Updated: Jan 19
Hello there! I am Chasity Gentry, Southwest Denver Community Connector for the Community Active Living Coalition (CALC) at Denver Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (DOTI). I am excited to share the processes I went through to create an intersection mural in the College View community in 2022. I hope my finding are helpful to anyone looking to create their own, and happy to share more if needed!
Intersection murals are not permanent, but they have permanent impacts on our communities.
On October 15, 2022, the Community Active Living Coalition installed an intersection mural at the intersection of Harvard Avenue and Decatur Street. This mural has been in the works for nearly three whole years, and the community was so excited to finally see the work installed. Historically, this intersection has been incredibly dangerous to travel through. Though there hasn’t been a crash or traffic related incident at this intersection, there have been many near misses. This blog will guide you through the process of installing an intersection mural, from community engagement, to ideation, to permitting, to installation - this is everything you need to know.
Why Intersection Murals?
Intersection murals are a quick and cost-effective way to help decrease vehicle crashes and increase the safety of vulnerable road users who are walking, biking, and rolling. We all know street safety improvements can take a lot of time, extra money, and resources. The process of installing a street mural is cost friendly and faster, not to mention brings beauty and activity to the community!
Ideation and Permitting Process-
When you begin the process of installing an intersection mural, you must start with a little research- What is the best location and why? How will this site be beneficial? What is the community’s interest? In our case, we identified Harvard Avenue and South Decatur Street as an intersection of high volume. The traffic seemed to flow faster through here and often cars were not respecting street signs, and evenings brought racing along this street. This intersection also sits right next to the College View Recreation Center and patrons are often worried to walk or bike there even if they live nearby. College View Elementary School is also a few short blocks away and families often visit the park just caddy corner from the rec center. This was a perfect location to showcase the mural.
Next, you will want to identify an artist and begin the artistic journey. For this specific mural, we were short on time and funds, so I designed the mural with the help of residents and other partners. Since we planned an art piece for the College View neighborhood, we were sure to get input from the community. At first, we attended all community meetings and held smaller gatherings with residents who could not make the meetings. We brought examples of other murals throughout the city of Denver and had them vote on what style was most appealing to them, then got to drawing up one that best represented the neighborhood. Having the design ready before starting the permits will help this next step go smoothly.
With this mural being my first big project, the permitting process was the most difficult. For permitting, I recommend starting about 150 days (about 5 months) prior to the day you want to install. First, you will need to apply for a Community Streets Permit through the Denver Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (DOTI). You need this permit before moving on to the road closure permit. Here, DOTI will check for any upcoming infrastructure updates and confirm the art will not lead to any directional and traffic related confusion. After you are approved, you will need to create a traffic control plan and apply for a road closure permit. Lastly, you will need to schedule the road closure with a barricade company (we used Colorado Barricade), and you will be set to go! If you plan to host an event along with the mural (i.e. a block party, resource fair, activities) you will need to apply for an Office of Special Events Permit. These permits take about 60 days or more to complete and can be started while waiting for the other permits. Having partners will be helpful to the whole process of creating a mural, but especially for permitting.
Paint and Supplies-
While the permitting process can take some time, there are still a few items left. Purchasing the painting supplies is fun and gets the creative mind working. You will want to order special paint specific for cement. This will help ensure the paint stays during any weather and will last a few years. You can find this kind of paint a few different places, I purchased from Seal Master as they were recommended to me. I was recently asked about what paint brushes to use with this special paint. I used small paint brushes for finer details and rolling brushes for larger spaces. My small brushes were purchased at Dollar Tree and rollers that are made for painting cement can be purchased at Home Depot. Artists might have a preference on brush type, be mindful the paint may ruin them due to the gritty texture.
Background and About the College View Intersection Mural-
During the three years of delay, College View Recreation Center, residents, and myself took time to evaluate the best location for this mural. With many of the residents living within the same block of this intersection they have seen many cars a day run through the stop signs, nearly hitting other vehicles and even pedestrians. The staff at the recreation center see and hear near crashes regularly often see racing in the evenings while closing. I was at the intersection three days a week for 10 weeks collecting data and working to make sure this was the right intersection for the mural. With all the hard work done by the community, this was the clear option.
On the day of the installation event, we wanted to make sure we engaged with the residents, any members of the recreation center, those who visit the park nearby, and the students at College View Elementary School just a few blocks down. We hosted the painting of the mural, a helmet and bicycle giveaway, community resources, and bicycle education to promote safe travels to and from school. It was important for us to bring resources to the community as we spoke about safe transportation. We talked about Vision Zero and the City’s goals of zero traffic fatalities by 2030 and took pledges - on our pinky promise board - to be safer drivers and commuters in our city.
By the end of the day, we noticed the success of this event immediately. We took the time to reopen the street to the community and every single vehicle that approached the intersection stopped at the signs. The month following the installation, the community has continued to see changes; the recreation center staff has seen less racing, and during post install evaluations, there was a decrease in the number of cars running the stop signs by 8 vehicles. Although this project may have taken more time than we had all hoped, the outcome has proven to be a success and a benefit to this community.
This project has been very special to me, and the College View neighbors. If you are inspired to create an intersection mural in your community, the CALC team is always here to offer recommendations and support.