Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Share-it-Square - Community Art (in my old hood)

First, check out http://www.cityrepair.org...then come back and read this entry...

This is an entry about an art project in my former Portland, Oregon neighborhood. The neighborhood is called, "Sellwood" and this is a pretty incredible story.

All across the U.S., people are revitalizing their streets to make them more artful, more livable, and more family/community oriented. Once dangerous neighborhoods are becoming safe again and people are returning to the sidewalks to mill about and socialize. The concept is very simple, really. The term, "Intersection Repair" is becoming a common term.

A trademark characteristic of Intersection Repair entails painting an intersection with a colorful, elaborate design. This usually turns out to be the beginning of a community gathering space. The art in the street has the almost magical effect of causing drivers to slow down and take note, because it immediately signifies community.... and art.

I remember when it all began.....at least in Portland.

The Portland spot most noted for having utilized this concept initially is called, “Share it Square.” This was a place in my old neighborhood where renegade artists transformed one of the first intersections into what is now so much more than just a street corner. Located at SE 9th & Sherrett Streets, mere blocks from the little white Sellwood house we lived in at the time, folks in the neighborhood began by painting a huge mural right onto the street.

The original has been painted over many times since and is now much brighter. Back then, it was done in very gentle, subdued colors.

On nearby sidewalks, a small kiosk for hot tea was constructed... and another for free books and another as a freecycle station. I picked up a great pair of tennies there once....and traded in my tupperware! ;-)

One neighbor put up a mosaic...then, a bench appeared and a dome made of tree branches….and before we knew it, the neighborhood was transformed into a friendly gathering place where people got out, strolled around and interacted with one another like never before.

I still have vivid memories of our Maya, age 4 at the time, dressed in fairy wings and ballet tutu sipping her little cup of tea and walking around the intersection.

The same kiosk at this corner where our Maya sipped her tea, has been kept supplied with clean mugs and hot tea since. A water feature has now been added.

Share it Square was initiated and completed by residents without the sanction of the city. In fact, they ignored warnings from city government to cease and desist their activities. It ended up well for all concerned when the Portland city government realized this renegade art a great idea. They even decided to support other similar Portland projects.

After installation of Share-It Square, surveys of the participating community members found that the majority felt that crime had decreased, traffic had slowed, and communication between neighbors had improved. Creation of the Square led to City adoption of the ordinance that allowed similar projects to be created. An attitude of giving and abundance was created. Community spirit was instilled.

Here is a little video that talks more about Share it Square:
(Please click HERE if you are unable to see the video.)

Projects of this nature are cropping up all over the place…in Eugene, Hood, New York, Las Vegas and in other cities. A group here in Oakland called “East Bay City Repair” undertakes similar ones, as this video shows:
(Click HERE if you can’t see it.)
I once suggested doing something like this to a person here in Oakland's Jingletown community, an idea that was quickly dismissed by this power starved know-it-a;;/ Now, the notion has resurfaced as a "new" idea, claimed by her.....but whatever. I'm just happy that this neighborhood will undergo some kind of artistic transformation.

Read about these artistic, restorative projects at Portland’s City Repair Project web site.

Here is an interesting study called “The Intersection of Urban Planning, Art, and Public Health: The Sunnyside Piazza” about how public art of this type helps improve general health and well being of the residents of these types of neighborhoods.


freebird said...

I would love to be in an area like that. I have nieces and sisters however who like the "planned communities". When I suggested my niece paint her door a brighter color once she let me know she thought the door color was already too bright! How about murals on houses? I think that's a neat idea but a lot of people don't. I guess it takes all kinds but I'll take the bright, maybe gaudy over neat and tidy any day!

One Crabapple said...

oh this is AWESOME information. Thank You.

Going back now to watch the videos you put on.

This is fantastic.

of COURSE I am loving the Tea Kiosk !

Love, S

p-s.You write really well !

One Crabapple said...

okay me again...that video was so well done

VERY INSPIRING and I am going to share with some people I know here - I just LOVE LOVE LOVE the idea of these little stations, the community projects of art and soul. It's wonderful and I love YOU for posting all of this wonderful news !

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