Two — a mural painted on the asphalt intersection — has been in the works since fall 2005. A professional artist was hired to make a preliminary design, which was then submitted to the Eugene Traffic Operations for review. Minor suggestions were made by city staff, and the neighbors altered the design. The main concern, said Geisman, was if “a driver sees [the mural] and thinks it’s instructing them to do something,” like a traffic sign. Ultimately the design was voted on by Far West neighbors and given the go-ahead by the city.

The intersection will be barricaded off on Sunday, Aug. 26, while Far West neighbors, led by local artist Heidi Beierle, chalk out the Oriental-style mural and apply the City-approved latex street paint in broad coats of reds, yellows, oranges and blues. Interested public are invited to attend the block party and, perhaps, dream up ideas of their own. — Chuck Adams