Intersection Painting in Corvallis, Oregon

Corvallis Intersection Repair.jpg

The Eclipse Rides Through Corvallis” is an artistic convergence of two major events this summer: our inaugural Open Streets Corvallis festival and the eclipse. Well, maybe three. The collaborative creation of a City intersection painting process was an event unto itself.

Derby Dames street mural HR.jpg

Like all cities, Corvallis has a lot of rules. Commissions. Advisory boards. Where do you start when you have a great idea and you don’t know whom to tell? A few years ago, a neighborhood in south Corvallis expressed interest in painting an intersection, but with no city process in place and no neighborhood capacity to lead the way, the idea went dark.

Next came Jobs Addition neighborhood, a centrally located, mixed use neighborhood nestled between Oregon State University and Corvallis High School. (And home to Corvallis’ oldest public park.) Its very active neighborhood association (JANA) was already part of an inaugural Open Streets Corvallis planning team, which included yet another neighbor, long time bicycle advocate and City of Corvallis Public Works Active Transportation Coordinator Greg Wilson. He sparked the idea of painting the street ala City Repair.

Jobs Addition had the fire and capacity to shepherd the project from start to finish, which was what the City needed to see before agreeing to draft an installation process. JANA leaned on City Repair for determining materials and logistics needs; three City departments collaborated to refine rules on public art, neighbor approval of the location, City documentation, and ongoing maintenance and costs. With the process in the works at the same time it needed to be followed, that meant there was a lot of backtracking, do-overs, and last minute changes.

Coincidentally, City of Corvallis revived its Neighborhood Empowerment Grant, a program that funds neighborhood-led projects, and JANA’s proposed intersection painting project had a winning proposal. Local mandala artist Maureen Frank was asked to create a design based on input from the neighborhood. JANA wanted to create a sense of place - a unique place that hosted an inaugural Open Streets Corvallis event one day and experienced a total eclipse the next. Both events are represented in the design.

The JANA planning team recruited fellow neighbors to paint the street, although anyone was welcome. More than 30 people of all ages signed up ahead of time. At one point in the day, there were more volunteers than spaces to paint . . . in a design 50 feet across in all directions! Volunteers took turns when needed, and everyone had a chance to participate - kids, too. For the youngest among us, the artist printed copies of an outline version of the painting design that could be colored with crayons.

Maureen spent many hours measuring, creating giant templates, and measuring again in preparation. On the day we painted the street, she led each transition - chalk, primer, outline, paint. The result, from a neighbor:

“On the morning of the street mural painting, my wife had volunteered for a couple of shifts during the day and I wandered down (coffee in hand) just to see what this was all about. Ten minutes later, the organizers had put a paint roller in my hands and had me get busy. Most of my family was there through the entire day having fun being with neighbors (young and old) and watching the beautiful mural emerge through the various stages. No fewer than ten times did folks remark that they either wanted one on their own corner or couldn't believe that this was the first one going in to Corvallis! By the end of the day, even though I had very little involvement with the project as a whole, I felt that I had some communal ‘ownership’ of the mural and was excited to show it off to others.”

This is a pilot project under review, but with so much positive feedback from the community, the expectation is the City will open up the process to other neighborhoods. Details will be announced next year. Most importantly, a large group of people jumped at the opportunity to create a sense of place and light the way for other neighborhoods to do the same.