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Kaid Benfield’s Blog

Building community by painting the town with street art

Kaid Benfield

Posted July 5, 2012 in Green Enterprise, Living Sustainably

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  intersection art (courtesy of City Repair)

My view of sustainability is a broad one.  I work for an environmental organization, so ecosystem health is always in mind.  But, as with most ecosystems, the ecology of human communities is complex.  Everything affects everything else.

I maintain that one can seldom have a strong, healthy natural environment in cities, towns and neighborhoods without also having a strong, healthy community of people.  We make the most of existing resources by, in part, fostering resilient community relationships in existing places.  This means that in my opinion whatever we do to strengthen a sense of community – coupled with a sense of place – in an older neighborhood is usually also contributing to ecosystem health.

This is a longwinded introduction to a great video on how neighborhoods in Portland are strengthening community bonds and identity through, among other things, street painting.  From a website called City Repair:

“Intersection Repair is the citizen-led conversion of an urban street intersection into a public square.  Streets are usually the only public space we have in our neighborhoods.  But most all of them have been designed with a single purpose in mind:  moving cars around.  With an Intersection Repair, that public space is reclaimed for the whole community. The intersection of pathways becomes a place for people to come together. The space becomes a Place – a public square . . .

“It is the people who live in the neighborhood who decide that they want the public square, what it will look like, how it will function and how it will develop.  One neighborhood may paint a giant mural on the intersection and stop there.  Another may go through many phases:  painting the street, installing a community bulletin board, building a mini-cafe on a corner, reconstructing the intersection with brick and cobblestones, opening businesses to make it a village center… and on and on!”

To see what I mean, check this out:

 

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Kaid Benfield writes about community, development, and the environment, here and in the national media.  For more posts, see his blog's home page. 

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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