Duluth visual artist Moira Villiard collaborated with residents to create four crosswalk murals in neighborhoods to promote pedestrian and bicycle safety while bringing awareness of the diversity in the city,


With vibrant artwork on the pavement, Villiard told WDSE she hoped “to create safer intersections, making people more aware that there is a human presence in the spaces they’re driving in, and that the roads aren’t just being occupied by motorists.” 


Villiard was able to combine her two passions in a single project: community engagement and visual art. Funded by the Forecast Public Arts and in partnership with the Zeitgeist Community, Villiard spoke door-to-door with residents about their neighborhood’s history. She wanted the murals to reflect the values and culture of the neighborhood.

Villiard also included Anishinaabe motifs into her designs as a callback to her own identity as well as a way to honor the indigenous people in Duluth. Through these murals, the community engaged in the awareness of indigenous and underrepresented voices in the city.

“My intent in the design process was to figure out a way to incorporate indigenous stories or values or histories into contemporary narratives in the neighborhood,” Villiard explained in a video produced by Blackbird Revolt.

“Within a healthy community, there are seven generations that exist side-by-side: you have from great-grandparent to great-grandchild.”

School Bunny Bus and Seven Generations crosswalk mural

Villiard collaborated with the Myers-Wilkins elementary students on the designs on both murals including the color scheme and puzzle concept on the "Seven Generations" mural. 

Students grade first through fourth of the Myers-Wilkins Elementary School took paintbrushes to the Eighth Avenue East 10th Street crosswalks and painted two murals opposite each other: A School Bus Bunny and 7 Generations Crosswalk.


The School Bus Bunny mural is painted with bright colors with various flowers surrounding it. Rainbow puzzle pieces decorated the opposite crosswalk.

 

While engaging with elders in the neighborhood, Villiard learned the neighborhood prides itself on its multi-generational households. She designed seven rows of puzzle-shaped people waiting behind a bus stop sign with the idea that seven generations are the puzzle pieces of a community. 


“Within a healthy community, there are seven generations that exist side-by-side: you have from great-grandparent to great-grandchild.”


Villiard was inspired by an anecdote from one of the residents who enjoyed watching the interactions happening at the bus stop. It becomes a subtle symbol for the community and the members’ bonds with one another. 

Butterfly crosswalk mural

A butterfly mural was painted on 15th Avenue East and Sixth Street, inspired by the neighborhood’s appreciation for the natural and botanical life in the area. The three-way intersection was notorious for its absence of road safety signs.


“...people generally would speed down on ninth avenue,” according to Villiard, “so the butterflies get bigger as you come towards the intersection, hopefully signalling drivers to slow down due to the human presence that made the butterflies.”

"I hope that it just opens up the city's mind to adding more public art and kind of recognizing the value of having collaborative art with the community and making sure there is community input when artwork is made," Villiard told WDIO. Photo courtesy of Zeitgeist Community.

Despite the numerous potholes and cracks in the concrete, residents come together to bring the crosswalks to life with brilliant colors and beautiful designs. Photo courtesy of DanSan Creatives.

Portland Square street mural

During her conversations with residents, Villiard learned of the neighborhood’s wheat and bread making history. Images of wheat and grain were included in the design of the mural. She added a wild floral pattern and blueberries to “acknowledge the wild medicines and plantlife of the region before the arrival of the bread industry,” Villiard said.


Comments were made about the different houses in the neighborhood. Villiard stood on 11th Avenue East and Fifth Street and designed the two views of the hills apparent in the neighbor to one side and the lake to the other with the community right in between.

The murals were opportunities for people with little painting experience to create something they can enjoy. Photo courtesy of Zeitgeist Community

Ode to Giants street mural

On Eighth Avenue East and Eighth Street, a little girl creates a story to accompany the mural.


“...and we come to Lake Superior and see a barge in the lake,” she told WDSE. “And then some fishermen on the barge come out and see these fish. And that is the story of the painting.”


Villiard designed a mural that incorporated both indigenous history and contemporary stories. The mural featured different giant symbols of Duluth that made up its culture: the moon and stars in the sky and the ships and sturgeon in the lake. 

"Duluth is a place for  giants, both spiritual like the fish and manmade like the boats," Villiard said. Photo courtesy of Zeitgeist Community

Crosswalk Murals, 2019

Progress: Start to Finish

"Forecast 2019 Grantee: Moira Villiard"
produced by Blackbird Revolt

Press Relating to Project

Duluth artist Moira Villiard draws creativity out of community

Duluth News Tribune

August 2019

Painting Intersection to Slow Drivers Down

FOX21

July 2019

Volunteers Paint Murals at Duluth Hillside Crosswalks

FOX21

June 2019

Creative Crosswalk Program Brings Art and Safety to Hillside

WDIO

June 2019

Video Press

Collaborative Art by Moira Villiard

Making It

January 2020

Creative Crosswalk comes to Life

The Slice

September 2019

Duluth News Tribune

June 2019

Social Media

Project Contributors

 

Sponsored by Forecast Public Arts and Zeitgeist Community

Volunteers who participated in the painting

Page by Suenary Philavanh

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