Like the Little Free Libraries before them, neighbors in Little Forest Hills are testing the theory that it is better to ask for forgiveness than permission. On Sunday, more than 50 residents braved the heat to all take part in a community art project meant to serve two purposes: adding beauty and slowing traffic.
“Street murals have been proven to calm traffic in other cities,” says Patrick Blaydes, a member of the neighborhood association’s art committee who is an urban planner by trade.
Artist Cary Okano, who has done numerous public art displays including several installations at Burning Man, was tapped to design the mural. To bring cultures together, she selected a glittering version of the Hindi deity Ganesh seated in a traditional Buddha pose, beneath a tree of swirling purple branches. Neighbors were invited to come add their own hearts to the design, which serve as leaves on the branches.
“I was just inspired to do something that could be kind of organic. Whatever happens, happens. That’s the thing with community art, you never know what’s going to happen,” Okano says. “We wanted to bring the community together and make something everyone could take part in.”
Blaydes adds, “Paint is much prettier than a speed bump.”
Little Forest Hills has asked for a stop sign or speed bumps in the past, Blaydes says, anything to slow down traffic on Eustis.
“People use it as a cut-through to get around traffic,” Blaydes says. “A lot of people are just focused on where they are going and drive 40 or 45 through 30 m.p.h. neighborhoods — we’ve all done it.”
But, a driver coming up on a technicolor street mural is more likely to slow their roll to take in the sight. It’s a concept that’s proven popular in other cities, and something Dallas has explored in Uptown crosswalks. Little Forest Hills, however, did not get a permit for their painting.
The neighbors are hoping their colorful act of civil disobedience goes largely unnoticed by the folks at City Hall. It’s supported by the residents, who like the artistry and the fact that it brought the neighborhood together, and have vowed to maintain it moving forward.
“Our motto is ‘Keep Little Forest Hills funky’,” Blaydes says. “We are hoping that the city says absolutely nothing about it and then we’ll go do another one in the fall.”
The paint, a reflective concrete stain, is removable if the city does take objection.
“That’s why we had everyone participate,” Blaydes laughs. “I mean, if you’re going to put us all in jail for this, then you’ll have to arrest a six-month-old.”
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