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Rockville receives $25,000 grant for arts-driven pedestrian safety mural

Aerial photo of street intersection with the corner asphalt decorated with art
Asphalt Art project in Baltimore, MD - Image credit: Bloomberg Philantrophies

Rockville is one of 25 cities from the United States, Canada and Mexico to receive the Bloomberg Philantropies Asphalt Art grant

Article originally published by MoCo360 Media on November 27, 2023

Rockville, in partnership with VisArts, a non-profit visual arts hub based in the city, was awarded $25,000 in November to develop an arts-based pedestrian safety project. The initiative aims to improve street safety and revitalize public space – bringing color and character to Beall Avenue with a mural, according to a VisArts press release.

According to Karyn Miller, the Arts, Culture, and History program manager for the City of Rockville, the project will also enhance a section of Gibbs Street between North Washington Street and Maryland Avenue.

Miller added that in the coming months, the city and VisArts will work to prepare designs for streetscape and safety improvements in the site area and then issue a call for artists to submit mural design ideas.

Alice Nappy, the executive director at VisArts, said the organization is all about integrating the arts into everyday life and said that the project is “right up our alley.”

“As an arts organization, our feeling is that the arts are transformational,” Nappy said. “… I look at the road that site is going to be on, it’s pretty much cars and trucks and buses bustling down and there are people trying to cross the street all the time. If there’s a way to use art to make cars and vehicles pay more attention to, ‘Oh, here’s a place where people might be crossing!’ I think that’s going to be helpful.”

The mural design on Beall Avenue will be selected through a competition, and Rockville in collaboration with VisArts will issue a call for artists to invite them to submit design ideas. The call for artists has not yet been sent out.

“While VisArts is involved, the actual artist or design will be sourced from a wider pool of talent, offering an opportunity for local artists to contribute to this civic project,” Miller wrote in an email.

Rockville is one of 25 cities in the United States, Canada and Mexico to receive the grant, which comes from Bloomberg Philanthropies, a New York City-based non-profit organization. According to a press release from VisArts, the city’s project was selected from more than 200 applications.

The Beall Avenue location was chosen due to the need for improved safety measures. According to Miller, the area has been the site of numerous collisions, including six injuries and one death recorded in the last four years.

“This four-block region is an integral part of Rockville Town Center,” Miller stated. “The area sees heavy traffic and is home to a vibrant community life both indoors and out including restaurants, retailers, residential buildings, offices, and cultural facilities. … The asphalt art project entails implementing vibrant designs to the streetscape to highlight road improvements and encourage drivers to be more mindful of their speed.”

Other U.S. cities that received grants are Anderson, South Carolina; Clarksdale, Mississippi; Fall River, Massachusetts; Fort Collins, Colorado; Honolulu; Little Rock, Arkansas; New Orleans; Passaic, New Jersey; Flagstaff, Arizona; Louisville, Kentucky; Minneapolis; Portland, Oregon; Stamford, Connecticut; Milwaukee; and San Francisco.

The grant is part of the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Asphalt Art initiative, which aims to fund and support “arts-driven street redesigns to improve safety, revitalize public space and engage local communities,” a Bloomberg press release said.

According to the release, the Asphalt Art initiative is inspired by the growing number of cities around the world that are using arts- and design-based solutions to improve pedestrian and street safety and create vibrant public spaces. In addition to the grant, Bloomberg will provide the cities with technical consulting.

Monique Ashton, the newly elected Mayor of Rockville, posted about the grant on X, formerly Twitter, on Nov. 15. “Thrilled about this grant and the possibilities to support our #VisionZero efforts while also bringing art and vitality to our community.”

See how streets across the U.S. and around the world have transformed into colorful, pedestrian-oriented blocks in this video posted by Bloomberg Philanthropies on X.

“The Asphalt Art Initiative has proven that when cities invest in these low-cost projects, streets become safer and communities become stronger,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and former mayor of New York City in a press release. “The new Asphalt Art Initiative projects in Canada, Mexico and the U.S. will save more lives, inspire more imaginations, and strengthen more cities across the continent.”

According to Miller, the project is currently in the planning and development stages and Rockville residents can expect to see the completed project by late 2024. She added that the time frame for completion is an estimate and subject to change.

The Rockville community will be kept informed about the progress of the project and will have the chance to engage with the design of the project, according to Miller.