Paint the Pavement

Jun-Li Wang
Paint the Pavement

What better way to build community than by doing something creative? While potlucks and ice cream socials with your neighbors serve a crucial purpose (you all get to know one another), carrying out a tangible project together is even more empowering (you all learn to work together).

Paint the Pavement (PtP) is a program established in 2006 that promotes community building and “placemaking” through creating neighborhood art. Our primary focus is in St. Paul, Minnesota, where we support groups of neighbors to organize to create their own public mural on low-traffic residential streets. Neighbors come together, gather support, create a design, petition for approval by the City of St. Paul, fundraise to buy supplies, and hold a “paint day” to create and celebrate their own community square. Other cities have different guidelines and options for residents to paint public areas — contact your local official for more information.

With Paint the Pavement, you build community by learning how to organize together, share responsibilities, work with all ages and backgrounds, create a shared commons, build a local identity, animate public spaces, paint a gorgeous mural, and even slow traffic! A stronger community — where people have organized together to make an artful design, collect signatures, figure out how to raise money, and sweat under the hot sun while painting — is a community that is more networked, more supportive, more safe, and more fun. A village at its best!

If doing a painted street is too daunting at first — or you aren’t allowed (yet) in your city — start small and organize the neighbors to try something like painting artful property numbers, or boulevard chairs and benches (scavenged, of course). Build on the experience of organizing for this smaller project, and the enthusiasm and sense of accomplishment by everyone to take on painting your street!

To get started, see the website — it has more details than you could ever need — full instructions, tip sheets, worksheets, sample flyers, and a photo gallery of projects in St. Paul. Good luck!

The original idea for “Paint the Pavement” came from reading an article in YES! Magazine about neighbors in Portland, Oregon who painted their streets to create public square-type spaces on their own blocks. The St. Paul program is modeled after Portland’s.

Read Up

How to Turn a Place Around, by Kathleen Madden, Project for Public Spaces, 2000.

Street Reclaiming, by David Engwicht, New Society Publishers, 1999.

Mental Speed Bumps, by David Engwicht, Envirobook, 2005.

The Great Neighborhood Book, by Jay Walljasper & Project for Public Spaces, New Society Publishers, 2007.


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